By Jeff Nagel – Surrey North Delta Leader – July 01, 2008
I can sort of see some of the Mayors’ points here; however, they do oppose something I think should have been implemented many years ago.
Area mayors say they simply can’t impose higher taxes – including a higher gas tax or a vehicle levy – to bail out TransLink.
And they plan to take that message to transportation minister Kevin Falcon.
“There’s no appetite to go back to the residents and raise taxes,” said Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts.
I think the vehicle levy was one of the fairer taxes out there. It taxed your vehicle a annual levy based on its projected fuel consumption. It’s a form of the gas tax that wasn’t consumption based. So even if you own a Suburban and not drive it, you’d be dinged with the levy upon your renewal of insurance with ICBC.
Throughout the rest of Nagel’s article, he points out some of the difficulties that TransLink will face over the next few years. Their current surplus will be eaten up by expensive projects like the Canada Line and the new Evergreen Line. The Canada Line is a year from completion, so we cannot change the technology being implemented. However, the Evergreen Line was originally meant to be a Light Rail Transit (LRT) line. There would have been a mix of elevated, street-level, and underground portions. After a few years of consultation, they had decided to go with LRT because it was more cost-effective than a SkyTrain option. However, Minister Falcon was issued his imperial decree that the Evergreen Line will utilize the quicker SkyTrain technology at 4-5x the cost.
The Evergreen Line would have been a showcase of LRT technology in Metro Vancouver. It would have been cheaper and make more sense in a suburban setting like the Tri-Cities. However, TransLink won’t look a gift-horse in the mouth and not take it. I had spoken to one of the vice-presidents of TransLink and she said they were happy to go ahead with any project that the provincial government would fund. I guess I would if I were in her shoes too. Funding is hard to come by.
So that brings us back to Mayor Dianne Watts’ point. The federal and provincial governments need to really pony up more of the capital costs to get these transit systems in place. Less money on Gateway, which is increasingly looking like a white elephant project with gas prices, and more money on transit.