Passengers line up to board the Canada Line at Bridgeport Station in Richmond.

Passengers line up to board the Canada Line at Bridgeport Station in Richmond.

Poll finds ‘surprising’ support for more TransLink tolls, taxes

Respondents split on specific funding sources, but agree on need

Most Lower Mainland residents are willing to pony up more money for TransLink, but they’re split on exactly what kind of new tax, fee or toll should be imposed.

That’s the result of a new online poll conducted by Insights West.

It found 72 per cent of respondents support new funding sources for the troubled transportation authority, which needs billions of dollars to launch rapid transit expansions and maintain the existing system.

About half of those supporters want new cash sources balanced with some service cuts as well, while just 12 per cent opposed any new funding and say TransLink should simply make cuts.

“I am shocked at the number of people who are actually open to new funding options,” Insights West president Steve Mossop said, adding the results undercut the perception of near-universal public opposition to more money for TransLink.

“They’re not particularly happy with the options in front of them on how they’re to be charged, but that’s pretty common when you’re talking about taxation.”

Those polled were asked if they support raising existing transit fares, property taxes or fuel taxes, or adding new tools like a vehicle levy, a regional carbon tax, new road or bridge tolls, or a dedicated regional sales tax recently proposed by mayors.

The option that scored best with 37 per cent support was raising transit fares, although backing was lopsided, with regular transit users strongly opposed.

But a close and “surprising” second, according to Mossop, was road and bridge tolls, with 36 per cent support and a much more balanced response from both frequent and infrequent transit users.

“Out of all the evils, this is the one that seems to have the broadest support,” he said. “On the list of bad things, it’s the least bad.”

Mossop said he believes initial anger about the tolling of the Port Mann Bridge is fading fast as drivers get used to the new reality.

And he said the results give more ammunition to Metro Vancouver mayors, who want the province to allow comprehensive road pricing – adding small road tolls everywhere instead of just tolling certain bridges.

The option with the third most support was an annual vehicle levy, at 33 per cent, followed by a regional carbon tax at 26 per cent.

The most unpopular source is the mayors’ proposal to add a new sales tax within Metro Vancouver of up to 0.5 per cent – 79 per cent of those polled opposed that idea.

Also unpopular is any increase in property taxes or the gas tax, with opposition at 75 per cent and 74 per cent respectively.

Mayors want the next provincial government to give the green light to either a vehicle levy, sales tax or share of carbon tax as short-term options ahead of eventual road pricing.

The poll surveyed 838 Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley adults in early March. For a full results breakdown see www.insightswest.com.

Pictured above right: Steve Mossop