Monday, March 24, 2008

Peter Ladner's Transportation Tax

Last week, Vancouver City Councillor and mayoralty candidate Peter Ladner was on The Christy Clark Show to float his idea for a congestion tax to pay for TransLink's $18-million budget shortfall. It was an interesting conversation (available in CKNW's Tuesday, March 18, 2008 audio vault during the noon hour). Here are a few excerpts, and my thoughts on them...
Clark: "When you are talking about those proposals, are you imagining that they would apply to the downtown core of Vancouver, you might see a toll like that on the Burrard or Cambie Street Bridge?"

Ladner: "These cannot be tolls that simply apply in Surrey or Langley or Maple Ridge or somewhere else than in Vancouver. They have to apply everywhere. The principle has to be that we want to raise money."
True enough. If you want to bring these measures in, they shouldn't be limited to just one bridge (i.e., The Port Mann) but they should also ding Vancouver drivers. In fact, Vancouver drivers, in my view, should pay far more for those congestion taxes than South Fraser drivers, as the Vancouver folks have access to all of the rapid transit in the region. Their choice to drive is mind-boggling when you consider they have SkyTrain and oodles of rapid buses.
Clark: "But Vancouver has a disproportionate number of businesses that depend on regional migration. If you make it more expensive to get into Vancouver from Coquitlam, people will shop in Coquitlam Centre rather than coming down here to shop at Pacific Centre."

Ladner: "Well that's what they should be doing. We don’t want…people shouldn't be travelling right across the region to go shopping. There should be a good, as there is, a good shopping mall in Coquitlam Centre and that's where people should shop... as it happens, they can come in on SkyTrain."
Let's walk down that path a little bit. If I were a Vancouver merchant, I'd be concerned about my wannabe mayor suggesting I limit my trading area. As a side note, I'd like to welcome shoppers from anywhere in the region to come spend money in Langley any time. Consider our door wide open to your business!

Whether we like it or not, there are certain regional amenities that only exist downtown. Tens of thousands of regional residents travel to GM Place and BC Place every year for Vancouver Canuck games, BC Lion games, trade shows, concerts, and other events. The PNE is in Vancouver, along with the Pacific Coliseum. There is also toursit attractions like Science World, Granville Island, and, yes, the shops on Robson Street. These are regional amenities located downtown, and I don't think Lower Mainland residents should be punished for having them located there.

As for the SkyTrain comment, it's almost laughable. SkyTrain barely comes into the south Fraser, and its four stops are in the worst part of Surrey (admittedly, Surrey is working hard on improving the area). And SkyTrain doesn't go near the PNE.
Clark: "How much would a toll be?"

Ladner: "Christy, I haven’t done this work. I have no idea. My main message is that we have got to start thinking about measures. It may not be a toll. It could be an increase in fuel taxes. Fuel taxes are effectively a toll on the amount of driving you do. They are an effective tool because they also measure the bigger your engine the more you pollute the more you pay. So you have an option with a fuel tax. You can have a smaller engine and you can share the ride and so on... that’s one alternative."
He is backing away from the congestion tax idea here--even though that's what got the play in the media. To Ladner's credit, he also talked about the need for the feds and province to return more gas tax revenue to transportation projects, and his proposal was by no means the kind of pure congestion tax used in places like London. Nonetheless, you can bet the Sam Sullivan people will be pouncing all over the "I haven't done this work, I have no idea," quote.
Ladner: "I think that the other point this gentleman raises is that we have paid for these things [roads and bridges] or we don't want to spend more money. Okay, well then stay there in the line up in the Port Mann bridge and spend two hours getting to work every day. Or wait in the line up for the buses and watch the buses pass you by. We’re hearing that we need more transportation infrastructure and somehow or another other we have to pay for it."
A Vancouver politician finally admits that there is congestion at the Port Mann!


At March 25, 2008 8:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never proposed a congestion tax. I cited it as one example of the types of revenue sources we need to tap, instead of property taxes and fare increases.
I did say a congestion tax isn't suitable here because we don't have a hub and spoke traffic pattern.
The mayor's people announced that I had proposed a congestion tax, not me.
Peter Ladner


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