April 9, 2015

A Provincial ‘War on Transit’?

I tend to dislike the “War on …” metaphor, but this is pretty brutal:

From Kamloops This Week:

Provincial cutbacks may stall transit expansion across BC

Reduced provincial transfers may lead to cutbacks to planned transit expansion in a number of BC communities. BC Transit, the Crown corporation responsible for 81 public transit systems outside the Lower Mainland, was due to receive $109 million in provincial transfers in 2015 but under the new budget will have to make do with $104 million in funding for the year. Prior to this year’s budget, funding was expected to increase to $111 million for 2016, but instead will be frozen at $104 million until at least 2017.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said that may mean the funding isn’t there for a 6,000-hour expansion of transit in Kamloops, which was supposed to kick in this year, unless other communities using BC Transit service want to cut some of their hours. BC Transit will also be facing a review by the Ministry of Finance, with findings due in 2016.


From The Squamish Chief:

Tuesday afternoon it looked like Squamish would have a pilot project bus service expansion this summer. The plan, discussed by BC Transit and council at the community development standing committee Tuesday afternoon, was for bus service to be available throughout the summer to three of Squamish’s biggest attractions: the Sea to Sky Gondola, the Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls. 

By the council meeting Tuesday night, the plan had already been wiped off the agenda.

Rod MacLeod, district director of engineering, explained to council at the evening meeting that staff had discovered not only was the Province not going to contribute any funds for the pilot project or any other expansion, but the lack of funds available for Squamish transit in the provincial budget could lead to cuts in district transit service over the next three years. 

“BC Transit funds about 60 per cent of Squamish’s transit system, so in the provincial budget there was no money allowed for Squamish for expanding,” MacLeod told The Squamish Chief.

“There are always three-year agreements with transit and so on top of that, in years two and three, there is no funding to cover inflation. Typically, inflation is two or three per cent for fuel and wages and stuff like that, so that would mean in theory we would have to cut our system by two or three or four per cent, whatever the cost of inflation is.”

MacLeod said the district had been warned things might be tight for Squamish transit in the provincial budget, but he said the reality was a shock. 

“[We] did not expect this level of cut,” he said.

District staff was directed by council to look at other options for the pilot project and report back to council at a future meeting, but MacLeod said the district’s options are limited.

“The funding model is really strictly set up by the Province. We can’t just offer to pay more, so we will have to explore other options,” he said.

The news left most council members disappointed and some incredulous.

“It is pretty disappointing to hear that we are actually going to lose transit after we have done so well – with one of the largest increases in B.C. with transit user ridership at 23 per cent – that is pretty horrific,” said Councillor Susan Chapelle.

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  1. Incredible. I’ve lost track of how many people who’ve told me they’re voting No because the provincial government will find the money elsewhere for transit expansion, despite all evidence to the contrary.

    Surely this….

  2. If pipelines and port expansions don’t go ahead there will be less money for governments. LNG is probably slowed due to the radical drop in the oil price. Tech businesses are growing but not quickly enough to make up for the earnings from natural resources.

    It’s a tough one for government. Reduce health care expenses, even though they are growing. Cut education costs. These are the massive expenditures that have to come first.

    1. Post

      Context, please. First commitment is to reduce taxes for richest two percent by $230 million. And to reduce budget for transit. Both happening together now; LNG price irrelevant.

  3. Plenty of plan B options for MetroVan majors in case of a “no” to fund transit, without a referendum:

    a) raise property taxes
    b) raise development levies
    c) lower wages & benefits of civil servants (or lower them less over the next 20 years (as they are 20-30% too high in many case – plenty of room in a $5B+ budget across MetroVan)
    d) increase parking fees
    e) raise user fees
    f) raise land transfer taxes

    As described elsewhere, unless car use costs are increased (in both ist states: driiving and parking) AND true RAPID transit is introduced (read: subways) there will be no meaningful decongestion as not enough folks will switch from cars to transit, even if Plan A (0.5% PST increase) is voted in. Plan A is a bad plan. A mere bandaid.

    CUPE and the various divisions of public sector unions have come off far too lightly in this transit debate.

    1. Post
      1. with feds taking 29% and province 10 I’d say that is plenty enough .. the same issue of overspending on wages & benefits is true also for the federal government .. and indeed I’d rater see lower income taxes and higher PST .. big mistake in Alberta’s new budget .. but I digress ..

        ==> We need to take consumption and properties FAR more .. NOT income !

  4. Cynicism towards government because politicians never keep their promises is one important reason that young people do not vote. This pertains particularly in regard to taxes, which are always cynically laughed at because they ‘never come down’.

    Two years ago, on the eve of the last election, the BC Liberals imposed a surtax on those individuals earning $150,000 or more per year. That tax, which brings in $227-million annually, came with a sunset clause and will be lifted on Jan. 1, 2016.

    Some might call it a tax cut but it’s a promise being kept. The BC Liberals are keeping their promise and removing this temporary tax for the highest earners.

    Good for them and good for us. If more governments were to keep promises, as have the BC Liberals, then perhaps there would be less cynicism towards government by younger people and they would vote in higher numbers. The NDP, the Green Party, Vision Vancouver and the Metro Mayors supporting a positive vote in the current plebescite, all those more reliant on the youth vote, should be cheering this promise being kept.

    1. Post
      1. The long-sighted view:
        Sometimes we can trust our government to do what they say they will. Maybe we should be more involved and vote.

        I see your comment as negative spin. I see my comment as a positive sign that government and politicians are often decent people that keep their promises.

        1. Well said, Eric.

          We need to encourage young people to make money and save more, i.e. tax incomes less, but on the other hand encourage less consumption i.e. tax goods, roads used or gasoline used more, but also properties especially since so much in MetoVan is foreign owned, or owned by folks that make money abroad, and pay little PST or income taxes here, yet own $5M+ homes.

          We also need more debate and disclosure about efficient tax spending, i.e. is paying $100,000+ for a TransLink cop, or $75,000 for a ParksBoard/City of Vancouver garbage bin emptier plus shiny new truck or $30/h for a bus driver PLUS cushy benefits and guaranteed pensions the correct amount, or can one find lower paid outsourced candidates at 25-45% less in the private sector (with higher risk of layoff to boot). Much room for cost savings here so that those $s can be invested into more teachers, more homeless shelters or subways below Hastings, Marine Drive in N-Van or to UBC !

            1. Why is the record broken ? Many tunes on the record !

              The mother of success: repetition !

              Please accept that different people’s worldviews shape their view on transit topics in a city they love, and closely related taxation and public spending opinions.

              We can agree to disagree, can we not ?

              Much blame to lay on Liberals’ feet too for not taxing non-residents enough, for not allowing road tolls for example or allowing fee parking on far too many provincial roads such as 16th (W of Blanca) or Marine Drive around UBC where I happen to live or for not doing enough to reign in public sector union power in BC. I apologize if I single out MetroVan Mayors and their often far too socialistic councils. BC Liberals and federal “conservatives” could do far more too to reduce taxes and/or spend on cities’ transit infrastructures across the land !

    2. Eric, since you’re so proud of the Liberals and their branch of Promisekeepers here in BC, what about the $100 billion from LNG over 30 years that Christy promised before the election? That has evaporated: “budget showed the government’s take from natural gas royalties, which totalled $1.3 billion during the most recent price spike in 2009, is projected to be just $542 million in the coming fiscal year, and lower still the three years following.”


      Like you said, If more governments were to keep promises, as have the BC Liberals, then perhaps there would be less cynicism towards government by younger people and they would vote in higher numbers.

        1. Amazing how you give them a pass for stuff that’s suppose to materialize in decades to come, yet they have no supportive vision for transportation within that timeframe or even the next 2 years.

  5. Thomas. I agree with alot of your insight and suggestions on property taxes and the like, I think you have some valuable input regarding these issues. I feel the complete opposite about your subways everywhere fantasies, totally unrealistic and painfully repetitive. I think you loose people in you repetitiveness. Just saying..