Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Who wants to pay for improving transit in Metro Vancouver?

The majority of people in Metro Vancouver want to see improved transit service, but currently do not want to pay for improving transit service.

This really comes as no surprise as people have been told by the provincial government multiply times that TransLink is an inefficient, ineffective bureaucracy.

Since the failure of the transit plebiscite, little has been done to address the concerns people have about how TransLink operates.

TransLink’s former interim CEO Doug Allen said “TransLink needs spokespeople to advocate for the organization, its performance and the good service it provides.” And the provincial government needs to “support public transit and the agency, TransLink, delivering the services.”

Until more people feel that TransLink is a well-run organization, you will have a hard time convincing people to pay higher taxes to TransLink.

Last Wednesday, Insights West released a poll which included asking people how they would pay for transit improvements in Metro Vancouver. People “strongly supported” or “somewhat supported” the following methods when asked in the poll:

Tolling bridges: 46%
Distance-based vehicle levy: 33%
Increasing transit fees: 32%
Tolling roads: 31%
Vehicle levy: 30%
Increasing fuel taxes: 25%
Increasing property taxes: 24%

These results aren’t surprising. For context, 38.1% of people in Metro Vancouver supported the Mayors’ Transportation Plan which was to be funded by a 0.5% PST increase.

Increasing tolling and sales tax to pay for transit improvements has stronger support than increasing property taxes, yet the provincial government has insisted that municipalities jack up property tax to pay for transit. Something which municipalities would never do because it is so unpopular. It’s almost like the province doesn’t want any more money to be invested into transit service.

There is another option to pay for transit improvements, though it is highly unlikely that the current provincial government would do this. The province could provide an operating grant for transit service in Metro Vancouver like it used to do, and current does, for every other part of this province.

Maybe the federal government’s willingness to dump billions of dollars into public transit will cause the province to get serious about transit. Though I’m not holding my breath that this decade’s long impasse around transit funding will come to an end anytime soon.

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