It appears that the hopes of road users over the past 10 years have finally and irrevocably been dashed by TransLink’s newest CEO. Tom Prendergast made it clear that TransLink’s intent is on “changing behaviours” and predicted that “The days of the free ride for automobiles worldwide is coming to an end.”
TransLink, which is supposed to be a regional transportation authority that is focused on both transit and the Major Road Network, including several important bridges in Metro Vancouver, has always had a strong transit bias. Mr. Prendergast finally confirmed long-held road user suspicions: TransLink only wanted us for the money. And they still just want us for the money.
TransLink is proposing to increase local taxes and fees by $450 million a year – about $200 per Metro Vancouver resident. To put it into context, that’s the equivalent of a 12% hike in personal incomes taxes or increasing the provincial sales tax from 7% to 12%. It’s unlikely to end there, either, since new taxes and tax hikes are always a threat.
As has been the case in the past, most of the new funding would come from road users, many of whom have no choice but to drive, and would be spent on transit, most of which does not meet the needs of Metro Vancouver residents. In return, road users could expect a continuation of the stunningly modest spending of 5% per year on roads and bridges. It’s not much payback for providing between 35 and 40% of TransLink’s annual budget.
Mr. Prendergast’s comments about automobiles having a “free ride” fails to consider that road users in BC already pay about $2.5 billion in a variety of road user taxes a year. Much of that $2.5 billion is paid by Metro Vancouver residents. In fact, if anything, BC road users have probably paid for the BC road system several times over.
For that matter, who says that roads are constructed and maintained for the exclusive use of cars and trucks? Roads allow for access to emergency and community services, they are a necessity for businesses and a thriving economy – even transit needs roads.
So it shouldn’t be a tax-road-users- and-convince-them-to-use-public-transit-because-transit-is-better proposition. The public debate should be centred on a more basic question. How have TransLink’s solutions improved the lives of Metro Vancouver residents in the past 10 years and why should we believe that continuing to give them money is actually going to result in a positive change?
Earlier this week, Finance Minister Colin Hansen called for a fiscal and governance review of TransLink to be completed by the end of September. Given Mr. Prendergast’s recent comments, the review can’t be too soon or too detailed for Metro Vancouver road users. It’s time road users asked themselves, if TransLink were our friend, would we need any enemies?
BCTA is the recognised voice of the provincial motor carrier industry, representing over 800 truck and bus fleets and over 250 suppliers to the industry. Over 13,000 vehicles are operated by BCTA members in BC. BCTA operating members employ 26,000 people in BC and generate over $2 billion in revenue in the province annually.