TransLink isn't sure why it's not collecting as much in gas tax as it expected. Motorists aren't buying as much gas – at least not within Metro Vancouver.

TransLink finding less gas tax to guzzle

Eight per cent drop in revenue stream problematic for Metro Vancouver transit authority

A big drop in TransLink’s gas tax revenue may be because of the difficult economy, more efficient cars or more motorists driving out of town for cheaper fill-ups.

The latest estimates suggest the transportation authority will end 2011 earning almost $26 million less than it expected from the current 15-cent-per-litre fuel tax it charges within Metro Vancouver.

The eight per cent differential – $298.5 million for the full year compared to the $324.3 million budgeted – casts doubt on the future reliability of the gas tax, according to a TransLink third-quarter financial report.

The shortfall is particularly troubling because TransLink has just won approval from Metro Vancouver mayors and the provincial government to raise the gas tax another two cents next April to generate an estimated $44 million needed to help fund the Evergreen Line and other transit upgrades.

At the current rate, more than half the new money would be eaten up making up for the shortfall – assuming the two-cent increase generates as much as it’s supposed to.

Spokesman Ken Hardie said fuel sales are down generally in B.C., but added work is underway to “drill further into the phenomenon.”

TransLink has asked federal agencies to look at the revenue capture and reporting systems.

One aim, Hardie said, is to determine whether large numbers of drivers are heading to areas free of the TransLink gas tax, like the Fraser Valley or Washington State, where gas is even cheaper.

“If we saw lower sales here but remarkably higher sales in the Fraser Valley, that would speak to the issue of leakage as people go out of their way to get cheaper gas,” he said. “We’re also working with Washington State to check on gas sales near the border.”

Vehicles have become steadily more efficient – both by manufacturer design and consumer choice.

“If electric vehicles take off, that is very clearly also going to be a factor,” Hardie said. “All of the indications are pointing to people using less fuel. Which is a good thing.”

Another factor in the drop in gas sales, Hardie said, appears to be that more motorists are switching to transit.

Transit ridership for the first nine months of 2011 is on a record pace, running five per cent ahead of the same period in 2010, when a huge number of visitors rode the system during the Olympics.

Although new riders mean more fare revenue, TransLink also normally has to pay for more service, which means a net loss once the lost gas tax is factored in.

There was no significant service boost this year, although TransLink did succeed in reconfiguring routes to more efficiently carry riders and generate two per cent more from the farebox with the existing bus fleet.

Hardie said the gas tax problem underscores the need to find new and more diversified revenue sources for TransLink – the subject of negotiations next year between mayors and the province. Possible options include an annual vehicle levy or road pricing.

TransLink statistics also show complaints from riders are up sharply.

Bus passengers are most frequently complaining about overcrowded buses, full buses that pass them without stopping as well as buses that arrive earlier or later than scheduled.

“There is more crowding, there are more pass-ups – certainly more than we want to see,” Hardie said.

He said TransLink’s increased use of social media like Twitter has also opened more avenues for the public to lodge complaints.

Tweeted complaints (see feed below) are welcomed, Hardie added, because they give transit managers real-time insight into trouble spots, where they may be able to react quickly and throw on more service.

@jeffnagel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey restaurants to benefit from city’s patio plan

Pilot program will permit the use of temporary outdoor areas. It’s meant to be enacted fast, for the summer months

Humbled by hit song ‘Pillow Talkin,’ Surrey musician aims to build on humanitarian work

‘People are still trying to figure out who the heck I am,’ Tyler Joe Miller says

Surrey council gives OK for barber shop to serve booze

Critics called the idea ridiculous and dreadful

‘Paralyzed by fear’: South Surrey woman details anxiety, grief at Italian relief hospital

Sheila Vicic spent two months in Italy as the country grappled with COVID-19

White Rock named new deputy fire chief

Norman MacLeod comes to White Rock Fire Rescue from District of Mission

Dr. Bonnie Henry given new name in B.C. First Nation ceremony: ‘one who is calm among us’

The provincial health officer was honoured in a May 22 ceremony at elementary school in Hazelton

28 soldiers test positive for COVID-19 after working in Ontario care homes

Nearly 1,700 military members are working in ong-term care homes overwhelmed by COVID-19

B.C. poison control sees spike in adults, children accidentally ingesting hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer sales and usage have gone up sharply amid COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. man with Alberta plates gets car keyed and aggressive note

Some out-of-province people are finding hostile reception due to COVID-19 worries

B.C. drive-in theatre appeals COVID-19 concession rules, 50-car limit

With 50 cars and the removal of concession sales, drive-in owner says theatre might have to close

COVID-19: B.C. grants aim to stabilize sexual assault recovery programs

$10 million fund not yet ready to take applications

B.C. mom’s drug-pricing petition on behalf of son garners thousands of signatures

Petition geared to gaining access to new medicines drew support of Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl

Gabriel Klein’s sentencing delayed until September

Man convicted of killing Abbotsford high school student Letisha Reimer was set for June

CAMH survey looks at binge-drinking, financial anxiety during COVID

Alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism for those whose careers may have been sidelined due to the pandemic

Most Read

l -->