Thursday, August 29, 2013

Leap Ahead transit plan, debrief

It has been a whirlwind week for me since Paul Hillsdon and I release Leap Ahead, A transit plan for Metro Vancouver. The plan received a good amount of coverage in the regional media. On Tuesday, CTV ran a great piece about the plan. CBC also has comprehensive coverage about the plan including both raw video of me explaining the plan, and my interview on Tuesday morning’s Early Edition in the article.

While there will always be some people who oppose any sort of tax increase, most people appear to support using a regional 0.5% sales taxes increase to funding expanding rapid transit in Metro Vancouver. In fact even the Province newspaper, which published an opinion piece with a lukewarm response about using a 0.5% increase in PST to fund transit, couldn't find much issue with the plan. The main reason I’ve heard why some people have reservations about the small proposed 0.5% PST increase is that they believe TransLink is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars. This is simplify not the case.

Both the TransLink Commissioner and Auditor General could not find any significant areas of savings within TransLink. With no new funding, there is simply no money to fund much needed transit expansion. For example, if the agency could be run without any staff or administration whatsoever, the region would still need to find more than $200 million per year to fund transit expansion.

The other concern that I've heard is about the affordability of a 0.5% increase in the PST. 35 cents per taxpaying person, per day is less than the cost of a cup of coffee. A young family with two paying adults would contribute around $4.90 a week. Many families have multiple vehicles. According to the CAA, the average cost of owning and operating a vehicle in Metro Vancouver is more than $10,000 per year. With the Leap Ahead plan, a family will be able to spend less money on driving or even get rid of one vehicle, saving them thousands of dollars per year.

Paul and I released this plan because we were tired of the continuous inaction around finding a funding solution that could actually be supported by the public, fund rapid transit expansion throughout the region, and win in a referendum. I’ve received several emails from local politicians, city staff, and private citizens who are excited that the Leap Ahead plan has started a productive dialogue about a practical funding solution that will finally allow our region to get a rapid transit system that will provide a least $15 billion return in economic benefits.

I believe that using a small 0.5% increase in the PST to fund transit expansion could win in a referendum as long as the public is guaranteed that every cent collected is put directly into funding transit expansion. TransLink also needs to work on improving its image and show the public that it is a well-run organization.

There is a coalition called Get on Board BC who are gearing up to be the pro-transit voice as we move closer to the 2014 transit referendum. If you want to become more involved, I suggestion you check out their website.

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