Answers to your questions about the transit vote.

Notice: Imagine you’re talking to me about the transit referendum, in person. You might have some questions. The below answers are written in a form that tries not to make you mad. (This means that even though some of your questions are 100% false, I have purposely omitted any scientific evidence because if I didn’t, I would destroy your argument and make you defensive. My goal is to help you understand why making a Yes vote would be better.)

Questions:

    About the Referendum:

  1. Should I vote Yes or should I vote No?
  2. How do I vote?
  3. What exactly is the vote trying to achieve? Why is there a need for a referendum?
  4. Where will the money go?
  5. How will the 0.5% tax work? What will be taxed?
  6. How much will I be paying? Just 35 cents? You’re kidding me.
  7. Common Questions and Concerns:

  8. Improved transit won’t benefit me. I never travel to Vancouver, and I don’t want to be paying more every time I buy something.
  9. This tax will only benefit transit users. I drive a car, and I will never use transit.
  10. Translink must be held accountable. How do I ensure that there is accountability if I vote yes?
  11. Translink has had so many failures. How can we trust them to spend our money appropriately?
  12. Translink is out of touch. They don’t listen to feedback, and they don’t care about regular transit users.
  13. There is too much waste in government. I will only vote yes when I can see that all my tax dollars are being used wisely, CEO’s aren’t being paid ridiculous salaries, and government tightens its belt.
  14. Less Common Questions:

  15. There are already too many taxes, and the government already has the money. Why do we need another tax?
  16. The sales tax will hurt business, and it’s not the time to be raising taxes on an economy coming out of a recession.
  17. I don’t like the Liberal government, and the idea of a referendum is absurd. I want to send them a message.
  18. If we vote no, won’t transit will still get funding?
  19. The tax is regressive, and hurts the poor. Is there nothing better than a sales tax?
  20. Nobody uses transit. It only benefits the poor and homeless.
  21. The vote is a scheme by the 1%, and by wealthy corporations to make themselves more rich
  22. It is impossible a 0.5% tax can pay for so many improvements. There is an error in your calculations.
  23. Questions about Specific Issues:

  24. Why is there a vote on transit, when the government is blindly throwing money to build new highways for cars?
  25. Broadway should be Light Rail, not Skytrain. Skytrain will cause havoc during construction. Over time, it will wear down. Also, Skytrain divides communities and leads to unsustainable development.
  26. I am skeptical of all this environmentalism. What does the referendum have to do with the environment?
  27. The mayors are misleading us. More transit won’t cure congestion. If anything, it will make congestion worse.
  28. Skytrain will turn our city into Dubai. Condo development will ruin my neighbourhood.
  29. More transit will just make current transit problems more severe.
  30. This vote is a waste of money.
  31. Other Questions:

  32. Can I donate?
  33. How can I give suggestions to improve transit? How can I get involved in this campaign?
  34. Where can I get more info about the referendum that will help me make my decision?

******************************************************************************************************************

Answers


Should I vote Yes or should I vote No?

There really isn’t a right answer. Neither is good, neither is bad. When you have your ballot in front of you, a pen in hand, realize that your vote is cause and effect. How do you want the future to look?

First, think of what would happen if the result of the referendum was “no”. It’s year 2030. Taxes would be at 7%, and maybe you’d worry less when you purchase new shoes. How would our society look? The main issue of the day would be the growing pains of the millennials, who are struggling to pay the immense healthcare costs of the boomers, now between the ages of 66 and 84. These aging boomers need more care, and due to the small size of the labour force, are frustrated at the great cost needed to pay people to help them with their basic needs, such as repairing the home and cooking meals. The economy is not faring well. One of the greatest issues is their decreasing mobility. Many are now unable to drive, and have now resorted to living in senior homes, or, for those who can afford it, in communities that don’t require use of the automobile. The resulting landscape is one where the suburbs are empty, and the population in suburban communities is insufficient to justify the great costs required to maintain the extensive road infrastructure around these sparsely populated communities.

Now, think of our region in the case that the outcome is a “yes”. It’s year 2030. Many of the above issues will still persist. Some things will be different. Importantly, seniors will still be able to live their beloved hometowns, albeit in more dense dwellings close to transit. These boomers value freedom and independence, and transit allows them to live where they please, go where they’d like, and have the dignity to live in a close-knit community thriving with economic investment and opportunity. Living in a home close to frequent and reliable transit is not an expensive privilege. It is a basic right and need.

If is it time to build our communities around transit, we must first build transit.
A “Yes” on the referendum will ensure that transit gets built.

top


How do I vote?

Step 1: Register to vote.
This step is very important. You should do it asap. If you do not register to vote, you will not be mailed a ballot, and you will not be able to vote. It takes 5 minutes to register: https://eregister.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/ovr/welcome.aspx You can skip this step if you are already a registered provincial voter.

Step 2: Receive your ballot in the mail. Vote.

Step 3: Seal your ballot in the envelopes provided, then drop it in a red Canada Post box.
This step is very important. If you do not complete this step by May 29, your vote will not be counted.

top


What exactly is the vote trying to achieve? Why is there a need for a referendum?

In 2001, there was a proposed vehicle levy of $75 per car. It would have funded transit. It was vetoed. Ever since Translink was formed in 1999, even though it has increased transit usage by many times, there has never been a dedicated funding source. Fares account for around 35% of revenues. Gasoline taxes, federal grants and property taxes account for most of the rest. Transit is expensive.

Now, we have a problem. Our cities are growing. We’ve got a question to answer. Should we design our cities around the car, or around transit? If we want to design them around transit, we can’t just put more buses on the road. We must build rapid transit, and this means trains. We must build trains in Surrey, because ten-thousand more people are moving into Surrey every year. Transit is so important because we want livable communities around the region where people are not confined to their automobiles.

The paradox with transit is that everybody wants more, but nobody wants to pay for it. This is unsustainable. The number of ways we can fund transit is limited. We can theoretically increase property taxes, implement tolls on bridges, and charge higher income taxes. None of these options were appealing. So the mayors chose to ask the general public whether they would be willing to fund transit through a regional sales tax.

The purpose of this vote is to gauge public opinion. The harmonized sales tax was perceived to have been forced down the throats of citizens. The BC Liberals proposed a transit referendum as part of their election platform in 2013.

We are now presented with a choice on whether we wish to pay for transit through a sales tax.

top


Where will the money go?

Good question! The money will all go to the mayor’s council, a group of 23 mayors and elected officials all in Metro Vancouver. They will then allocate the money to be spent on individual transportation projects (such as Skytrain and Light Rail), and more bus service. Translink will oversee the operation of all transit services after they are implemented.

top


How will the 0.5% tax work? What will be taxed?

The tax will be added onto the Provincial Sales Tax (PST). This tax applies to all purchases of goods, with three exceptions being food, books and bicycles. The PST is currently 7%, and will rise to 7.5% with the 0.5% tax. This means that for every $100 of goods you buy, you will pay 50 cents more.

top


How much will I be paying? Just 35 cents? You’re kidding me.

Your household will be paying 35 cents more per day. How is this possible?

First, tourists also pay. When they stay in hotels, buy souvenirs, they will be paying the extra 0.5%. Second, the PST is an embedded tax, meaning that businesses pay PST for goods they purchase. Therefore, businesses will also be contributing to transit.

How much does your household spend on goods each day (not including food)? $70?
Seventy dollars is the amount you spend if you are to contribute 35 cents to transit. Some days you will spend nothing, and some days you will purchase big ticket items. On average, if your household spends $70 a day on goods, you will be contributing an average of 35 cents per day.

top


Improved transit won’t benefit me. I never travel to Vancouver, and I don’t want to be paying more every time I buy something.

Do you know anybody who lives in Vancouver, or takes transit? I live in Vancouver and I take transit. If you ask for my most frustrating experience each day, it is waiting for buses that pass by full, getting on a crowded bus, and standing for 40 minutes, whilst knowing throughout that if Skytrain was just extended to Cambie, I would be liberated from all the torture. This is what happens to hundreds of thousands of transit users every day. Some people are hermits stuck in suburbs, and are totally oblivious to this happening. If I could make them listen, I would tell them this message: Please give concern for your fellow human beings living in the same city as you. If you contribute your part of 35 cents per day, we can all live in a more livable city, and all of society will benefit. Just because today you don’t experience the issues facing people who take transit doesn’t mean that in a week, a month, or a few years you will be reliant on transit to move around. Do you want to live a narcissistic life caring only about the weight of your own wallet, or do you want to be a person who contributes in creating a society that breeds opportunity and prosperity?

top


This tax will only benefit transit users. I drive a car, and I will never use transit.

We are very lucky to be able to live in such a beautiful and livable society. We live in a world and region where everything is connected. If we improve transit, this will improve society in ways that will benefit us all.

What drives our economy? The first is tourism. The main way tourists get around the city is by transit, and having an extensive transit system is one huge plus for tourism. Did you buy groceries today? Did you buy new furniture? International trade is the other thing that drives our economy. It is crucial that our city have a durable transportation system that allows for the seamless movement of goods and people. Much of the price we pay for food is transportation costs. Improving transit improves the overall transportation system, reducing transport costs, saving us money.

Are you passionate about public health? The environment? Public transit, unsurprisingly, has far reaching benefits that aren’t limited to reducing car-congestion. Communities and cities with high rates of transit usage are more sustainable, more healthy, and more livable. Health-care costs will go down. We can spend less on fighting any environmental problems.

Most importantly, spending on transit means we don’t need to spend on new roads. People are migrating to Metro Vancouver, and if we do not build transit, people will sprawl further east, requiring new roads and wider highways. Roads cost a lot of money. They cost a lot of money to build, and a lot of money to maintain. We’ll save a ton of money if we build transit and not roads.

The benefits of transit are invisible yet widespread. When transit is built, society saves money bigtime.

top


Translink must be held accountable. How do I ensure that there is accountability if I vote yes?

We can’t really guarantee that every cent will be spent appropriately. Nor can we say that hospitals, governments, or private corporations are spending every cent in the best way possible. If hospitals are full and the buildings are getting old, we would allocate more funding to build newer and more hospitals. We can’t solve problems in hospitals by cutting their funding, especially at a time when more and more people are using hospitals. We live in a society where fewer and fewer people are using cars, and more and more people are choosing to live near transit. The only way to improve our transit system is to extend Skytrain, build more rapid transit, and run new B-Line buses.

With regard to accountability, numerous measures will be taken. First, there will be third-party reviews or audits of the transit system to make sure your money is being spent wisely, taking action if necessary. Second, Translink will need to produce annual financial plans, and these reports will be reviewed to ensure accountability. Finally, you will be the final judge as to whether there exists accountability when light rail is running in Surrey, B-line buses are connecting the region, and Skytrain starts rolling on Broadway.

top


Translink has had so many failures. How can we trust them to spend our money appropriately?

You are absolutely right. Translink can do many things better. Nobody’s perfect. Translink isn’t perfect. And from broken escalators, problems with the compass, and occasional skytrain delays, every company will have things it could to better. Perhaps Translink has let the media bash its reputation, and this is its biggest failure. It hasn’t defended itself effectively, nor has it publicized its own successes. It means that they have room for improvement. Please don’t overlook the fact that Translink is a complex organization, and the number of things that go right every day are very great. Yes, three or four things may go wrong once in a while. Yet we don’t see violence on transit, our buses are clean, our trains are almost always reliable, our people are respectful. Many things go right on transit, and please notice them. We should be grateful for the wonderful world-class transit system we have at our doorsteps.

top


Translink is out of touch. They don’t listen to feedback, and they don’t care about regular transit users.

You’ve got a point. There’s no excuse for not listening to feedback. All organizations can improve, and one of the best ways to do so is to listen directly to the voices of their customers. I don’t think that Translink is an organization that doesn’t listen to their customers. I think that Translink really tries hard to find out what its customers are thinking, and it really tries hard to give honest responses. Unfortunately, Translink sometimes gives very ambiguous responses, or the people working in Translink sometimes will decide to not respond if they have too much work. Still, there are more than a handful of ways to give them feedback:

  1. Fill in a Customer Feedback Form: http://feedback.translink.ca/
  2. Join Translink Listens Panel: https://www.translinklistens.ca/PORTAL/default.aspx
  3. Ask Questions about the compass card: http://askcompass.ca/
  4. Comment on the Buzzer Blog: http://buzzer.translink.ca/
  5. Attend coming Events on the Events Calendar: http://www.translink.ca/en/About-Us/Events-Calendar.aspx
  6. Get notified for any Surveys by signing up for Translink’s Mailing List: http://translink.us8.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=2651ba7e80a01e00f20ece284&id=9e22e4e7f7
  7. Apply for a Job at Translink: http://www.translink.ca/en/About-Us/Careers.aspx

top


There is too much waste in government. I will only vote yes when I can see that all my tax dollars are being used wisely, CEO’s aren’t being paid ridiculous salaries, and government tightens its belt.

I don’t think anybody likes big governments that recklessly spend our money. We want government to cut back its reckless waste of money. Fortunately, in Canada, our governments are fairly transparent, and do not lavishly throw money away. The bad news is that this means that not a lot of money can be saved through cutting waste. Even in the unlikely case that Translink finds $10 million in savings, this amount would fund just 3 bus routes, or less than 1% of a Broadway subway. The greatest concern is that growth is happening very quickly in our region, so if we do not find funding quickly, communities will be built unsustainably.

top


There are already too many taxes, and the government already has the money. Why do we need another tax?

As Canadians, we love freedom and opportunity. Our multiculturalism, health care system, and respect for individuals is something that we take pride in. As we move forward, Canada’s society will face many challenges, such as health care funding, an unstable economy, and globalization. Luckily, funding transit is a very cheap yet effective way to deal with many of these societal challenges. We can choose to spend inordinate amounts of money on curing diseases, or we can focus on preventing these health problems by encouraging people to exercise, and building healthy communities around transit. This isn’t a tax increase. It’s an investment for a livable and healthy future.

top

The sales tax will hurt business, and it’s not the time to be raising taxes on an economy coming out of a recession.

Almost all business organizations actually favour the “Yes” side. Here are a few organizations:

  • Vancouver Board of Trade
  • BC Chamber of Commerce
  • Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association
  • BC Federation of Labour
  • Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver

Transit is one of the things a business would most want. Not only does transit bring customers, it stimulates growth and development, which helps create a vibrant community. Transit encourages people to move to our region, which leads to even more capital flow and customers. The benefits to business far outweigh the cost of the sales tax or lost customers.

top


I don’t like the Liberal government, and the idea of a referendum is absurd. I want to send them a message.

You are unhappy with the Liberals. During the election campaign, the Liberals promised a referendum, and we must respect how they have followed through on their proposal.

The vote is asking a simple question: Do you want a 0.5% sales tax to pay for transit improvements? Please understand that this vote is not the best way to be taking out your anger on the government. If you’d like, you can send Christy Clark an email at premier@gov.bc.ca.

top

If we vote no, won’t transit will still get funding?

We really don’t know. If this vote does not pass, the mayors will need to return to square one and increase funding through current sources. Specifically, this means increasing property taxes. The mayors have very much committed to transit funding, and almost everybody in the region believes that transit is needed, and crucial.
On the other hand, if a yes vote passes, funding will not become an issue for many years to come. Transit projects will get built, and most importantly, there will be a dedicated and constant stream of funding for decades. There will be no more need to ask for money each and every time a transit needs to be built.

top

The tax is regressive, and hurts the poor. Is there nothing better than a sales tax?

Property taxes increases were once proposed. They were implemented. Then, more property tax increases were proposed. They were also put in place. We can’t keep increasing property taxes. There must be a better way to fund transit. Income taxes would be vigorously opposed by almost everyone. How can we ensure that tourists also pay their fair share? Perhaps a road tax would work… 20 years from now. There aren’t many options.

top

Nobody uses transit. It only benefits the poor and homeless.

Unfortunately, you are dead wrong. Transit use in Vancouver cuts through race, class, gender, and social status. When making their decision to take or not to take transit, people consider 3 factors only: speed, reliability and frequency. Speed is how quickly you can travel from A to B. Reliability is how likely you will not encounter delays or hiccups on your trip. Frequency is how often the transit services comes (eg. once every 10 minutes) regardless of the time of day.

If these 3 factors are satisfied, people will choose transit over the car. This has already happened in Vancouver. Much of the time, transit is simply the best way of going places, and with a Light Rail in Surrey, it will become even better mode of transport.

top

The vote is a scheme by the 1%, and by wealthy corporations to make themselves more rich.

You have a good point. Transit is so important to business that large business organizations will spend the money to try to get it built. This is a good thing, because through building transit, it also benefits every person in the region.

Your concern is that these corporations are trying to increase their profits by getting regular people to pay higher taxes. So what? By paying a 0.5% tax, we are not directly handing corporations cash. We are simply building more transit, and if corporations see opportunity to make profits by orienting their business towards transit, this will create value for transit users. As these corporations expand due to the success of transit, they will pay taxes, and it will benefit society. We want to encourage flow of capital. Skytrain and transit stimulates the economy. The amount in taxes you will pay will be very small, and the impact towards the economy will be great.

top

It is impossible a 0.5% tax can pay for so many improvements. There is an error in your calculations.

The sales tax will generate $250 million a year. The improvements cost a total 7.5 billion. Various sources will fund the improvements, including federal grants, and increased ridership. The sales tax is a major part, but not the only part of funding transit.

top

Why is there a vote on transit, when the government is blindly throwing money to build new highways for cars?

Most governments in North America have the belief that cars and trucks are good for the economy, so car congestion drains the economy. Therefore, building new roads to alleviate car congestion is a good thing, even if these roads lose billions of dollars, end up becoming empty, and come at the cost of building transit.

This view misses one important point. Transit congestion is worse than car congestion. Anyone travelling along the Broadway corridor will tell you so. The shortsightedness of our governments today is heartbreaking, and to cure transit congestion, we must follow their way of doing things. It is time to look forward, and seize the opportunity that the government has given us. There are enough people that complain, and we need people to start moving things and getting work done on transit.

top

Broadway should be light rail, not skytrain. Skytrain will cause havoc during construction. Over time, Skytrain will be worn down. Also, skytrain divides communities and leads to unsustainable development.

As you take the Millenium Line westwards, noticing the beauty of East Van passing by you, realize that in just a dozen minutes, you could already be on the Canada Line, heading South to your destination. If only the Millenium Line was extended to Cambie. Ask a person waiting for the 99B, swished in between other passengers, and they would be grateful if there was a Skytrain to assist them. A city the size of Vancouver, with so much development and capital, deserves the best rapid transit it can get, and this means skytrain.

Here’s the thing. The best way to win a campaign is to outright lie, which divides the opposition. Unfortunately, this is the strategy much of the No side campaigners have taken. Even worse, the Yes side has fallen for this trap, and are now fighting over petty issues such as Light Rail verses Skytrain.

top

I am skeptical of all this environmentalism. What does the referendum have to do with the environment?

Do you feel as if the “Yes” side is trying to push for your vote by saying that it’s “good for the environment”? This is called greenwashing, and it’s very common. Some people will tell you to be a “good human being” and help the environment.
When these people preach the environment, they always have another reason they support their cause. The way around this is to ask what their true motives are. What is the other reason these people are passionate about transit? Perhaps it’s because they believe transit is good for the economy, or it creates healthy communities. Perhaps they are simply transit users frustrated because there is no Skytrain where they need to go.

top

The mayors are misleading us. More transit won’t cure congestion. If anything, it will make congestion worse.

Vancouver has the distinction to be North America’s most congested city. I don’t think it deserves it. Why? Our transit system is too awesome. There are few cities where you can travel as quickly by transit as you can by car. This means that many many people can choose not to drive a car. Transit means that cities are built with higher densities, meaning you don’t travel as far to work. In short, transit means less time is spent commuting, regardless of whether you’re in a train, bus, or automobile. When this happens, car-congestion becomes irrelevant.

top

Skytrain will turn our city into Dubai. Condo development will ruin my neighbourhood.

I see you’re quite opposed to condos. If you live anywhere other than the Broadway corridor, you’re safe. Unfortunately, if you live in the Broadway area, the decision to build condos is made by city council. Many skytrain stations, such as 29th Avenue, Edmonds and Rupert have no towers. Other neighbourhoods, such as Yaletown, Metrotown and Richmond Centre are full of towers. In fact, more and more people are realizing that living close to skytrain is a wonderful lifestyle, because it’s convenient, reliable and close to everything. In future years, more and more growth will take place around skytrain. This is good, because as people get older, they will drive less and will want to live near transit. As people get older, your neighbourhood will change, and people will start moving away from neighbourhoods without transit. When you build transit, people will want to move near it, and condos are just one way to accommodate this increased demand.

top

More transit will just make current transit problems more severe.

You’ve probably experienced many issues with transit. Buses are late, then they pass you without stopping, and over time, you don’t see any improvements made by the transit agency. All of the current issues with transit are simply the result of 2 problems: 1) too many transit users; and 2) not enough funding. More transit will make the first problem worse, because it will simply cause even more people to use transit. The second problem will go away. With funding, there will be enough buses to go around, enough money to fix aging Skytrain, and enough capital to build new transit around the region.

top

This vote is a waste of money.

There is nothing we can do to stop it. The government really wants to make sure they only raise sales taxes after they are convinced there is sufficient support. I don’t think we should use this vote to send a message to the government that we don’t like referendums, because the outcome of this vote is very important to our region’s future.

top

Can I donate?

Donate to No Campaign: http://www.notranslinktax.ca/#donate
Donate to Yes Campaign: https://yestotransit.nationbuilder.com/donate

top

How can I give suggestions to improve transit? How can I get involved in this campaign?

Volunteer for No Campaign: http://www.notranslinktax.ca/#volunteer

Volunteer for Yes Campaign: http://www.getonboardbc.ca/volunteer

Feedback for Translink:

  1. Fill in a Customer Feedback Form: http://feedback.translink.ca/
  2. Join Translink Listens Panel: https://www.translinklistens.ca/PORTAL/default.aspx
  3. Get notified for any Surveys by signing up for Translink’s Mailing List: http://translink.us8.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=2651ba7e80a01e00f20ece284&id=9e22e4e7f7

Engage in Online Discussion:
PriceTags (A blog with updates on lastest developments): https://pricetags.wordpress.com/
View Responses from MLA’s: https://pricetags.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/referendum-responses-from-mlas-weekly-count-2/

Feedback for me: 257vancouver [at] gmail.com

top

Where can I get more info about the referendum that will help me make my decision?

NO campaign:

YES campaign:

top

Advertisements