Commuters boarding the Canada Line at Bridgeport Station in Richmond.

Most support more transit but reluctant to pay: poll

Property, driving taxes less popular than provincial cash

While a new poll shows Metro Vancouver residents overwhelmingly want upgraded transit, most don’t want higher taxes on motorists or property owners.

Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted the poll for the union representing area bus drivers, which has urged mayors to support TransLink’s expansion plan.

Seventy-five per cent of those surveyed want more money simply transferred from the province – a free lunch scenario most mayors admit won’t happen.

Another 47 per cent would make transit riders pay higher fares, 46 per cent support raising parking taxes, 34 per cent back tolls on roads and bridges and 30 per cent back further increases in the carbon tax if the money is steered to TransLink.

Just 26 per cent back a higher gas tax, 22 per cent support a vehicle levy and only 20 per cent would put the bill on property taxes.

The plan being voted on Friday by Metro mayors would generate nearly half the required money by raising the TransLink gas tax two cents to 17 cents a litre. The rest would be determined later – cities would work with the province to negotiate new funding sources. If they don’t materialize, a property tax hike would kick in.

Mayors have been talking up possible funding sources that wouldn’t directly hit households or motorists.

Those options include charging developers extra to build at high densities near rapid transit stations.

“You capture some of the windfall profit associated with the location of SkyTrain stations,” Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said. “You apply some of it to the construction of the transit system that creates the profit in the first place.”

Selling corporate naming rights for SkyTrains and stations is another idea mayors have raised.

And Metro Vancouver’s board has voted to investigate a possible tax on shipping containers moving through the port.

The mayors say they want Victoria to grant them a variety of new sources, but concede much of the money must come out of local pockets one way or another.

Transportation-linked sources that make driving more expensive relative to transit are expected to be high on the list of options considered.

The poll found 85 per cent of the more than 500 respondents want transit system improvements.

Don MacLeod, president of Canadian Auto Workers local 111, said much more bus service is needed, but called TransLink’s supplemental plan a “step in the right direction.”

The revenue increase before the mayors would ensure the Evergreen Line is built and fund a variety of other upgrades around the region, along with a general increase in bus service hours.

Several mayors who support the plan, including those from Vancouver, Surrey and the Tri-Cities, have said they will use their population-weighted votes to push it through.