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TransLink’s service valuable, even with new tax

Whoa, dude, my taxes are going up!

Whoa, dude, my taxes are going up!

Thanks to TransLink, the Metro Vancouver transportation authority that everyone loves to hate.

Of course, TransLink itself would disagree with that statement, and has the customer survey to prove it. It says 47 per cent of riders give the service a good-to-excellent rating and 83 per cent say they intend to keep taking TransLink. Of those, 65 per cent are “choice” riders and 35 per cent are “captive,” but I imagine there are times at rush hour when everyone feels “captive,” like sardines in hell.

Anyway, back to the taxes. TransLink’s portion is going up 7.8 per cent or about $16 on a $600,000 home. You could argue, like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation does, that this is an unconscionable tax grab, and we should let the air out of TransLink’s tires.

The critics cite all sorts of reasons why the TransLink board should have to walk home, but it doesn’t help that the board is now appointed, not elected, meets in camera, and costs, according to the Federation, three-and-a-half times what it did in 2006. Of course, the tab is around $450,000, which is a spit in the annual bucket of $1 billion, but just the appearance of fiscal irresponsibility makes people crazy, especially these days, when their property is worth two-thirds (at best) of its former value, and they’re afraid of losing their jobs (with good reason).

It also doesn’t help that TransLink has found a way to restore part of its wildly unpopular parking tax revenue that the Campbell government killed before the 2001 election in order to get itself elected, via an $18-million “replacement tax.”

Still, the Federation’s vague notion that TransLink should be subject to “competition” is hardly helpful. What kind of competition? You mean the same people who run the taxi companies?

Let’s get real. TransLink is responsible for running not only the transit system, which includes SkyTrain, but also the major streets and roads throughout Metro. As anyone who lives here knows, there are 2,271,224 people trying to get from here to there and TransLink is responsible for getting us all there.

I’m all for TransLink’s mission to get people out of their cars and onto the bus, their bikes, their feet. If we are serious about cleaner air and healthier people, we should see the extra $16 a year as an investment that will pay off, unlike all our other investments. And then we should get up and give a little old lady our seat on the bus.

– Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;
vancouverletters@metronews.ca.

 
 
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