March 4, 2015

Quote: The Consequences of No

From Peter Ladner:

Former CEO Pat Jacobsen on Plan B (phone interview for my next Business in Vancouver column):

“A No vote will do nothing to improve TransLink. It will be very difficult to find a new [permanent] CEO. TransLink will be unable to maintain its aging physical plant. It will continue to lose public confidence, and it will spiral downwards.”

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  1. But, I think that is exactly what some on the no campaign are really hoping for. There are certain special interest groups who would benefit from that as well as a general erosion of trust in any public institution.

  2. That’s what the old guard always says in the face of things that might prompt organizational renewal. Who needs renewal if you’re doing OK the old way?
    We really can’t know how well Translink is managed or managing, but what is clear is that the public doesn’t feel good about an organization this far removed from the public process. I’m sure the same sentiment prevails with many of these quasi-public organizations, but Translink is having the misfortune of being put to a referendum. If we had one on the lottery corp or BC ferries, you’d hear similar, and the truth of it would be similarly untrue. Media not helping with the quality of scrutiny, by the way.

  3. The single biggest thing I’m hearing from folks who are undecided is that they have no idea how this tax actually works. It’s a SALES TAX. The ‘Yes’ side is barely mentioning this at all. Think of it this way: “Every piece of tourist stuff sold in this city will help pay for transit. Every tourist who comes through Vancouver will pay at least something in sales tax towards the care and feeding of our infrastructure” That’s a total eye-opener for most folks who are on the fence. “Oh wait, so I’M not paying the whole bill?? Sign me up!”

    1. Who is not paying this tax ? Foreign real estate investors parking their cash here for high end homes or condos, or rich immigrants (really: Canadian passport seekers) that live here part-time sharing their time across 3 or 5 of their homes buying little here in MetroVan. As such, the better measure, namely significant property tax increases, or land transfer taxes, say 1% per $1M up to 15% like UK or Hongkong, was overlooked or intentionally avoided.

      What is missing is a reasoning by the MetroVan Mayors’ Council on Transportation why they like the 0.5% and not any of the other more effective measures, such as parking fee increases (would actually reduce number of cars), fare increases, expense reductions, borrowing, property taxes or land transfer taxes. Any of these 6 measures are within the Mayor’s realm without provincial approval, yet they decided to not (yet) touch them.

      WHY ?

      Where is that explained to the electorate ? Or is this 0.5% just the first in many more steps of increases ?

      1. The “best funding mechanism” agreed upon by municipalities, Metro Van, TransLink, Prov of B.C., B.C. Chamber of Commerce etc. is some kind of mobility tax- – payment based on road usage/time of day– could be tolls on all bridges, whatever. That’s coming, and will replace some other existing taxes.

        The sales tax was chosen not because it’s the best, but because it got the widest acceptance in focus groups for the short term– probably because the province (not TransLink) collects it, monitors it, prevents increases, and it lands on not just residents but also businesses and tourists, it’s not seen to be penalizing drivers or transit users, and it’s fair (lower income people pay less, although that may be a higher percentage of their income, but they also get the most benefits).

        They tried parking fee increases. Caused a s***storm.

        They do borrow, and can actually issue bonds, unlike most transit agencies, because they have such a high credit rating: “The Aa2 rating assigned to TransLink is supported by … solid governance and management practices” …. and “track record of finding cost efficiencies.”- Moody’s

        So, yes, they also reduce expenses– $240m in efficiencies and new revenues since 2012.

        1. Thank you Peter. That message has to be communicated better as it is not today.

          So if mobility pricing is best – and I 100% agree – why is this not proposed ? Or property tax increases as many foreigners ( or passport seekers, aka affluent “immigrants”) owning real estate here pay far too little in income, property or consumption taxes ? Or land transfer taxes ?

          To decongest we obviously need less cars, and the only way to get that done is more RAPID transit and far higher car use fees. Where is this in the plan , or the current discussion, Peter ? Or is this 2040 and beyond ?

  4. The single biggest thing that I DON’T hear about the consequences of YES or about the consequences of deliberately planning for a transit-dependent population is the eventuality of a transit strike. Millennials are being conditioned to believe that driving is bad, so many of them don’t, and they are consequently being robbed of the mobility that previous generations had growing up and starting in life. I say that millennials should drive:

    1. You write, “despicable are those older people who lived their own formative years with the benefit of guilt-free automotive mobility and are now counselling young people that it is possible to have a perfectly fulfilling life without a car. . . . This transit referendum is all about old people building themselves a comfortable and secure life by reducing the comfort and security of young people. . . . A car expands your world. Being transit and bicycle dependent shrinks it, and also reduces the amount of control you have over your time and what you can achieve. Anyone pretending otherwise is a liar.”

      Wow. I disagree. I never wanted to own a car. Not out of guilt, not out of concern for the environment (I prefer urban pavement to green wilderness), but because of the hassle and the cost and the kind of life it creates. Not having one to tie me down, I was free to move to Switzerland, then to Burnaby, arriving with a backpack and a duffel bag: only to find that this was a place where one was rejected at every turn if one lacked a car. I finally gave in and started driving at 26. Fortunately the city is changing: were I to do the same thing now, I would certainly choose to remain carless far longer.

      My car cost me $5,400+ a year (in 2015 dollars). Years of not owning one in effect paid for trips to Europe, Japan and China which expanded my world far more than a car ever could, and showed me how a good life could be lived without one. The campus in Beijing where my carless parents-in-law lived was one of the most humane places I have been. (China has changed since then, its fleets of bicycles giving way to cars and even worse smog.)

      By car, the city is a network of places connected by lines of travel. Without it, I didn”t just travel past: walking through neighborhoods I got to know the texture and rhythms of the places I was in. I experienced the seasons and the weather, the calls of songbirds and the noises of the city. I witnessed subtle changes over time. I crossed paths with people who lived lives very different from mine. And good transit (unlike the car) gave me the feeling I could go anywhere at the drop of a hat.

      That is how I lived my formative years. I experience the car as a necessary convenience, but also one that contracts my world. Unlike transit and walking (no bicycle – this is Burnaby), it gives me no pleasure. For others, I would wish the same opportunities I had – and better. I recognize that for some, the car represents freedom. There should be space for them too; the differences between people are beyond understanding, and that is good. Your angry screed, with its assumption that the car is the same for all people, leaves no space for people like me, or for some of the wonderful places I have visited.