Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for February 21st, 2008

Diesel buses hit by carbon tax

with 2 comments

Jeff Nagel

Of course. Only in Canada do we pay tax on tax. Only in Canada does tax supported transit have to give some of that support back in fuel tax.

BC wants to reduce ghg emissions? Get people out of cars and get them on the bus. That’s hard enough but hobbling them with taxes is plain stupid. But then stupid is as stupid does. Like taking tax from transit riders and using it to build more freeways!

Written by Stephen Rees

February 21, 2008 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Transportation

It’s really all about winning the next election

with 5 comments

Michael Smyth, The Province

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2008

And people call me cynical!

What he does not mention is that prior to the budget there was a consultation process. And just like Campbell had to shift gears on health care “reform”, when people told him in no uncertain terms, they did not want more private care, so when the groundswell in favour of a carbon tax was heard, he decided to respond. How much credit Kevin Washbrook can take for this movement I do not know, but like many others I joined his facebook group, and sent in my twopence worth to the minister.

And no $10 a tonne is not enough, but we have to start somewhere. I was surprised to read somewhere (and now I can’t find it again) that the petroleum producers had even suggested $15 as a good starting point. And as for the pleading for the truckers, that is the fault of the industry who have moved away from employing people as truck drivers and making them subcontractors who bear all the risks. It is a similar sad story to the taxi industry, and a stern warning to those who see the potential of “self employment” as a way to financial independence. It isn’t – it is just a different kind of serfdom.

And the whole point of revenue neutrality seems to be deliberately missed, which is odd because moving to expenditure taxes instead of income taxes has long been the mantra of the right.

it will damage the British Columbia economy in the process.

I doubt it somehow. For one thing we are less carbon dependant than some. The more we move to services that can be delivered electronically, the more robust we become. Equally, reducing our dependence on imports, which will cost more as oil costs rise with or without carbon taxes, is also better for our long term survival. And speaking of which, while BC cannot change global climate on its own, it does need to start looking after its environment a lot better. Because the economy is a subsidiary of the environment – and if we do not have a healthy environment there will be no economy at all!

But he is right about one thing

while the government played the role of planet-savers on Tuesday with $1.8 billion worth of carbon taxes, the same budget pledged just $2 million toward rapid rail transit this year.

If Campbell is serious about getting drivers to switch to transit, he must supply fast, comfortable and efficient transit options first.


his government is spending billions of dollars on expanded highways and bridges

which is just plain stupid

Written by Stephen Rees

February 21, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Transit stories in the Straight

with one comment

Lawyer queries college students’ B.C. transit costs

“I would say it might be possible to construe the differential rates or differential in fees as a barrier to accessing a public service,”

I would say that the students would be crazy to try it. It is simply the outcome of price negotiations, based on the “revenue neutral” formula. And, in the case of UBC, the fact that the university kicked in some money it would otherwise have spent on parking facilities.

Now it would be interesting to see what would happen if the policy were to be changed, and took other considerations into account. But then I suspect that other groups might get more attention. It would depend on what policy end was in sight. The current negotiating structure militates against the interests of colleges that already have a high transit ridership. Which is why for some time there has been an effort to get all the colleges negotiating as one, which would produce a lower price for places like VCC. But that did not work because one or two colleges decided they were not interested.

B.C. transit cop board complaint dismissed

This is very odd – but only because the way policing is organized here is chaotic. A separate force was needed for SkyTrain because of the number of boundaries it crossed.  There are all sorts of reasons why a metropolitan police force would be better, but don’t tell the Mayors that. They like to feel they are in charge of their own fiefdom. Public accountability is not a strong suit anywhere in either transit or policing these days here. And I doubt it will change much anytime soon.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 21, 2008 at 11:56 am

Posted in transit

TransLink commissioner in doubt

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Jeff Nagel, Richmond Review

The Mayors don’t think we need one.

The commissioner’s office is expected to hire its own staff, including inspectors and outside consultants.

The annual budget of the commissioner’s office is capped at 0.2 per cent of TransLink’s farebox revenue—an effective limit of $600,000 per year.

The commissioner is supposed to:

•Analyze spending and revenue plans to determine if they’re sound;

•Approve or reject fare hikes above the rate of inflation;

•Approve or reject the sale of major assets;

•Oversee TransLink’s public complaints system and customer satisfaction surveys;

•Conduct public hearings;

•Maintain a website making orders and findings public.

While the legislation puts the commissioner in charge of authorizing fare hikes that doesn’t extend to a complete veto.

Well somebody needs to do those things and I have no faith in the Mayors or the “professional” board to do any them properly or effectively. In the UK it is common to have some kind of regulatory body to oversee what used to be nationalised but are now privatised industries, and some of them have been very effective indeed. However, the big problems here have always been not nearly enough money for buying buses, mainly due to provincial preference to spend money on needlessly expensive rapid transit system for a small part of the region, and a general disregard for the need to get operating cost under control. More recently adding the burden of the Major Road Network and some very dodgy bridges downloaded from the province has distracted the organisation from what it was supposed to be doing – increasing transit mode share. The Gateway and the demands of the trucking industry inexplicably seemed to command much more attention than the old problems that were never effectively sorted out and remained political footballs.

On the other hand, the personality of the commissioner will be key – if there is one. And the appointee will need to show that they are independent, and concerned much more for the transit users than the other interests who have shouldered their way to the trough. If you can do that for $0.6m, that is good value for money in anyone’s book.

“We didn’t feel we wanted to spend that kind of money on that position,” Watts said.

And the noise you can hear is the sound of the stable door being bolted after the horse has gone. The money has gone to the new Board. And that body is not accountable and does not want to do things in public. The Commissioner seems to be the only appointment that could look at broader issues in the public interests. Mayors look after their constituents, so they do not have – and never have had – a regional perspective.

The last word, of course, goes to the Ministry spokesperson

Jeff Knight said it seems unlikely TransLink could continue without a commissioner indefinitely.

UPDATE February 21

Metro Vancouver mayors have backtracked and agreed to hire an independent TransLink commissioner after a warning from transportation minister Kevin Falcon.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 21, 2008 at 9:16 am