Mayors emerged from a closed-door meeting on Friday, calling for a vehicle levy to help fund TransLink.
While their intention is to get some clear idea where provincial parties stand on TransLink funding before the May provincial election, which makes a lot of sense, the vehicle levy is a complete non-starter on this side of the Fraser River.
Opposition to it has been most intense in Langley and Surrey, every time it has come up in the past 15 years. There is no reason to believe that drivers here will be any more accepting this time.
In fact, there are even more reasons to oppose it now. There is now a toll on the Port Mann Bridge, parking levies have been put on park and ride lots (coming April 1 at the new Carvolth lot) and transit service has not improved a great deal.
Gas taxes have risen dramatically, causing many people to cross the border to buy gas and do other shopping. This has had a serious impact on retail business in communities south of the Fraser, which are close to the border.
The answer to TransLink’s funding woes do not lie in a vehicle levy. A 2009 proposal suggested such a levy would cost vehicle owners $120 per year, per vehicle.
NDP leader Adrian Dix has already said he does not expect the carbon tax to remain revenue-neutral if his party is elected, and has suggested that some of its proceeds could go towards transit.This is a sensible solution, given that it is a tax collected on fuel.
Several mayors have suggested road pricing, which would even out the costs paid by motorists in the region and would see those who drive the most pay the most. This makes much more sense than a vehicle tax, which penalizes those who don’t drive that much.
In Langley, it is difficult to get around without a vehicle, and some people own one simply to run errands and make short trips, because they have no alternative.
There is no question that transit service needs to improve dramatically south of the Fraser, and TransLink needs extra revenue to make that happen.
Provincial parties need to make it clear in the next few months where that money will come from. A vehicle levy should not be considered until such a time as transit service here is a true alternative to owning a vehicle.