Saturday, February 14, 2015

Voting for Busses

The good people of the Lower Mainland are about to be asked to approve – or not – a half percent increase in provincial sales tax to fund… well, that’s kind of vague.

Some describe it as a “Congestion Tax,” some as a “Transit Tax,” and others as a “Translink Tax.”

Any way you call it, it would mean a large chunk of money going to things that, in theory, would reduce road congestion and/or improve public transit.

Allegedly. And questions abound.

Question: How come a provincial government that can fund massive bridges for cars at the drop of a hat feels that money for transit has to be cajoled out of the populace by way of a referendum? If the Province supports public transit, why don’t they just increase the same tax on their own?

Question: If the Province doesn’t support public transit – and there’s a strong argument to be made – then will this referendum really change much? If it passes can we be confident that the senior levels of government will actually come up with the matching funds to make things happen?

Question: If enough people vote for this referendum, will the Province finally do something to fix the insane thing that is Translink? Will they finally allow the mayors to actually call the shots on transit?

Question: If the province won’t relinquish control of public transit, can we have any faith that the money collected by a new tax will go towards transit improvements, or should we expect it to wind up being used for yet more auto infrastructure?

Question: do our local MLAs support the “Yes” side, or the “No” side? As far as I know only Thornthwaite has come out and actually said that she’ll vote yes.

Question: What was the thinking behind the Province’s unilateral changes to the question drafted by the Mayors, and what does this tell us about what might happen if there’s a “Yes” vote? If the Province feels free to meddle in the question being asked, about money that will cost them nothing, why should we think they won’t continue to meddle in Translink’s affairs?

Question: What guarantee is there that the funds raised won’t be moved away from new services into refurbishing the thirty year old Skytrain system, or the four year old Compass system, or into some other money hole?

And finally, the elephant in the room: what happens of there’s a “No” vote? It would be immensely valuable if the Province would tell us that.

My reading is that the Province doesn’t give a sweet damn about public transit – they’ve got their helicopters and limos, so why would they care?

If the referendum gets a “Yes” vote Christy Clark will declare it a victory for her and her party.

If the referendum gets a “No” vote she’ll blame Translink and the Mayors.

Ultimately this referendum is not about funding transit, or even new bridges. It’s about the province once again trying deflect criticism of their botched, expensive, and largely failed efforts at managing Lower Mainland transit via their Translink proxy.


Anonymous said...

IMHO a yes vote means that you agree that bloated governance is acceptable.

We throw money at health care and the promised waiting times and access to family doctors have not materialized.

It is time the tax payer woke up and said no to the fat cat bureaucrats and administrators feeding off the hard working taxpayer. Be it health care, education, local government, bc ferries, etc., etc.

Anonymous said...

Vote no and you won't solve a thing. You'll still pay for it in some manner that will likely be less equitable that a .5% sales tax increase that is paid by everybody in the region. Perhaps you'd prefer your property tax or car insurance to increase instead? This shouldn't even be going to referendum. The government should be doing its job and make the decision, rather than abdicate their responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Ok so your residential TRANSLINK mil rate
(didnt know there was such a thing?_
is... .3315
Divide your property assessment by 1000 then multiply by .3315.

In my case that is $258 per year I pay DIRECTLY to Translink for a service I do not use.

Fuel taxes... the TRANSLINK 17 cents plus 5 cents of federalfuel tax making 22 cents per litre goes DIRECTLY to translink because you drive.

If you commute, you probably drive at least 20000 km per year, maybe in a fuel efficxient Honda Civic.. which does about 8 litres per 100 km so... that is another $352 per year DIRECTLY PAID to Translink.

Add in $22 per year from BC Hydro charges.

So far that's $730 per year, after tax that goes DIRECTLY to translink, depending on your property value. Now at this point you arent paying any fares to Seabus or a bus. That would be extra.

If you pay for parking during your daily commute, 21% of your parking costs are sent DIRECTLY to Translink.

Use a tolled bridge? ALL of your tolls go DIRECTLY to Translink.

Still happy to send another .5 percent of EVERYTHING YOU BUY or you Supplier bought, to Translink? NOt me.

Anonymous said...

Wanna see your commute get worse, if we do nothing?

Anonymous said...

No faith that if we vote yes that there will be any noticeable improvements any way. Things are already too expensive and getting worse! Translink's a bunch of crooks! NO apologies for voting NO here Thornthwaite, Walton and the rest o' ya's!

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon 8:54..

The commute will get worse anyway if the traffic lanes are clogged up with more buses stopping every half a kilometre. And it could get a whole LOT worse before travel time would equal the time spent commuting on transit. I guarantee I could still do my old commute faster by car 10 years from now than if Translink was given free reign with an ever growing slice of my pocketbook.

The storyline is that a million more people are coming 'here' by 2050. Fine. Let's have that million help build what is needed with their pocketbooks too.

I'm voting no until they get here.

Anonymous said...


A definite No!!

Anonymous said...

Judging by public opinion the no vote seems to have the edge at the moment.

So what is plan B?

The Premier has already revealed it. If the vote is no then the Mayor's will have to access their only legitimate method of raising funds - your property tax. If you don't own, then your landlord's property tax which will result in rent increases for you.

So the Mayors want the money and they will get it one way or another. You are deluded if you think that a no vote will be the end of it. They will just access your pocket book in another way and it will be more painful than the sales tax hike as it will not include commuters and visitors that spend money in the lower mainland tax zone.

The bloated pig will be fed one way or another.

Griffin said...

The problem in BC and Canada is that we have a bloated bureaucracy in the public sector and the psuedo-private sector. There are millions of dollars being paid to people who for some unknown reason get paid more to do less than their counterparts south of the border. BC Ferries, BC Hydro and Translink have payrolls that astound and you and I are paying for it while we struggle along on "market rate" salaries. And now Translink had twinned their management payroll at the top adding insult to injury. If it wasn't our money they were spending, it would be laughable.

I would support paying more to fix Translink if I thought that more money was actually what was needed. In fact, I think it will make the problems even more entrenched because with more money available to them, they will have no incentive to look at their own internal structure and all the millions of dollars being wasted throughout the system. What the government should do immediately is to fire everybody (severance packages would probably be cheaper than what we've got now!) and start from the ground up. Eliminate Translink, Coast Mountain Bus and all the other companies set up for who knows what reason, and make public transit, and responsibility for major bridges, freeways and arterial roads a department within MoT (which I seem to recall stands for Ministry of Transportation!). At least then there would be some political accountability. Get rid of all the various management boards and flatten their management structure. Until they can figure out how to manage themselves effectively, they should not get another dime from the public.

BTW, could someone tell me why we have a separate company and CEO running the Canada Line for Gawd's sake?

Anonymous said...

That's all great but the upcoming vote isn't about firing everybody and restructuring. It is about how they access your money. If they can't access it through sales tax they will access it through property tax.

So you get to choose death by firing squad or death by hanging. Life is not an option.

Wishing it was something else will not make it so.

Griffin said...

So you're saying that we're stuck with what we've got and the only option is how they screw us again? Why not stand up and make our displeasure known and withhold our approval/support or whatever. How else does the public let decision makers that "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore"? Fortunately we do have elections and like it not, the Liberals will face the electorate in a couple of years. Perhaps a little hit here and a punch there will knock some sense into them.

Anonymous said...

Well.. Pattison's now onboard...whawt think you now?

Anonymous said...

He's only on board of the "Yes" side wins and that's not looking good right now.

Colin said...

People are running out of money to give, the pot is running dry, particularly with the huge debts home owners are taking on. As for cars, who do think funds most of translink anyways? When I asked them how they were going to recoup the loss of gas and parking tax revenue with a 15-20% reduction in car use, they said "Umm we don't want to talk about revenue" I bet they don't

Colin said...

fare box revenue from transit users (33%)
municipal gas taxes (24%)
a combination of “other” sources (22%), and
a share of municipal property taxes (21%).

Other being parking and such

Anonymous said...


In answer to your question here it is. You can vote no because there isn't a soul out there that wants to pay more taxes - particularly to a hopelessly mismanaged organization.

This is standing up and making your point.

Then they will turn around and increase property taxes to get the money that they wanted in the first place.

As the commuters, visitors and tourists won't be contributing then on average you will end up paying more in property taxes than you would have in increased sales tax.

So OK. You made your point and now you pay extra. You win you lose. Long term.

Anonymous said...

If we don't improve transit, we all lose. Both short and long term.

Anonymous said...

The Translink "house" is built on sand and this proposed new tax is just going to be like putting a new roof on a building that will collapse sooner rather than later.

Put another way, supporting the "yes" side forget that throwing more money at an already seriously dysfunctional organization isn't going to fix the fundamental flaws in the way it is organized. I am of the view that if Translink was dismantled and recreated from the ground up we would have a much more efficient and accountable organization that would not need to come to us for more money. Why throw good money after bad?

Anonymous said...

This vote is not about IF we should spend more money. Those in control have already decided that more money is required.

Therefore, the vote is about how you would like to remit the money.

Voting NO does not mean that we will not have to remit the money. It means that we will not have to remit it through an increased sales tax.

Surely no one of voting age is so naive that they believe that voting NO means that we will not have to pay more to Translink.

What it means is that the Translink Board and the Mayors will need to obtain the money through other means.

Premier Clark has already stated that the mayors have the power to gather additional revenue through property taxation.

If the vote is NO there isn't a chance that the Premier will permit an increase to the sales tax as that would be political suicide.

That leaves the other option of property tax increases which will be a greater individual financial burden than the sales tax would have been.

All this stuff about tearing down and restructuring Translink is undoubtedly a great idea but not an alternative that is being offered.

That is a no-brainer election plank for a provincial political party that would generate a lot of interest.

However, in the meantime how would you like to pay more to Translink? By additional sales tax or by additional property tax. There is no third option of not paying more.

Sophie's choice.

Anonymous said...

Finally, somebody gets it!

Anonymous said...

I do not accept that voting "no" will result in the money being collected through other means, at least not to the extent that the fear mongerers are spouting. Since when do the people not have a say in how they are taxed? I hope, that somewhere in the recesses of logic in this province, that if the people vote no, it will force the powers that be to find efficiencies somewhere else. If they do that and still need money, I will change my mind.

Anonymous said...

Me again. Another thought. I would have been in support of a small hike in the sales tax if it was province wide. I believe in the Province's metro area that if transportation is more efficient, the whole province benefits. By way of example, last year the federal government paid for road improvements in Inuvik or somewhere high up north that I will never directly benefit from yet my tax dollars helped to pay for it. Same logic!

Anonymous said...

Property owners and drivers, logically, should vote YES.

It is clear to me that the 'visions' of new dedicated tunnels for 19th century technology with busses and widened sidwalks whizzing every commuter to the jobsite and every bicycle to a dedicated roadway will continue to be pursued by the 'sustainable development' zealots in Vision Vancouver.

Density needs transit. Profitable glass towers need transit. DEVELOPMENT MONEY needs transit but isn't lining up to pay for it.

The only real difference between YES and NO is the implementation schedule and who pays how much.

Clearly, drivers and property owners will take the biggesst hit rather than have bus fares rise substantially.

IF it isnt a sales tax, it'll be a rise in fares announced soon after a rise in property tax and a rise in cost to drive a car via an annual 'guilt levy', a rise in bridge tolling, some version of electronic road pricing.. anything at all to scour more money for the black pit and to tilt the scales in favour of forcing ridership numbers UP. Presently, only about 14 percent of commutes are by public transit.

The goal is to 'get you out of your car'. It has happened in other jurisdictions by various schemes. See Copenhagen, the darling of the sustainable development crowd, for example, where your car 'registration fee' plus the interest on the money to finance that fee triples the cost of a vehicle and you MUST pay it or your car insurance is void.

A modest $20,000 Honda civic, if Vancouver were to mimic the Danes, would cost you $60,000. You pay twice the value of the car in added tax and financing cost to pay the egregious tax (168 % of the base cost of the car if memory serves).
That's how they got such high 'bike ridership' numbers.

Don't think for a moment this isn't in the cards in some form.

The Mayors' council, and Richard Walton, have not been secretive in supporting 'comprehensive mobility pricing' which clearly is planned to go well beyond a toll here and a toll there. No. It means drivers rent time and space on EVERY ROAD you drive on 24 x 7. This is electronically surveilled, likely using a required GPS transponder installed in every vehicle.

Now this plebiscite or referendum really ought to be YES or NO to whether we really want all this in our cities. It shouldnt be about how we pay for it.

Cart is before horse.

Nonetheless, just remember it is a NONBINDING plebiscite. Spin if you will.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 12:31. "Fear mongers?" The premier has publicly stated that the Mayors may access property taxes to acquire the required funding if the transit vote is "No." That is not fear mongering that is fact.

There always are the wilfully blind among us. Sweet, lovely people who think that things will be the way they hope they will be rather than what has been bluntly stated by those in authority.

Mayor Walton has flatly said that he favours "road pricing" to acquire the funds (paying for individual road use by 24 hr. surveillance).

Listen with your ears and mind instead of your emotions and heart to what is being said. The Mayors are NOT ASKING IF we support additional taxes. They are asking how we want to pay for the decisions already made.

Yes, Anon, you do get a chance to kick out those that want to raise your taxes at the next election (except for those unelected Translink bosses). Until then we will be dancing the jig to the tune that is being played.

Anonymous said...

Just a big misunderstanding.

A great number of voters think that purpose of the vote is to give permission to translink to raise additional money.

Translink has already decided to raise additional money. They are asking how we want to pay for it.

We don't get to decide that they can't have additional funding.

We are just the cash cows. Moooo.