The 'Leap Ahead' transit plan proposed by two transit advocates envisions new light rail lines (dark green)

The 'Leap Ahead' transit plan proposed by two transit advocates envisions new light rail lines (dark green)

Advocates push 0.5 per cent TransLink sales tax

Proposal calls for $6.5-billion rapid transit expansion

Two South of Fraser transit advocates are pushing for a long wish list of transit expansion projects in Metro Vancouver and they want a new 0.5 per cent regional sales tax to pay for it all.

Surrey’s Paul Hillsdon and Nathan Pachal of the group South Fraser On Trax say the package of upgrades they’ve designed offers something for every part of the region.

Most of the $6.5 billion in capital spending they propose would go to a $2.9-billion SkyTrain extension down Broadway to UBC and for $2.1 billion to build new light-rail lines in Surrey to Guildford, Langley City and Newton, with a B-Line express bus route south to White Rock.

They also want TransLink to build a previously proposed but shelved $144-million transit gondola to SFU atop Burnaby Mountain.

And they propose several additional B-Lines that would extend quasi-rapid transit bus service to Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge on Hwy 7; down the 200 Street spine of Langley; along Marine Drive connecting West Vancouver and North Vancouver; as well as on Hastings Street and 41st Avenue in Vancouver and Burnaby. Existing buses over the Port Mann Bridge on Highway 1 and on Highway 99 from Surrey to Richmond would also be upgraded to B-Lines.

They say a half-point hike in the provincial sales tax levied only in Metro would raise $250 million a year – enough to cover the operating costs of the new lines as well as one third of the capital cost, on the assumption Victoria and Ottawa pay the other two thirds.

“We’ve spent 10 years squabbling about what kind of tool can be used to fund the service,” Pachal said, adding the sales tax wouldn’t rile motorists as much as other TransLink sources like tolls or a vehicle levy.

“This is fair and equitable.”

He said a higher regional PST would grow with the economy and pull in money from visitors and tourists, while providing exemptions for basics like groceries to help shield lower-income residents.

B.C. residents have paid higher sales taxes not long ago.

Over the past decade, the federal GST has been cut by two per cent and the provincial PST was trimmed by 0.5 per cent.

“We feel there is wiggle room,” Pachal said.

Metro Vancouver mayors also suggested a small regional sales tax early this year.

But mayors’ council chair Richard Walton said he envisioned something smaller – perhaps 0.1 or 0.2 per cent coming from that source – as part of a mix of other transit funding tools.

Walton said there’s no doubt sales tax could generate a lot of revenue, but affordability would be a concern.

He said the advocates’ claim a 0.5 per cent regional tax works out to just 35 cents per day per resident still adds up to an extra $42 per month for a family of four.

“It’s not a trivial or insignificant amount,” Walton said. “We’re not advocating that outright at all. We’re advocating an approach that is going to look at a number of different funding sources.”

Walton said a solution must fund not just transit expansion but other transportation projects, like the replacement of aging bridges and tunnels.

The report by Pachal and Hillsdon, dubbed Leap Ahead, is the first major volley of return fire from transit supporters who are dismayed public debate has centred on complaints of waste at TransLink and opposition to any tax hikes.

The document, at leapaheadyvr.com, claims the the number of rapid transit stations in the region would be doubled from 65 to 138 and all the new lines could be operational by 2020, providing a viable transit alternative for motorists who may by then face tolls on a replaced Pattullo Bridge or Massey Tunnel.

It predicts major economic, social and environmental benefits would spring from the transit investment.

It remains unclear what question will be put to voters in a promised referendum, but Walton said he meets Transportation Minister Todd Stone again Sept. 3 to discuss that issue as well as governance reforms for TransLink.

Mayors in the spring opposed going to referendum.

“We’re going forward with an open mind, in a spirit of cooperation,” he said.

But Walton said the “huge questions” outstanding are who will pay for the referendum and who will champion the ‘Yes’ side.

He said the HST referendum had millions in government money and the finance minister behind the pro side but still failed.

“We’re being asked to do something that isn’t in the legislation, without resources and with no time.”

TransLink must also decide by year end what projects would get built if a referendum on new funding sources passes.

Just Posted

White Rock beach was buzzing with activity on Father’s Day. (Aaron Hinks photo)
PHOTOS: White Rock beach buzzing with activity on Father’s Day

High of 27C drew hundreds of people to the beach

This year’s Virtual Hike for Hospice raised just over $30,000 with the support of participants including Marlene. (Contributed photo)
PHOTOS: Virtual hike raises $30K for Peace Arch Hospice Society

Community support smashes fundraising goal

SFN councillor Joanne Charles, White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker and Coun. David Chesney listen to welcoming remarks from Chief Harley Chappell (Xwopokton). (FIle photo)
White Rock, SFN grieve together on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Residents encouraged to wear orange on Canada Day

Surrey RCMP are investigating after shots were fired at a white Jeep Saturday evening in Newton. (Shane MacKichan photo)
UPDATE: Surrey RCMP asking for video after shots fired in Newton

Surrey RCMP said a silver SUV shot at a white Jeep

A Grade 8 class at L.A. Matheson Secondary. March 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
B.C.’s return-to-school plan good, but Surrey teachers hope there is room for adjustments

Surrey school district to receive $1.76M of the $25.6M provincial pandemic-related funding

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read