Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for March 5th, 2010

Pay parking taxes spike to more than 35 per cent

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BC Local News

Another no news story with very little added to what has been said many times.

I really wonder why this gets coverage, and also why there is no discussion in the article of why this is happening. Translink, of course, bears the brunt of the complaints but really the blame lies squarely with the provincial government – firstly for blocking Translink’s access to revenue sources that make more sense and secondly for falling for the blatant bribery of the federal government’s offer of a one time transfer to sweeten the pot of sales tax harmonization. The province has, of course, had to introduce all kinds of special exemptions to soften the blow of HST. It is quite remarkable that the parking issue did not get the same attention. I had had the impression that Gordon tended to listen to downtown Vancouver’s business people. Apparently he no longer does.

Downtown Vancouver BIA executive director Charles Gauthier said …a vehicle levy would be a more even-handed method of raising money while deterring driving.

Well of course he would say that now. A vehicle levy not being on the cards, it is quite safe for him to promote what is not going to happen. Of course, it was highly unpopular when it looked likely – and now looks better than some of the other options. But a flat levy that does not vary with distance driven does not deter driving any more than the current annual licence plate validation sticker does. Compared to the cost of acquiring and insuring a vehicle an annual levy of around $75 (as was proposed last time) looks trivial. Would you give up your car if someone offered to pay you $75 a year? The savings to a household of reducing the number of vehicles are, of course, significant. And those who can find alternatives like transit, walking, cycling or a car co-op (or combinations of some or all of those) do save a lot more money than $75 – but the take up rates are tiny. To deter driving we need congestion charges – preferably charges that vary by distance driven, time of day and route used. The technology to levy such road prices has been around for decades. The political courage to introduce it is absent – as are the necessary commitments to provide workable alternatives to driving.

For now, raising the cost of parking for those who commute to pay parking lots is better than nothing, but is far from adequate. But it is the sort of outcome one expects when planning is thrown out of the window in favour of dogma – and spin doctoring. In the last eight years, the political processes around regional planning and transportation – never very impressive in the first place – have become utterly shambolic. All that matters are the bees in the bonnets of a few provincial politicians. I would argue that the province actually ought to play a minor role in the process. There ought to be sources of revenue adequate for the purpose, some co-ordination on cross boundary and international issues, but generally beyond that it should be up to a directly elected regional body to determine. The sort of institution that most other major cities outside of Canada have had for generations. Most other countries also recognize that national governments have a duty to support better public transport.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 5, 2010 at 11:22 am