A 0.5 per cent TransLink sales tax?

In an obvious headline grabbing event, a near dormant transit group, proposes a 0.5% sales tax to fund TransLink.

Big mistake.

The problem with transit in the Vancouver Metro region is TransLink itself and its firm belief that the more money one spends on transit the better it is. It is a recipe for financial disaster.

I am sorry, if one wants better transit, one must get rid of TransLink and start anew.

The $4.5 billion SkyTrain subway under Broadway is both ill planned and grossly expensive for what it will do and is only being planned for as a tool for mega high rise developments along its route. The hugely expensive Broadway SkyTrain subway is meant to move developer’s money, not people.

Interesting note: Modern LRT has made SkyTrain obsolete almost 20 years ago, no one builds with it anymore.

Question: Why build the obsolete SkyTrain in a subway?

For $4.5 billion we could build a BCIT to UBC/Stanley Park LRT; a new road/rail bridge replacing both the aging Patullo Bridge and the downright decrepit Fraser River Rail Bridge; the full build Leewood/Rail for the Valley Vancouver/Richmond to Chilliwack TramTrain; and over 40 km. of tramway in Surrey!

The $144 million gondola for SFU is nothing more than a joke, pushed by non other than TransLink Chair and Simon Fraser University professor, Nancy Olewiler. I can spell, c o n fAi?? l i c tAi?? o f Ai?? i n t e r e s t. Obviously she can’t.

Memo to the TransLink Chair: “Insist that buses going to SFU have chains on in snowy weather, it is a much cheaper solution than a $144 million gondola“.

For the cost of three rather poorly planned LRT lines in Surrey, with an estimated cost of $2.1 billion, we could build the full build, Vancouver/Richmond to Chilliwack Leewood/Rail for the Valley TramTrain, plus at least 40 km. of light rail in Surrey, which is more than enough to build a light rail line to South Surrey and Whiterock, with direct service to Vancouver via the Leewood/RftV tramtrain.

What On-Trax is advocating is not better transit, but the same old bad TransLink planning that has paupered the transit authority. Expensive to implement, and largely unworkable, it will forever make the south Fraser taxpayer’s ‘milch-cows‘ for the city of Vancouver, paying for politically prestigious and hugely expensive subways.

What needs to happen is the South Fraser cities and municipalities to secede from TransLink and form a new transit authority to deal with South Fraser Transit issues. The proposed transit referendum will be a failure if there is not an opt out choice because to bring real improvement to South Fraser transit, we need a transit authority that puts the South Fraser transit customer first and with TransLink, that will never happen.


Advocates push 0.5 per cent TransLink sales tax


By Jeff Nagel – Surrey North Delta Leader
Published: August 26, 2013

Two South of Fraser transit advocates are pushing for a long wish list of transit expansion projects in Metro Vancouver and they want a new 0.5 per cent regional sales tax to pay for it all.

Surrey’s Paul Hillsdon and Nathan Pachal of the group South Fraser On Trax say the package of upgrades they’ve designed offers something for every part of the region.

Most of the $6.5 billion in capital spending they propose would go to a $2.9-billion SkyTrain extension down Broadway to UBC and for $2.1 billion to build new light-rail lines in Surrey to Guildford, Langley City and Newton, with a B-Line express bus route south to White Rock.

They also want TransLink to build a previously proposed but shelved $144-million transit gondola to SFU atop Burnaby Mountain.

And they propose several additional B-Lines that would extend quasi-rapid transit bus service to Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge on Hwy 7; down the 200 Street spine of Langley; along Marine Drive connecting West Vancouver and North Vancouver; as well as on Hastings Street and 41st Avenue in Vancouver and Burnaby. Existing buses over the Port Mann Bridge on Highway 1 and on Highway 99 from Surrey to Richmond would also be upgraded to B-Lines.

They say a half-point hike in the provincial sales tax levied only in Metro would raise $250 million a year ai??i??Ai??enough to cover the operating costs of the new lines as well as one third of the capital cost, on the assumption Victoria and Ottawa pay the other two thirds.

“We’ve spent 10 years squabbling about what kind of tool can be used to fund the service,” Pachal said, adding the sales tax wouldn’t rile motorists as much as other TransLink sources like tolls or a vehicle levy.

“This is fair and equitable.”

He said a higher regional PST would grow with the economy and pull in money from visitors and tourists, while providing exemptions for basics like groceries to help shield lower-income residents.

B.C. residents have paid higher sales taxes not long ago.

Over the past decade, the federal GST has been cut by two per cent and the provincial PST was trimmed by 0.5 per cent.

“We feel there is wiggle room,” Pachal said.

Metro Vancouver mayors also suggested a small regional sales tax early this year.

But mayors’ council chair Richard Walton said he envisioned something smaller ai??i?? perhaps 0.1 or 0.2 per cent coming from that source ai??i??Ai??as part of a mix of other transit funding tools.

Walton said there’s no doubt sales tax could generate a lot of revenue, but affordability would be a concern.

He said the advocates’ claim a 0.5 per cent regional tax works out to just 35 cents per day per resident still adds up to an extra $42 per month for a family of four.

“It’s not a trivial or insignificant amount,” Walton said. “We’re not advocating that outright at all. We’re advocating an approach that is going to look at a number of different funding sources.”

Walton said a solution must fund not just transit expansion but other transportation projects, like the replacement of aging bridges and tunnels.

The report by Pachal and Hillsdon, dubbed Leap Ahead, is the first major volley of return fire from transit supporters who are dismayed public debate has centred on complaints of waste at TransLink and opposition to any tax hikes.

The document, at leapaheadyvr.com, claims the the number of rapid transit stations in the region would be doubled from 65 to 138 and all the new lines could be operational by 2020, providing a viable transit alternative for motorists who may by then face tolls on a replaced Pattullo Bridge or Massey Tunnel.

It predicts major economic, social and environmental benefits would spring from the transit investment.

It remains unclear what question will be put to voters in a promised referendum, but Walton said he meets Transportation Minister Todd Stone again Sept. 3 to discuss that issue as well as governance reforms for TransLink.

Mayors in the spring opposed going to referendum.

“We’re going forward with an open mind, in a spirit of cooperation,” he said.

But Walton said the “huge questions” outstanding are who will pay for the referendum and who will champion the ‘Yes’ side.

He said the HST referendum had millions in government money and the finance minister behind the pro side but still failed.

“We’re being asked to do something that isn’t in the legislation, without resources and with no time.”

TransLink must also decide by year end what projects would get built if a referendum on new funding sources passes.


14 Responses to “A 0.5 per cent TransLink sales tax?”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Guys and Gals I have to agree the sales tax for transit spending is probably the best option, in fact I would go higher. I know you have a real axe to grind about how TransLink spends your money but understand this. I don’t think BC is very much different than Ontario in so much in how we Genration X’ers, Gen Y’s and Millinneals got seriously screwed by the Baby Boomers. Here in Ontario, the cost of taking care of those Baby Boomers who will now go into the age range where they use the greatest amount health care, is set to explode. The conservative figure is that over the next 15 years, 35% of the entire population will be 60 years and older. We will have to spend the equivilent of the present entire provincial health care budget to take care of just the new Baby Boomer retirees. That’s on top of all other infrastructure spending (mostly renewal spending) that has to be paid for by our taxes. If you think there is going to be enough money to even pay for what we give out presently for even transit operating costs without rasing taxes, you are kinding yourself. I am not even considering things like new extra special pension fees that my and future generations are starting to have to pay for right now and other new specialized taxes that are on the way. I have all ready had to come to terms with the fact that I may never be able to retire. I fully expect that, most if not all present pension systems, government and private, will have been bled dry by the Boomers, just by their sheer numbers alone. Long before, I am able to even start claiming some. Without that extra transit tax spending right now and into the future, all of our transit systems are in serious trouble. Unfortunately, these are the new realities are governments have been dancing around, too afraid to offend people about the sheer costs of this many people retiring and aging all at once. In Ontario we have doubled the number of senior`s homes in the last 12 years (my wife is a nurse at one) and it is barely making a dent. The waiting list for these full care facilities just keeps getting longer. So if you want transit to continue you are most likely going to have to pay for it upfront now. After talking to a former MPP who is a family friend (collecting a mighty pension I might add) he said, “they/we saw this time bomb coming years ago and ignored it. I hope you have saved your pay because there will be nothing left very soon”. So guys I know it hurts, I know you don’t like it but, it will probably have to happen soon if you want any future transit infrastructure spending.

    Zweisystem replies: Ah, local politics. The authors of the report agitating for a $.5% sales tax increase are very closely linked to the BC Liberal Party and as I see it, this is a trial balloon for funding in the upcoming Translink referendum. The joker in the deck is the Broadway Subway Line and the costs associated with it. A full build to UBC will cost in excess of $4 billion unless they reduce the scope of the project and the provincial financial cupboard is bare. A sales tax increase may only go for this project and nothing to South of the Fraser. I maybe tempted to support a sales tax that would only spend the tax in the municipality, where it was generated. As it stands, Vancouver is getting a blue ribbon transit plan and us poor sods South of the Fraser get crumbs.

  2. Taxed out says:

    No more new taxes for TransLink until they can prove that they can get their financial house in order. Translink is a spoiled child and wah, wah, wah, until it gets its way. Let us do away with Translink, they do nothing but spend money.

  3. Haveacow says:

    I will say that it looks like a transit wish list not a real plan and that is dangerous.

  4. Mike says:

    lightrail = slow turtle
    graded train = fast bunny

    better things are more expensive for a reason!

    Zweisystem replies: I see your ignorance knows no bounds. The difference between LRT and a streetcar is the Reserved right-of-ways or a R-o-W reserved for the exclusive use of the tram. This means the tram can obtain the same commercial speeds of a graded transit system. The difference then comes down to station spacing and because of their high costs, graded transit systems have much fewer stations per route km. This means for the average transit customer, LRT offers the fastest total travel time than a graded transit system. Faster total commute times at a far cheaper cost is why LRT made SkyTrain obsolete.

  5. Mike says:

    My ignorance? you have no clue what you’re talking about. Misinformed and biased. For your information skytrain is not obsolete. A new line is being built to tri-cities whereas your LRT is a dream that would never come true LOL

    Zweisystem replies: Indeed, the Evergreen Line is being built, but TransLink and the BC government stacked the deck against any other transit alternative. in fact, Vancouver is the only city expanding its SkyTrain system and that is because Skytrain is not compatible with any other transit system. I is call the “gotcha factor”. Also it is worth noting that the Evergreen Line is the uncompleted Millennium Line, that was far too expensive to continue to the Tri-Cities. So let us see, it will take about 20 years and $2.5 billion to complete the original Millennium Line – WOW! With stats like that, is it any wonder no one builds with SkyTrain!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Note from Zweisystem – please do not play silly-buggers with this blog MIKE mikedawson45@gmail.com

  7. Cyril says:

    I agree with Mike, actually.

  8. zweisystem says:

    Has anyone who supports building with Skytrain understand that it was first designed to mitigate the high cost of subways and modern light rail made Skytrain obsolete in the 1980’s?

  9. Haveacow says:

    Mike if I remember that the results from that particular race correctly , didn’t the bunny loose to the slow and steady turtle?

  10. Sean says:

    First, how do we halt all of Translink’s dirty Skytrain plans? Second, if cost was the biggest issue on Broadway, instead of Skytrain or light rail a double or triple articulated trolley bus on a reserved right of way do the job. Third, facts, not from the Skytrain lobby, stated that light metro actually bridges the gap of light rail and subways.

    Zweisystem replies: 1) It is easy to TransLink’s planning, tell them there is no money for such planning. 2) Triple articulated buses are illegal to operate in Canada unless they operate on a dedicated rights-of-way, for the exclusive use of the bus. 3) The ICTS (later ALRT, ART) light-metro’s were supposed to bridge the gap of what an old Toronto PCC streetcar could carry and that of a metro. Modern LRT, with articulated cars, reserved rights-of-ways, and priority signalling at intersection, bridged this gap, thus making the much more expensive SkyTrain light-metro obsolete. lack of sales confirms this.

  11. Sean says:

    2) My point is that triple articulated buses, with similar capacity to light rail, can also operate on a dedicated rights-of-way, without the need to lay down expensive rails.

    Zweisystem replies: The cost difference between a bus guideway and a tram is about 30% and with LRT for 30% more you get a far bigger bang for your buck.

  12. Haveacow says:

    For the last time, Bi and Tri articulated Buses are not road legal in Canada or the United States and is not going to be made legal anytime soon.

  13. Haveacow says:

    Years ago (mid 1990’s to the late 1990’s) Ottawa tried to do a trial pilot program for Bi articulated and Tri articulated buses to run on the grade seperated Transitways here in Ottawa. Even on Transitways Transport Canada required that the turn around facilites at the end of the line be not only seperate from regular car traffic but other buses as well. There were so many conditions added by Transport Canada that a transit Service with the most BRT experience in North America decided that the costs and the conditions were too much and abandonded the whole project.

  14. zweisystem says:

    There are at least three well known local bus advocates who still continue to champion Bi and Tri artic. buses for Vancouver and they still don’t understand that they are not road legal.