Monday, November 29, 2010

TransLink Funding

On Friday, the Mayors and the Province changed the voting date for TransLink's Supplemental Plans from December 9 to March 31, 2011. This is good news as both sides can now cool down from the funding Mexican Standoff. Hopefully the Province and Mayors can now sit down and have a proper discussion about long-term funding for TransLink.

What's really interesting about this whole process is that TransLink did some public consultation on the supplemental plan and found that while 80% of us think that the projects in the full-meal-deal supplement are important for the region, there was no clear support for how to raise the funding to provide said service. About half of the region supports a property tax increase while another half supports a Transportation Improvement Fee for every vehicle in the region at a cost of between $15 and $55 per year.

Two of the common themes I noticed from the public consultation report was that there was a desire to see more of a user pay system for roads in our region "the fee should be structured differently (e.g. based on vehicle usage or where people live)" and that the matter of equability needs to be addressed. In order to get buy-in from the South of Fraser, TransLink really needs to market the major improvements that the supplement will have in the sub-region. Of course until we get proper rapid transit out here, people will continue to think that they are paying for Vancouver's transit.

While I think that road pricing is a much needed tool to manage congestion and pay for capital improvement to our transportation system, assigning gas tax, vehicle tax, or road pricing to the operating budget of TransLink is risky business. As we saw in 2008, as people give up their cars for transit, TransLink has less money to provide transit. Property tax is probably the most stable funding source for TransLink in this region. It is also the most fair as people in Vancouver will be paying more property tax to TransLink than people in the South of Fraser.

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