Lower Mainland Transit/Transportation Plebiscite Offers No Shortage of Opinions

By Helen K. Peterson

Weighing the pro’s and con’s of the upcoming Lower Mainland referendum on transit and transportation issues going forward has offered no shortage of opinions from both riders and drivers.

Conducted via plebiscite form sent to registered voters, the referendum seeks a vote of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a .5% increase in sales taxes.

Luckily, a handy, independently-run website entitled Movinginaliveableregion.ca helps spell out the situation for Metro Vancouver’s Transit and Transportation Referendum.

The site advises that BC Premier Christy Clark pledged that a referendum on potential new revenue sources for Metro Vancouver transportation improvements will indeed be held.

A crowded Skytrtain platform is a typical sight in the Lower Mainland as the population and user base grows. Photo: Translink

The referendum seeks the public’s decision on the transportation funding measures identified by the Metro Vancouver Mayor’s Council. Accordingly, the mail-in ballots will be sent out beginning March 16, 2015, with voting [via mail-in] until May 29, 2015.

Many ask – what is a transportation referendum?

The website explains that, while common in the US, transportation ballot initiatives and referenda rarely, if ever, take place in Canada.

In this case, the transportation referendum lays out a set of transportation planning principles, potential funding sources, and/or specific transportation investments to be voted on.

Movinginaliveableregion says the Mayor’s Council has put forward a transportation investment plan, which outlines key transit, biking, and road upgrades that will be voted on.

Generally, it includes the construction of a new Surrey LRT and extension of the Millennium Line Skytrain as well as increased bus, Seabus, and HandyDART service.

The investments in the plan will allow for 70 per cent of the region’s residents to have access to frequent transit.

Buses may be plentiful in Marpole, but can often be late or overcrowded since the B-line express route was cancelled. Photo: Helen K. Peterson

Buses may be plentiful in Marpole, but can often be late or overcrowded since the B-line express route was cancelled. Photo: Helen K. Peterson

So what do the people really think?

BCNewsandViews took to the streets to ask a sampling of residents what they thought about the referendum, and whether they had decided which way to vote:

It’s all about the trust factor, according to Nancy Wong, a PR professional who resides in Kitsilano, and is keeping up on the issue with a watchful eye.

“I take transit all the time and am torn at the moment, because I don’t trust Translink to properly handle or respect the additional funds,” she says.

Nancy Wong is a frequent transit user who wants the improvements but also seeks accountability by Translink. Photo: supplied

Nancy Wong is a frequent transit user who wants the improvements but also seeks accountability by Translink. Photo: supplied

“I understand that transit needs more funding – but maybe it wouldn’t if there were different people running it who were more responsible and accountable for how the money would be spent,” she explains.

Wong also recommended Lower Mainland residents follow knowledgeable people on the subject via social media channels.

“Mi-Jung Lee from CTV posted a [very informative] piece on the transit tax last week,” she says.

Marcia Pedersen, who works downtown as a paralegal and commutes from Marpole, says, “We need to fund infrastructure and future development to keep up with an increasing population.

“But, we’ve been giving Translink millions in large chunks for several years and they’ve given us nothing in return.”

Driver Marcia Pedersen has strong views on the referendum, and doesn’t hold back on her opinion. Photo: Helen K. Peterson

Driver Marcia Pedersen has strong views on the referendum, and doesn’t hold back on her opinion. Photo: Helen K. Peterson

Pedersen reminds us: “There’s the Compass Pass fiasco. There are no turnstiles to collect payment on the trains.” This is a familiar refrain from many people I know, and I can imagine that millions of dollars have been lost due to Skytrain-riding cheaters.

“The fat cats that run Translink all drive and are provided expensive parking at the Metro Towers and elsewhere,” Pedersen complains.

“Transit service for users is poor at best. And it’s unsafe, especially for women having to deal with aggressive creeps who take transit.” Not surprisingly, Pedersen commutes to work by car, and will continue to do so.

“A .5 per cent transit tax? Not in favour. Should be a user-pay society; you use it, you pay for it,“ says self-employed driver Ian Gordon, who owns a disposal company.

As a resident of Tsawassen, he comes in to the city on a daily basis for his work, but Gordon will also use transit on the weekend to come in to Vancouver to enjoy a pint with the boys.

Ian Gordon drives for a living but takes transit on occasion, and doesn’t agree with the tax increase. Photo: Helen K. Peterson

Ian Gordon drives for a living but takes transit on occasion, and doesn’t agree with the tax increase. Photo: Helen K. Peterson

“Yeah, I take the bus or Skytrain at times,” he admits. “But I don’t think drivers should be made to subsidize my ride.”

Gordon says .5 % is so low you will hardly notice it. “But it’s still another tax and how many people will vote in favour of another tax? “I think the ‘no’ side will win,” he proclaims.

(Closing Summary erased!!!)

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