Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Guest Post on Transit Vote. By Thomas Beyer, UNA Resident (former UNA Director)

To get people out of their cars we need more RAPID transit. The new plan fails on that front. The newly proposed plan is merely a band-aid. The currently proposed transit plan is far too bus based and car use will remain far too cheap for any significant changes to happen in MetroVan.

For example: With the viaducts soon gone, we need a subway along Hastings, to Burnaby, then looping to N-Van over Second Narrows bridge along Marine Drive all the way past Lonsdale to W-Van's Ambleside. The proposed Broadway line ends far too soon at Arbutus, especially with the federal & native land being developed on Jericho barracks. It has to go to Alma at the very least, then cheaper above ground all the way to UBC. 41st needs a subway, possibly extending to UBC to make it a full loop eventually. Langley need a train to connect to Surrey. Lionsgate bridge needs widening with a ped path and rail link on it to complete the North Shore subway loop into downtown. Then, and only then, will N-Van and W-Van folks switch from cars, especially if each car crossing will cost $10 in rush-hour or $5 outside of rush hour. This vision is nowhere in the band-aid plan.

Highrises get built and levies collected to fund overpaid civil servants in the planning departments or elsewhere in the vast city bureaucracies but far too little infrastructure is developed. The cities then have their hand out to the province lamenting: we need more roads and especially transit – look at all these people coming.MetroVan councils have increased spending over 50% the last decade, well above inflation plus immigration due to excessive unionization and lack of outsourcing or other cost control measures.

This is a major issue, and at the core of the city-province dispute over funding, not just for transit but also education (loads of ESL requirements – see teachers strike), healthcare (not enough funding for nurses & doctors to be hired), homelessness (rents are too high as immigrants with money crowd out folks that live here on low wages) or crowded community centers.

Let's look at in-migration, the main cause of this congestion: What is the rational behavior of a rich or even merely affluent immigrant ? Buy a huge mansion or condo with the best views in town, as capital gains are not taxed and property taxes are so low, and shift income to abroad ie from his foreign owned corporation, or just have the wife and the kids here and husband works abroad, i.e. very little PST and almost no income taxes are paid in BC ! Plus buy a fat car as gasoline taxes are quite low and roads are not tolled. That is rational behavior, we see by the ten’s of thousands per year in BC, primarily Vancouver & Richmond but also elsewhere to a somewhat lesser degree. The new transit plan does not change this rational behavior one iota. As such: we need a better plan on the expense reduction, the funding and the spending side !

The tax system needs some major re-jigging in BC: far higher road use fees (at choke points say bridges, tunnels, major intersections), far higher land transfer taxes, say 1% per $1M to 15% (like UK or Hongkong), far higher property taxes (up 100%, say over 10 years), coupled with a credit for BC income tax payers, plus far higher parking fees on every residential road, plus perhaps a luxury tax for vehicles over $50,000, plus gasoline taxes that are 100% higher.

A mere 0.5% PST increase is a drop in the bucket and will not systemically change things in MetoVan .. with more (slow) buses as it will not shift the rational behavior.
Which politician has the guts to be honest with citizens, then tackle that on the city or provincial level?

I am happy to pay 10% PST or any of the above taxes or fees if I get something of value. I do not today, and neither do 600,000+ other car users who will thus oppose this band-aid "decongestion" plan as it will not achieve what it is intended to do, namely shift car users to transit. Only far more RAPID transit coupled with higher car use costs will achieve that.

I urge both MetroVan mayors and provincial political leaders to come to their senses as opposed to snow ball their voters with more lies and band-aids ! Soon 3.5M people deserve a world class RAPID transit not mere band-aids !

Yours Sincerely,

Thomas Beyer

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