The lineups for transit service will only get longer as the population grows unless the provincial government and Metro Vancouver mayors find a solution to their current impasse.

COLUMN: Potholes on road to transit referendum

What the provincial government and Metro Vancouver mayors need to do avoid more TransLink gridlock

Besides gridlock on the roads and SkyTrain, Metro Vancouver mayors and the province are stuck breathing each other’s exhaust on the path to a transit expansion referendum supposed to happen next March.

The BC Liberal government is largely to blame because it mandated the ill-advised referendum, ordered mayors to come up with a prioritized plan — which they did — and now is balking at contributing as much to it as the mayors want.

The province previously pledged to pay one third of the costs of new transit lines and a Pattullo Bridge replacement, and said it would urge Ottawa to match.

Perhaps the government never thought mayors would agree on a plan but now it’s suffering sticker shock.

Granted, there’s a limit to what Victoria can pony up for Metro without depriving other regions, and its offer came with affordability fine print.

But clarity is required.

The province must spell out the total it would contribute to Metro transit expansion over 10 years — not 12 or 15 or 20, as it suggests.

Second, the mayors must pick how they want the rest of us to pay our share.

They should first abandon the existing carbon tax as a source of revenue as there’s no way the province will part with it.

And creating a new Metro-only carbon tax is little different from raising the 17-cent-a-litre gas tax, which TransLink admits is a poor mechanism that brings in less as cars get more efficient, drivers refuel out of region — even out of country — and residents drive less as transit improves and town centres densify.

Instead, the mayors need to pick either some form of annual vehicle levy or a regional sales tax, or both, with that revenue to be replaced by road pricing over the long term.

The referendum, then, should strictly be to approve the short-term source. Road or mobility pricing should not be subject to this or any future referendum. Sporadic tolling of new bridges is making toll reform inevitable and time-of-day road pricing offers big potential to ease congestion by changing drivers’ behaviour.

Finally, the mayors need to torpedo the notion that voters can cast a No vote to punish TransLink and not pay any more for transit. They should declare that a defeated referendum on the new source will mean the same money will come from higher TransLink property taxes, which mayors have unfettered authority to raise.

The referendum would then become an either/or debate over how we, as a region, will fund an improved transit system that is critical to our collective future.

It would not be a none-of-the-above option for the no-new-taxes crowd or a spanking opportunity for those furious at the flaws of TransLink.

Whatever the mayors do, however, it is possible the province, having dragged its feet on a solution for years, will continue to stall, forcing an indefinite delay of the referendum.

Municipal elections in November will then bring a new crop of mayors, who may be more divided than the current bunch, giving the province an easy escape.

And even if most mayors remain united behind their worthy vision, precious time will be lost.

That would be unfortunate — and it would be the provincial government’s fault.

Just Posted

Man shot dead in Cloverdale ID’d as hockey coach and father of two

Murder of Paul Bennett – a respected Peace Arch Hospital worker and ‘champion of sport’ – ‘not random’

Not picked in NHL Entry Draft, Surrey’s Burzan keen to prove pro teams wrong

The centre was ranked 58th by International Scouting Service heading into draft, held in Dallas

Final notes for retiring music teacher at Surrey concert

After 35 years of teaching, Ron Rutley is leaving job as music director at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary

Serial killer Robert Pickton transferred to Quebec: victim’s family

Pickton was convicted in December 2007 of six counts of second degree murder

VIDEO: Soviet-era tank crushes cars at Cloverdale Legion open house

Cloverdale Legion held open house with various activities for children

Final notes for retiring music teacher at Surrey concert

After 35 years of teaching, Ron Rutley is leaving job as music director at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary

Man facing charges after baby food stolen from Richmond doorstep

A 40-year-old man is facing several charges

10 of TransLink’s most used SkyTrain routes

TransLink released its 2017 Transit Network Performance Review, offering snapshot of ridership

Serial speeder clocked going 138 km/hr in 90 zone

Driver had their vehicle impounded

Canadian Syrian children’s choir not to attend festival over fears about U.S. travel

Many kids are recent immigrants from countries covered by Trump travel ban

VIDEO: Plane crashes in Langley farm field (updated)

Plane lost power shortly after takeoff, RCMP told

B.C. teacher ends Jeopardy! winning streak, taking home US$69,000

Ali Hasan, from New Westminster, has been gaining fans as a “one-man invasion,” says Alex Trebek

Most Read