Unfortunately, things cost money and there’s been a long history of difficulty finding money to fund transit and transportation in Metro Vancouver. Finally, the mayors and the province have reached consensus on a plan to eliminate that difficulty and:
- start improving our aging infrastructure
- meet exponentially growing demand with new service and infrastructure
- ease congestion by improving transportation choice and improving road infrastructure
- lead the way in reducing transportation-related carbon emissions
- improve public health
- maintain our position as one of the most livable regions in the world with a world-class transit system
Reason 1: This is the kind of stuff that should just happen and shouldn’t be subject to a vote given all the benefits it will yield.
Sounds great, right? Normally we elect our politicians to make the important decisions in our best interest, right? Not this time. The current premier of British Columbia promised a referendum on new funding sources for transit and transportation and these urgently needed benefits are subject to a yes vote in a mail-in referendum. Crucial improvements like these should not be subject to a referendum. That being said, here’s the question:
(I’m still waiting on my ballot so I can vote on that new Massey Bridge…)
Reason 2: If we don’t say yes to progressive taxation, there will be other, regressive, less-desirable ways to pay for transportation improvements we desire.
The reason why Metro Vancouver is being asked to support an increase in the sales tax is because, after exploring many other funding options, a modest increase to the Provincial Sales tax that only applies within the Metro Vancouver Region was found to be the most fair. The region’s mayors have already dismissed increases in property tax, and the provincial government has dismissed the idea of redirecting the revenue-neutral carbon tax.
If the referendum fails, speculation is that because Metro Vancouver residents continually demand better transportation, the additional investment will come from an increase in property tax. Property taxes are only paid for by property owners instead of sales tax which evenly distributes the cost over tourists, residents, and businesses. Critics say that an increase in the sales tax hurts low-income families, however, it will still be subject to the same exceptions as the Provincial Sales Tax.
Reason 3: Transit and Active Transportation improvements allow people to make more practical, healthier choices in their everyday lives, which lowers healthcare costs in the long-term and improves public health.
One number may determine how healthy you are and how long you will live. It’s not your weight, cholesterol count, or any of those numbers doctors track in patients. It’s your
addressdistance to transit..
This is probably the biggest benefit of improving transportation options. Today, healthcare costs are “escalating at alarming and unsustainable rates” and, in a recent study released by UBC, Vancouver Coastal Health, and the Fraser Health Authority, found that people who regularly commute by walking biking and transit fare better than those who commute by car.
The issue of unhealthy communities is magnified in suburban municipalities. Places that do not have safe places to walk or bike see increased car dependance, and if they are not adequately served by transit, those people who invest in a car do not see it worthwhile to choose transit as a practical option.
My personal favourite argument in investing in safer walking, biking, and transit infrastructure is giving kids more autonomy.
Reason 4: We all rely on transit now, or will in the future.
Transit is space efficient. If everyone who takes transit on a daily basis drove to work, we’d be in big trouble. With Metro Vancouver forecasted to grow by a million more people, we’re going to need to move people in more efficient ways. Either we plan for growth now, or we let it slap us in the face later and scramble to do a shoddy, patch work job later.
Not everyone has the option of taking transit, and they will continually need to have a car for their work. By building better transit for those who can make the choice, we make it easier for those who don’t have another choice.
Not everyone can drive. People are getting older. There is a big chunk of people that are aging and have the potential to be unfit to drive. These people will rely on transit and if we don’t plan for it, we will immobilize a large portion of our population. We’re all going to end up in this situation one day, and it’s probably a smart move to be thinking about our future so that we can continue to live the same quality of life that we are living now.
PS; fewer and few people are getting driver’s licenses and you need to be 16 to get one. About 30% of BC’s population doesn’t have a driver’s license1.
Reason 5: There’s a really good chance you’ll save a ton of money.
If there’s better transit, there’s a good chance you’ll choose it more often. If households choose transit because of improved service, they might be able to sell a car or two and forgo the expense of car ownership. Others might avoid the need to purchase a car altogether and could join a car share if they need access to a car.