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Mayors tussle with province to get new money

July 22nd, 2009 · 7 Comments

The vehicle levy, now known as the transportation improvement levy, is back on the table, for those who didn’t know.

Metro mayors, who have to decide by October whether to approve a substantially improved new transit system — on that Premier Gordon Campbell said they were going to build — are struggling to figure out ways to pay for it besides property taxes and fare hikes, as I report this morning in the Globe.

TransLink has done a public consultation that got 45,000 responses where they say people indicated they’re willing to pay a levy as long as they get improved transit. So the agency is now looking at a TIL of anywhere from $65 to $200, depending on the base rate they set and the fuel efficiency of the car.

But even that’s not enough to pay for the grand expansion, which would include the Evergreen line, an extension to the Expo line in Surrey, the start of the Millennium line extension in Vancouver and lots and lots of new buses and SkyTrain cars.

So there’s a whole lot of arm-wrestling going on right now over other mechanisms, as you can read.

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  • A very good and interesting story. It reminds me of the riddle my dad asked me when I was a kid…what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?

    I for one want to argue for a much more aggressive ‘reverse’ user pay system. I would like to see road tolls, congestion taxes, etc. which are commonplace in Europe and so many other countries, with the revenues used in part to pay for public transit improvements.

    I would forget the parking lot tax…it was really dumb, unfair and very difficult to administer. Instead use new technologies to charge motorists for the distances they travel and when they travel. You should check out the sophisticated system in place in Singapore.

    We should also explore a whole range of other ideas…why not have special license plates that only allow you to drive on weekends… which are less expensive…while charging more for 7 day license plates.

    Maybe we should consider generating revenues from a revamped auto insurance program…based in part on distance travelled, rather than the current system.

    When I was interviewed as a potential director of Translink…(yes, I even got to the interview stage!) I talked about generating more revenues from the rezoning of land around transit stations. I still think this is a good idea, but in some jurisdictions, the revenues may be limited since the cities want to take a cut of the rezoned land lift, to pay for needed amenities. There are some opportunities here, but not likely enough.

    I also argued for charging people to use the SkyTrain system. This was my daughter’s suggestion. When I asked her what she meant she told me that none of her friends pay to use SkyTrain. Those revenues might help a bit too!

  • Joe Just Joe

    I too have some ideas that might work, who knows I’d let the experts decide that. I think though increasing the gas tax (a reasonable amount) and moving to distance based insurance are both great, as is weekend only insurance (start it at 7pm on Friday until 6am Monday like the old cellphone plans).
    To raise more money my idea was to give something of value back to people in exchange for their dollars. I’d like to see the AIF increased by $2 and you get free public transit on your flight date (proof of ticket needed). Hotel tax increased $2/night but you get a voucher for free transit while you stay. Buy a concert/event ticket and again a $2 increase in the ticketmaster surchrage but free transit on the day of the event (proof needed). Conventions get a transit surcharge but all delegates get free transit passes for the course of the convention. There are numerous other possiblities. The best part of it is a lot of those people will end up paying the surcharge more then once raising additional funds for transit.

  • shepsil

    Michael Geller has some very well thought thru suggestions. I however, still feel that as long as our gov’ts spend funds on the unnecessary South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR), instead of public transit, then transit will always suffer as second fiddle to business interests and the out of control Vancouver Port Authority.

    It has been said by opponents of the SFPR from the beginning that there is no evidence that increased port capacity is necessary and now, in the light of increased transportation costs and a worldwide financial crisis, there is even less need for any additional port capacity. The billions being spent unnecessarily on ports could have easily been used for public transit instead.

    Finally, we also should understand that skytrain, with its immovable stations, creates definite zoning requirements in regards to densification and commercial zoning. In the future, we need to move past the idea of continuing to build these types of fixed transportation hubs. Instead, if we built a bus/trolley system, the stations (always movable) could be moved to wherever they are needed, and as such, we would not be tied down and possibly held hostage to the wants of land owners around committed skytrain stations.

  • Joe Just Joe

    Another idea that could help fund transit is a new form of density bonusing. It would work as follows, each city entices Translink with a bonusing scheme, the one that makes the most sense/money to Translink gets the transit upgrades. Something along the lines of providing Translink with a .5-1.0FSR for properties within 800m of a station. The owner of the property would not be obligated to purchase the additional density, but if they wanted to build to the maxium they would have to buy the density off of Translink. This method would also get Translink out of property speculation. Though I have to wonder if cities would hand over density to Translink instead of keeping it for themselves.

  • East Vancouverite

    For the carbon tax, I would like all of the additional revenue that will come from the planned increases from now through 2012 to be directed to regional transportation authorities. The current tax cuts/rebates would stay intact while each new increase would represent substantial new, mostly predictable revenue for regional transportation bodies to finance new carbon footprint-reducing transit service.

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    “It has been said by opponents of the SFPR from the beginning that there is no evidence that increased port capacity is necessary… the billions being spent unnecessarily on ports could have easily been used for public transit instead.”

    Shepsil, just to add a little anecdotal evidence to your assertion: In the many, many years I’ve lived next to the railyards in Gastown, today, right now, is the first time I have ever seen it COMPLETELY empty. Not a single train anywhere in sight. Not one. It is eerie.

    As for the Carbon Tax being used for transit. It really is a no-brainer. Unless you are a Neo Con and the only reason you brought in the Carbon Tax was to create a smokescreen for all the other environmental destruction you were spearheading across the province…

  • MB

    I’d like to see a National Transportation Plan evolve under federal jursdiction with public transit, conservation and renewable energy at the top of the list. They should be linked together to decrease the current magnitude of urban inefficiency.

    With billions on the table the feds could easily demand contractual, binding agreements with the provinces and cities to tie smart growth principles to transit, and to kiss highly questionable projects like Gateway goodbye, or at least not renew federal support for follies like this.

    The feds have been shamefully absent in any meaningful discourse on the management of our cities, including on transit issues. Until they are more involved ideas like dinging drivers from several directions seems inadequate. London’s congestion charge has worked marvelously, but it wasn’t in the absence of heavy involvement in London’s infrastructure by parliament.

    Yes, cities have been downloaded to the provinces under the constitution. But 85% of us live in cities, and the question needs to be asked, Why shouldn’t the federal government be more involved in its cities? We have a patchwork of policies everywhere as the result, yet transit requires a special focus beyond the scope of locals.