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Business Case Framework

Two TransLink employees discussing a business case

In TransLink’s context, a Business Case defines a regional transportation problem (or opportunity) and evaluates a set of alternatives including the benefits, costs, impacts and risks for each potential initiative being considered. Business Cases support decision makers in making evidence-based and transparent decisions based on both quantitative and qualitative analysis.

The Business Case Framework provides guidance on how to develop and use a Business Case for major projects, policies, and investments (collectively referred to here as initiatives), including the steps in the process and contents that are included in a business case.

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    Why is the Business Case Framework important?

    TransLink developed the Business Case Framework to help standardize business casing approaches for more significant initiatives.

    TransLink requires the development and approval of Business Cases using the Business Case Framework for certain types of major initiatives, including all expansion rapid transit projects that are led by TransLink. This process is used to advance development of potential major projects identified in approved regional strategies, such as in Transport 2050: 10-Year Priorities, as well as to advance other potential initiatives.

    Taking a consistent, structured, and evidenced-based approach to the planning and business casing work on potential major initiatives will help ensure that these initiatives:

    • Focus on key strategic, customer/traveler, financial, and operational objectives throughout the development, evaluation, and implementation process;
    • Advance important benefits such as socio-economic and environmental benefits, Indigenous reconciliation, and equity, diversity, and inclusion;
    • Consider cost effectiveness;
    • Are the most beneficial initiatives for the region to consider; and
    • Include a sound understanding of how to mitigate and manage adverse impacts related to planning and implementation.

    How is a Business Case developed?

    The development of a TransLink Business Case follows a five-stage process, as illustrated below.

    Each stage includes a decision point. At these key decision points, decision makers must decide whether to advance a potential initiative to the next stage of development or to pause or discontinue further development. The decision makers consider input from partners, Indigenous groups, stakeholders, and the public as part of their decision-making process. For more information on who approves a Business Case, read the FAQs section on this page.

    Within the Business Case development process, the level of detail and rigour increases with each stage to support decisions on whether a business case should proceed to the next stage.

    Figure 1: Overview of TransLink Business Case Development Process

    Step 1: Strategic Planning

    Define problem or opportunity and identify alternatives.

    Step 2: Preliminary Planning

    Exploratory Business Case
    Decide on the most promising alternative(s) for development.

    Step 3: Detailed Planning

    Refined Business Case
    Select a preferred alternative and variant to advance to detailed development.

    Step 4: Finalize Planning

    Full Business Case
    Confirm the alternative and scope to consider to implement.

    Step 5: Implementation & Review

    Procure and implement the agreed alternative. Monitor and review.

    Types of Business Cases

    TransLink’s Business Case Framework guides the development of three different types of business cases to support decision makers at each major decision point.

    The Exploratory Business Case is developed at the preliminary planning stage and focuses on identifying and evaluating alternative approaches to address a problem or act on an opportunity. This Business Case helps identify either a preferred alternative or a shortlist of alternatives to evaluate further at the next stage. If a study that is similar in nature has been conducted to support key decisions required at this stage, initiatives may proceed to the Refined Business Case stage if approved by decision makers.

    The Refined Business Case is part of the detailed planning stage and focuses on identifying and evaluating a shortlist of alternatives or variations of a preferred alternative identified in the previous step. This Business Case helps further refine and confirm the scope and direction for the potential initiative so that it can continue to advance to the next stage.

    The Full Business Case is part of the final planning stage and focuses on evaluating a single fully developed potential initiative. It is intended to confirm the alternative and core scope items to consider for approval and implementation. This Business Case is used to support decisions related to securing funding, resource allocation and other requirements to advance to implementation if approved by decision makers.

    For potential rapid transit or major transportation projects to be led by TransLink, a Full Business Case is required by the Mayors’ Council, TransLink’s Board of Directors, and senior government funding partners before project procurement and construction can begin. Regardless of who is to deliver the project, TransLink’s share of funding for these projects is typically approved by the Mayors’ Council and TransLink’s Board of Directors in a 10-Year Investment Plan.

    What type of analysis is included in a Business Case?

    • Strategic Evaluation – assesses the contribution of the potential initiative (or alternatives) to support regional strategies, policies, desired benefits, objectives, and outcomes.
    • Benefit Cost Evaluation – assesses the benefits to society of the potential initiative (or alternatives) and how they compare to the costs to implement it.
    • Financial Evaluation – assesses the financial viability and impact as well as funding and financing strategies for the potential initiative (or alternatives).
    • Implementation Evaluation – assesses the technical and organizational processes to implement the potential initiative (or alternatives) and key risks that should be mitigated.

    The Business Case Framework Summary is organized into five sections:

    • Section 1: Introduction – Provides an overview of the Business Case Framework.
    • Section 2: Business Case Fundamentals – Provides an overview of the core concepts for TransLink Business Cases.
    • Section 3: Business Case Lifecycle – Provides an overview of the Business Case development process that illustrates how to advance an initiative from problem identification through to delivery.
    • Section 4: Business Case Development – Provides an overview of the recommended process to develop and review Business Cases subject to this Framework, including engagement with partners, Indigenous groups, stakeholders, and the public.
    • Section 5: Transition from Full Business Case to Implementation – An overview of initial next steps towards implementation once a Full Business Case has been approved.

    Engagement in Business Case Development

    TransLink will engage with relevant partners, key stakeholders, Indigenous groups, and the public during different stages of the business casing process. The level of engagement and who to engage is determined on a project-by-project basis.

    Project partners, such as the Province, Indigenous Nations, or a host municipality are engaged in the business case development process based on the type of potential initiative, the benefits and potential impacts, funding, financing, and implementation considerations. Partners play a key role and are involved before or at each major decision point.

    TransLink initiatives have the potential to impact the rights of Indigenous Nations, and TransLink is committed to implementing regional transportation priorities through early, ongoing engagement with Indigenous Nations. TransLink will engage Indigenous Nations at each stage of the Business Case Lifecycle. This begins at the Strategic Planning stage and carries through to implementation.

    Public and stakeholder consultation is typically conducted in parallel to Business Case development and is required by TransLink for certain types of plans, projects, and policies.

    TransLink has established Principles for Public Consultation and Engagement to guide public consultation activities. Public and stakeholder consultation seeks feedback to understand public and stakeholder issues, concerns, views, and preferences. This input is used to refine how potential initiatives are planned, designed, evaluated, and implemented if the initiative is approved. Engagement opportunities and content brought to consultation may vary depending on the stage in the Business Case process.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Typically, the funders of a project are required to approve a business case. The Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation and TransLink’s Board of Directors approve the Full Business Case for TransLink’s major rapid transit projects and allocate the share of TransLink resources for implementation through successive investment plans. If cost sharing funding is available, financial contributions from the provincial or federal governments are approved by their respective Treasury Boards. Financial contributions by a local partner would need to be approved by their decision-making body.

    Project Partnership Agreements encompass a variety of agreements between TransLink and local partner agencies needing endorsement from regional policymakers before the project’s approval and funding in a 10-Year Investment Plan. The requirement for these types of agreements are specified in TransLink’s Transport 2050: 10-Year Priorities.

    Related Documents

    TransLink conducts its analyses consistent with provincial and federal government and partner organization guidelines and frameworks as required.