UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The trouble with Translink? Assessing the forms of accountability in use within a Canadian public transit agency Gardiner, Max


This thesis analyzes the forms of organizational accountability used within the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, a public transit agency better known as TransLink. It considers whether accountability is used as a virtue within TransLink, and also considers whether accountability is used as a mechanism within the agency. The use of accountability as a virtue entails the provision and availability of information about an organization’s behaviour and its operational outcomes. The use of accountability as a mechanism involves systems of obligation within an organization that include possibilities for sanctioning actors based on their behaviour, or otherwise obligating changes within an organization in response to its performance. An overview of TransLink’s history and governance structure is first provided. A review of some of the literature on public sector accountability then follows. The thesis then develops an identification strategy for determining what evidence would be consistent with the use of accountability as a virtue and as a mechanism within TransLink. Ultimately, this thesis concludes that at TransLink accountability is used as a virtue, but not as a mechanism. A major implication of this accountability arrangement for residents of Metro Vancouver is that TransLink makes lots of information available about its operations and strategies. While on the other hand, no strong accountability institutions can easily compel TransLink to make major changes to itself. This thesis suggests that establishing institutions and procedures that promulgate the use of accountability as a mechanism within TransLink would help to make it an overall more accountable and better public organization. To this end, TransLink should be an organization where accountability is used as both a virtue and as a mechanism.

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