What would you rather see roughly $1 billion of your tax money go towards: the establishment of sewage treatment for the Capital Region, or a light-rail system to service the West Shore and south Island?
Unfortunately, Greater Victoria residents don’t have the option of choosing between the two, since the province has mandated sewage treatment be put in place.
But they did get a chance last week to tell members of the regional transit commission what they thought of spending that kind of money to alleviate commuter gridlock in the region’s fastest-growing district.
Many taxpayers, already bracing to pay the Capital Regional District’s one-third share of the cost of sewage treatment, are saying that a second billion-dollar project will be too much at one time.
Unlike sewage treatment, which will at least be linked to most people with a toilet, there’s little motivation for people living in areas not serviced by the proposed light rail to help pay for it.
Not only does long-term regional transportation planning not happen in a municipal vacuum, it would be unfair to tax only those people more likely to use light rail, such as commuters from the West Shore or points further north up Highway 1.
Transit planners have rightly determined that adding more buses or giving them priority lane access is not going to be enough to alleviate West Shore traffic tie-ups now or in the future.
That said, the focus will have to be on keeping the cost of light rail manageable and involving every municipality in coming up with the best solution.
As with the sewage treatment scenario, in the long run it’s going to be a case of hold your nose and pay the tax for the greater good. We just hope that the taxing timelines for the two projects are far enough apart to ease the burden on taxpayers.