Mayors want sales tax of up to 0.5% to fund TransLink

The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation is proposing to the provincial government a sales tax of up to 0.5 per cent, which will raise up to an estimated $250 million for TransLink.

“We are probably only talking about, you know, point-one or point-two or point-three per cent it may be as high as point-five per cent,” Richard Walton, the Chair of the Mayors’ Council explained to CKNW. “The amount of funds that the transit system could be supplied are significant with even a small portion compared with a variety of the other options that produce smaller amounts.”

The sales tax is among the short-term funding mechanisms proposed by the Council. Others include the $38 vehicle levy and receiving provincial carbon tax revenue or the creation of a regional carbon tax. The mayors are favouring distance-based road tolling as the long-term solution.

Walton says the introduction of a sales tax for transit opens up the possibility for the reduction of the regional gas tax, which currently accounts for 27 per cent of TransLink’s revenues.  He also warns TransLink will be forced to begin cutting services if the funding issue is not solved.

While drivers have long wondered why they should pay for a transit system they don’t use and there may not be an inherent link between purchasing and transit, Walton pointed out to News 1130 that everybody benefits from a strong regional public transit system.

“It’s not possible for anyone to take themselves out of the equation and just because you don’t take transit and you only drive doesn’t mean you’re not dependent upon efficient goods and people throughout the region,” Walton told the radio station.

In 2011, there was on average an estimated 635,000 passenger trips daily on bus, SeaBus, SkyTrain, Canada Line and the West Coast Express. Service cutbacks would mean more of these trips will be taken by car—creating congestion on the roads of Metro Vancouver.

Imagine how many extra cars would be on the road and how much extra congestion there would be if even a mere few thousand of these trips became car trips. That quick and comfortable 40-minute drive from the suburbs to downtown Vancouver is made possible and dependent on transit being a viable option for some commuters.


Photo Credit: Dennis Tsang/Flickr