One of the perennial concerns about transit is the perceived inequality of service delivered between the sub-regions of Metro Vancouver. People in Vancouver feel that underutilized bus service is being provided to the car-loving suburbs while their routes suffer from pass-ups and overcrowding, while people in the South of Fraser feel like they are paying for Vancouver's overpriced SkyTrain while they have poor bus service. TransLink has taken the position that since they are a regional agency, they don’t actively disclose how much money is spent in each sub-region believing that transit is a regional service. I was reading Sound Transit’s (the regional transit authority in Seattle) latest financial plan and stumbled upon something called Subarea Equity.
One of the unique features of the Sound Transit plan is that it formally commits to creating a balanced regional transit system that proves benefits to the residents of each of Sound Transit’s five geographic areas – Snohomish County, North King County, South King County, East King County, and Pierce County.
Sound transit is funded by sales tax, vehicles levies and fares. As part of their commitment to funding transit equitably, each sub-region gets back what it puts in. Sound Transit even posts details financial records online to prove this.
While TransLink is a bit different in its tax makeup (mostly fuel tax and property tax) if it wanted to put the issue of transit equity to rest, maybe it should follow Sound Transit’s model. As a start TransLink could show that each sub-region is at least getting its property tax delivered into local services. It would show that all of Metro Vancouver is in it together and that one community isn’t being sacrificed for the needs of another.