– Vancouver Residents React to Planned Transit Price Hikes

Vancouver Observer

by Fram Dinshaw

Malcolm Smith on Commercial Drive is resigned to the fact that his property tax, gas costs, and transit fares are going up next year, as he’s prepared to sacrifice personal comfort if that means Vancouver’s commuters avoid a nightmare of gridlocked streets on the way to and from work.

“I think we need to find a way to pay for transit and I don’t particularly care how we do it.  We need to keep transit moving,” said Smith.

He was aware that any price hikes could hit low-income Vancouverites hardest, and didn’t want to see their living standards suffer even more, but extra transit money had to be raised in order to keep the system working.

That was Smith’s reaction to the news that Metro Vancouver mayors ‘reluctantly’ voted in favour on Friday for an interim $130 million stabilization plan to keep transit moving, while TransLink seeks other ways to fund its cash-strapped system.

The plan, to come into effect next year, would see a three-cents-a-litre boost in gasoline taxes as well as increases in the property sales tax and transit fares. TransLink also plans to replace its parking sales tax.

Yet as TransLink is facing a crisis situation next year as its reserves continue to run dry, claiming it needs $450 million to build the Evergreen Skytrain Line and expand services to cater for Metro Vancouver’s residents, not everyone is convinced.

Jeff Scot, dressed in a suit and waiting for his girlfriend outside the Commercial Drive Skytrain station, was skeptical over Translink’s funding schemes.

“I don’t live in Vancouver but I don’t agree with it.  If that [$130 million] went towards infrastructure it’d be worth it,” he told the VO.  More Skytrain and bus lines were what Scot wanted to see before he supported any tax or fare rises.

Meanwhile on the Canada Line, Vancouverite Nick Lauga said, “I think we should have gone for the other option, which is parking tax and road tolls.”

While TransLink is already looking at overhauling parking tax, Lauga also wanted to see the Broadway Skytrain line between Commercial and UBC built as soon as possible.

His hope looks ever more unlikely as TransLink continues losing money just maintaining its current service network, with the next year’s planned price hikes at best being a stopgap measure to buy time while the company researches other ways to raise funds, according to CEO Tom Prendergast.

While most people had mixed feelings towards the 2010 TransLink Stabilisation Plan, not all were convinced by the need for paying more money.

“Personally I don’t think it’s fair.  I think the [property] tax is already high enough.  You look at Gordon Campbell, he’s been cutting childcare, education, and health, and now he expects us to pay extra for TransLink.  It’s crazy,” said Eugene Huang, a restaurant worker on Broadway and Cambie.

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