Grassroots group pitches transit tax 0
Nathan Pachal is a transit advocate who along with a few friends finished a year's worth of research and concludes a .5% increase to sales tax in the Metro Vancouver region would be appropriate for $250 million in annual funding to pay for transit growth, including rapid lines and a SFU gondola. Vancouver, B.C.,Monday August 26, 2013. (KEVIN HILL/ 24 HOURS)
An ambitious idea to fund transit by increasing sales tax in Metro Vancouver by 0.5% has found an unlikely supporter.
Nathan Pachal is a Rogers electronics engineer who moved to the Lower Mainland about five years ago. One of his first observations about TransLink funding was the insufficient services in the “major ghost area” south of the Fraser River.
Pachal and report co-author Paul Hillsdon released their Leap Ahead plan Monday after distributing copies to TransLink and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation.
In it, the pair describes how the increase could generate $250 million annually — sufficient enough to cover “new revenue” the authority would need to pay for its share of a new University of B.C. line, light rail in Surrey, seven B-Line routes, the Burnaby Mountain gondola and Expo Line upgrades.
Pachal said current administration costs total about 4% of TransLink’s budget — $57 million — just over one-fifth of what a tax increase could achieve.
According to Richard Walton, chairman of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, the latest report plays a “critical voice” to get information out to the public.
While the council had outlined a sales tax increase as an option last year in response to former transport minister Blair Lekstrom’s request for ideas, Walton, the North Vancouver District mayor, cautioned Monday a tax increase is a tough sell on the populace — despite this idea now being supported by citizen advocate Pachal.
“One of the challenges I have about this report … it says it’s only 35 cents a day per man woman and child in Metro Vancouver (after the tax increase). Well a family of four — that’s a buck 40 a day, $42 a month,” Walton said.
“For an awful lot of families in Metro Vancouver, (that) is a significant chunk of coin.”
Simon Fraser University transport expert Gordon Price said it seems “a couple of guys” who wrote a report on the topic have done more to further the questioning of transit funding than both local and provincial governments.
“They’ve put forward a list of suggestions that should be funded,” said the former Vancouver city councillor. “They’ve done a little bit of number crunching, saying this is how we should pay for it. It’s pretty impressive.”
The Ministry of Transportation is expected to hold a referendum in November 2014 on transit funding. On Monday, Minister Todd Stone had not ruled out any options, but said that it’s “too soon” to provide details of referendum planning discussions.
“At the end of the day, we all want the same thing for the people of Metro Vancouver and that is the dollars, the investments, to be there to improve transportation and transit,” Stone said in a statement.