Thursday, August 6, 2009

User Fees

Every so often TransLink releases surveys from their TransLink Listens online panel and from a general Ipsos Reid poll. I wanted to show you the slide on how people would like to fund transportation improvements. I find it interesting that a variable road user fee was not included.

The results were typical. People who use vehicles as their primary mode of transportation support higher transit fares and generally do not support a vehicle levy. People who use transit as their primary mode of transportation support the idea of rising property tax and generally do not support the idea of increasing transit fare. Also, people in the South Fraser generally had less support for paying more money for transit than people in other regions. It seems that in the areas with better transit service, people are willing to pay more for it.

This tells me a few things. If people can see a value in something, they will pay for it. People in Vancouver see more value in transit than people in Langley because transit is more viable in Vancouver. Also, people plan don’t like paying more money for nothing in return.

Road users at not used to the concept of a user fee. I think that variable road pricing would get more support than a vehicle levy, as people would be able to see the direct benefit of traffic congestion reduction on the roads. Still, it will take people time to warm up to the idea of a user fee. People I’ve talked can get pretty religious when it comes to the concept of road user fees. They have this notion that the government's most important role is to provide “free roads”. Road user fees would have to be phased in. The first step would be to build HOT lanes (or High Occupancy/Variable Toll Lane.) If the MoT converted the HOV lanes and two of the new general travel lanes into HOT lanes on the Highway 1 Project (as an example), it would be a success. People would have the choice of paying money for faster travel, or just stay in one of the four general travel lanes. 38% of TransLink’s revenue come transit fare (a user fee). Why are major roads still “free”?

1 comment:

bregalad said...

I find it interesting that there was so much support for raising property taxes. It makes me think that a fairly large percentage of respondents don't own property in the region and don't immediately connect higher taxes with higher rents.

According to documents released by TransLink this week 27% of their operating cost is debt servicing. Almost all of that was imposed upon them by a series of Provincial Governments who insisted on building an over-priced metro and saddling TransLink with the major road network including the decrepit Pattullo bridge.

So instead of looking for additional revenue, TransLink should be telling it like it is: that the Provincial Government is to blame. TransLink would have more than enough money from existing revenue sources if they weren't being forced to pay for poor decisions made in Victoria.