Look at other LRT funding options

Municipal politicians never say more taxes are a good idea, but when it comes to buying something we can’t yet afford, the predictable tax hike comes along

Municipal politicians never say more taxes are a good idea, but when it comes to buying something we can’t yet afford, the predictable tax hike comes along.

Light rail transit is a good idea, but at nearly a billion dollars, it’s expensive. Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin figures a new gas tax is a good way to help pay for it.

We’re lucky that shovels haven’t started digging, otherwise Capital Region residents would likely be forking over more tax dollars to help finance rail between the West Shore and Victoria.

Before decisions are made on how the region’s 13 municipalities will finance their portion, all options need to be put on the table and given serious scrutiny.

In an ideal world, taxing individual transportation should encourage more transit use, but that’s not the reality. Only a small fraction of the current regional population will be directly served by the proposed LRT route, so that incentive won’t work.

Outside of Fortin suggesting we follow Metro Vancouver’s lead (a new two-cent-per-litre gas tax will help pay for the Evergreen Skytrain line), there are other ways to finance LRT that must be considered.

B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins suggests Metro Vancouver municipalities tighten their budgets by one per cent to finance the Evergreen line. Municipal politicians may scoff at the suggestion, but there is merit in looking at an alternative to yet another tax.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts’ suggestion that financing come from sponsors buying naming rights to a transit station seems out there, but viable. (The “Save-On-Foods” Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre Station has a great ring to it.)

Asking taxpayers to carry an even larger portion of the bill is indicative of municipal politicians who aren’t thinking creatively.

A tax increase may ultimately be needed to help fund light rail, but the region has time to look at other ways to pay for such a significant and expensive project.

 

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