Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Mayors’ Council

FACT CHECK: “No” to Transit side is misleading voters with mythical math

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A Mayors’ Council press release

A “Yes” to Transit vote would cost average households $125 a year


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                         February 6, 2015

Vancouver, BC – The “No” side’s baseless claims, mythical math and random calculations demonstrates they are not producing facts to back their arguments. In this latest claim, they have no idea how households really spend their money and how the PST is applied to goods and services.

The Mayors’ 10-year plan to improve transit and transportation as the region grows by one million more people will cost the average household $125 a year. That’s about 35 cents a day. The mayors’ calculation considers how much money households make and how much they spend on PST-eligible items. They also looked at how much of the tax would be paid by households, businesses and visitors, to come up with a realistic cost for an average household.

In fact, households making less than $100,000 per year – about 70% of Metro Vancouver’s households – will pay between $53 and $116 per year for more buses, better roads and more transit options.

Our Plan “No” to Transit
·         Classified six income categories.

·         Used Statistics Canada Survey of Household Spending by income to:

  • generate a reliable picture of PST-eligible spending by income category
  • understand the impact of a 0.5% increase in sales tax by category
Household Income Average annual cost of 0.5% increase in sales tax % of Households
<$25,000 $53 8%
$25,000-50,000 $70 21%
$50,000-75,000 $100 22%
$75,000-100,000 $116 19%
$100,000-150,000 $166 18%
>$150,000 $266 12%

Determined the annual cost per average household

  • Multiply annual cost per average household by the % of households in that income category
Divided $250 million (total funding required) by 967,948 (total number of households).
=  $125 per household = $258 per household

The “No” to transit side wants us to do nothing. This will cost the region untold millions in economic costs as traffic gets worse, and mean you are stuck in traffic and on transit longer.

The Mayors’ Council will continue to share information and updates on activities at

Written by Stephen Rees

February 6, 2015 at 10:59 am

Metro mayors vote to hold transit sales tax hike referendum

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I went out this morning to the new Anvil Centre in New Westminster. The Mayors’ Council held a public meeting to approve the referendum question which is based on a proposed 0.5% addition to Provincial Sales Tax levied in Greater Vancouver. The link takes you to all the material discussed at that meeting and for a very good summary, as well as copies of the distributed materials I recommend Jeff Nagel’s report in the Surrey Leader.

Only three of the Mayors dissented but then they can do that safe in the knowledge that the referendum process will proceed, and if the question passes their communities will still benefit. So they get to do a bit of grandstanding. Mayor Corrigan of Burnaby boasted about how much more he knew about transit than anyone else having been in charge of BC Transit at the end of the nineties – when it won awards as best transit system. You may recall that was the contest where BC Transit nominated itself and there was no other system nominated. You may also recall his discomfiture at the revelation that he himself did not actually use the system but was happy to drive himself around in a leased Saab paid for by the system. West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith seemed most offended by Translink’s decision to set aside $4.5m to “lobby on the referendum”. “Are they a transportation company or a political lobby group?” he asked rhetorically. Of course since the referendum is about Translink it would be even stranger if they made no attempt at all to communicate with the people who are being asked to vote on a tax increase. And even then he had to admit that the problems really lie with the governance of Translink, which has to report to the province, the professional board, the Mayors’ Council and the transit commissioner. “No one is really accountable” he said. Translink is “high cost model” and the “strong winds of private sector should blow through the organisation.” He was most upset about the free passes given to staff, their families and pensioners. He claimed that no private sector company gives discounts to their staff. (Really? Doesn’t he know anyone who works for an airline? Does he know what the marginal cost of an empty seat on a bus is?) I was surprised he did not mention the “gourmet coffee”.

I found a bit more sympathy with the new Mayor of Maple Ridge who opposed the motion on the basis that the Mayors will have no say at all on how the money is going to be spent. Actually, if you look at the question itself you will see the other Mayors had this covered by insisting on independent audits. Lois Jackson managed to work in a sly dig at the amount of work the new Mayors must have had to do to get up to speed on the proposal. She was all in favour of it, the combined Mayors of South of the Fraser having got all they wanted into the proposals. 20% of the population currently lives within walking distance of the Frequent Transit Network. Once this plan is implemented that will increase to 53%, she said. The figures for distance to jobs are even better: from 31% now to 67%. (All these figures are direct quotes from her second speech which came just before the vote).

Ian Black CEO of the Board of Trade spoke to the Mayors before their debate started on behalf of the new coalition which has been formed to promote the Yes side of the campaign. His case seems to be that people will vote for better transit if you add the words “transportation” and talk about how congestion increases business costs.

As usual Translink came in for a lot of criticism about its lack of accountability (as though that were their fault) and their apparent reckless spending. No one mentioned the many audits, consultants reports and comparative studies that have been done over the last few years most of which came from independent sources, usually highly paid accountants, all of which found that Translink performs as least as well and in some cases much better than transit systems of similar size across North America. If this referendum does turn into a Translink popularity contest then I hope at least some of the money set aside for communications goes into wider distribution and publicisation of those studies. Not least from the province, who created the current professional board – well represented at today’s meeting, none of whom said a word – mainly due to the dismissal of the municipal representatives’ apparent inability to control spending.

I have pages of notes from the meeting but no time to transcribe them now, due to other commitments. But I will be looking out for other links in the media and blogosphere – Nathan Pachel was sitting near me as was Eric Doherty. Was there any live tweeting going on at the time?

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Referendum Question

Written by Stephen Rees

December 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Mayors likely to okay extra $130 million for TransLink

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Jeff Nagel in BC Local News does a good job of keeping track of the unfolding Translink funding saga. I do not usually indulge in trying to foretell the future but in this case it is pretty easy to see that the Mayors really have no other option. If they refuse to pass the fare and tax increases they will not, as Mayor Corrigan suggests, look like heroes fighting the wicked provincial government. They will be the [insert rude word for the plural of a body orifice here] who brought about transit service cuts – which are even less popular than fare increases. The “consultation” exercise really boiled down to the the simple question, ‘Given that you do not want service cuts, would you rather see a fare increase or a property tax increase?’ The Minister of Transport must have been aware at the recent meeting with the Mayors that they simply cannot  put their own positions so clearly on the line that an increase in property taxes would mean. The public are likely to accept that the Mayor did his or her best over this decision – but an increase in property tax is simply asking to be kicked in the ballot.

Corrigan can of course enjoy his maverick path because he can be confident that the other Mayors will not follow him. This gives him the opportunity to grab the spotlight and say all kinds of stuff, but with no fear of consequences. He is wrong about the timing of course, because a revolt now would have no impact on the Olympics. Those arrangements are already made, and  Campbell has made it clear that although lots of other things can and are being cut (though he does back off a bit when the noise gets to him) the Olympics are untouchable fiscally. He is committed to make the Olympics work and nothing the Mayors might do is going to get in the way of that.

The timing of the Provincial review is also interesting. It is not yet available. Of course. So if the Mayors do vote for service cuts, Campbell – or more likely Shirley Bond – can trot out the “they did not look for economies” nonsense.  So the choice for the Mayors is, as usual Hobson’s choice – no choice at all. Expansion has been taken off the table by Martin Crilly. Property tax increases taken off by the Mayors. Anything else is outside the legislative straight jacket fitted onto Translink by the province. This makes predictions reasonably easy. But note he said “likely” and not “certain” – for nothing is certain. But it is a very slim chance that they will opt for cuts.

UPDATE It was approved on Friday October 23

Written by Stephen Rees

October 21, 2009 at 8:33 am

Posted in transit

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