At the risk of stating the obvious, transit costs money — about a thousand dollars per house in a new neighbourhood for buses, shelters, and benches, according to the city.
Now council’s talking about passing that cost back on to those responsible for the costs:
suburban developers. Right now, two groups are on the hook for those costs. The first are riders, through rising fares or crowded routes subsidizing empty ones. The second are Edmontonians in general. In a way, riders pay twice.
There are reasons for both to chip in, to be sure. Without suburban service, riders would be blocked from swaths of the city. Without comprehensive transit, Edmonton would give itself over to the automobile.
However, these groups aren’t responsible for creating the inhospitable environments transit has to serve. The fact that a transit levy is even being considered is a sign there is something fundamentally wrong with Edmonton’s new neighbourhoods.
If they were not at the far fringes, transit service would be perfectly viable.
Water, power, and drainage would be cheaper to provide. Schools, police, and fire protection would be more effective.
Sprawl has many costs, and the city’s rightfully tiring of picking up the tab. Development levies, such as this proposal to recoup transit costs, pass the cheque back to the developers profiting off the city.
Developers are, unsurprisingly, protesting. But developer protest is just a sign that it’s working.
Some costs will be passed on, but structured correctly — and more importantly, implemented regionally — much of it could go toward slowing down sprawl. Home buyers are free to choose more transit supportive locations. If they don’t, it’s only fair that they pay some of the costs of their choice.
Nobody likes to pay for something they see as an entitlement, but nobody likes to pay taxes or fares either. This levy has the potential to fund transit and keep a lid on taxes, all while creating a more livable Edmonton. Council and the city deserve our support on this one.