Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Province, the Mayors Council and TransLink

Yesterday, the Minister of Transportation sent a letter to the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation about TransLink. As you may know, the Mayors’ Council has been looking for a long-term funding solution to pay for transportation improvements in our region. One of the first things that I noticed was that Minister Blair Lekstrom stated that there will be no more fuel tax or a change in the Province’s tolling policy which is interesting as he also seems to support investigating road pricing. The provincial tolling policy is basically that tolls only pay for new infrastructure and that there must always be a free alternative. This seems like a mixed message as road pricing is about charging for road use on existing infrastructure to manage demand. Not surprising, the Province will be auditing TransLink again to see if they can find more money to pay for promised transit improvement for the South of Fraser. If they don’t find the “extra” $30 million within TransLink, I fear that there will be an very empty Park and Ride lot in Willoughby and yet again South of Fraser residents will get the short end of the transit and road stick. We get poor transit and toll roads while the rest of the region gets “free lunch” roads and good transit.

The last interesting thing that I noticed is that while the mayors of the region seem to be looking at funding transportation with transportation fees, the Province seems to want the mayors to pay for transportation with property tax.

“As we go forward, we need to acknowledge that some form of property taxes will continue to be an important source of funding for TransLink. To that end, I suggest the Mayors’ Council explore mechanisms to capture the increase in land valuation that results from public transportation infrastructure.”

So in the end we have a Mayors Council that wants to pay for transportation with road pricing and is opposed to property tax, and a Province that wants to pay for transportation with property tax and seems opposed to road pricing. Even though the Province signed a Memo of Understand with the Mayors Council in 2010 about long-term funding for transportation, it seem that the memo was just smoke and mirrors. We are no further ahead than we were two years ago with finding a long term solution to paying for our transportation needs in Metro Vancouver.

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