The Transportation Vote: Exploring Opportunities and Concerns

A SPEC hosted forum on March 26th

Between March 16 and May 29, 2015, Metro Vancouverites will be facing one of the most important regional decisions affecting our and future generations: whether to approve or reject a 0.5 per cent increase in the provincial sales tax (PST) to support the implementation of multiple transit projects throughout Metro Vancouver.  Increasing the current 7  per cent PST to 7.5 per cent is estimated  to cost regional tax payers approximately $125 a year per household or 35 cents a day.  The new tax is projected to generate $250 million per year, helping fund a 10-year transit plan worth $7.5-billion in improvement projects. A list of proposed projects are outlined in the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan, and if approved, would be implemented byTransLink, Metro Vancouver’s regional transit authority.  A principal aim of the Plan is to shift 10 percent of current drivers off roads and onto transit, alleviating road congestion by an estimated 20 per cent. The Plan is slated to reduce congestion and air pollution while improving the regional economy and goods transportation in Metro Vancouver.

Since December 2014, voters have been slowly mobilizing behind either the “YES” or “NO” camp. In December, the “YES” vote was  in the lead,  however,  the  “NO TransLink Tax Campaign” is gaining momentum as many express concerns over TransLink’s ability to manage new transit projects as budgeted and planned. Many question whether there are other ways to fund the transit improvements without burdening visitors and residents with increased taxes. (For current trends and resource information, PlaceSpeak is a good source.

SPEC has a long history of supporting transit projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the health of our communities.  In the short term, the Plan hopes to expand bikeway networks and increase bus service by 24 per cent, adding bus capacity.  Over the long term, the Plan includes replacing the Pattullo Bridge, light rapid transit expansion in Surrey and South of the Fraser, increased capacity for the West Coast Express, and extension of the Millennium Line. According toTransLink, the Plan will improve service to 70 per cent of the population. Shifting drivers out of vehicles and on to alternative modes of transportation will have a positive impact on health and the economy. By reducing the number of cars on the road, we will benefit from improved air quality and commuters will experience a more active lifestyle. Both will result in improved health that could potentially reduce medical costs. Alleviating congestion is also associated with a reduction in the number of vehicular accidents and more efficient goods movement.

At the same time, it’s important to remember the Transportation Vote is not to seek support for the Plan itself, but to seek support on how to fund the Plan. Some voters are encouraging the use of alternative funding options that were considered by the Mayors. Some residents are asking whether the Provincial Government should contribute more to the Plan given their projected budget surplus, shifting the burden of an increase in the PST away from Metro Vancouver residents, visitors and businesses.

SPEC is committed to supporting community learning and better understanding of the Mayors’ Transportation Plan.  On March 26, SPEC is hosting a forum titled, “The Transportation Vote: Exploring Opportunities and Concerns” at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. A panel will be available to respond to questions on the Transportation Plan and provide additional information to support your decision on how to vote.  You can register for the event for free.