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Metro Vancouver transit costs are already highest in the country

The Surrey Central transit exchange would be even busier under proposed improvements which would see three LRT lines built from that hub. Metro Vancouver residents already pay more for transit than residents of the Toronto and Montreal areas, TransLink statistics show. - Black Press photo
The Surrey Central transit exchange would be even busier under proposed improvements which would see three LRT lines built from that hub. Metro Vancouver residents already pay more for transit than residents of the Toronto and Montreal areas, TransLink statistics show.
— image credit: Black Press photo

Metro Vancouver residents pay the most for public transit among the three largest metropolitan areas in Canada.

Statistics generated by TransLink, the regional transportation authority, show people in the Lower Mainland area pay over $100 a year more than their counterparts in the Toronto and Montreal metropolitan areas when all transit-related vehicle fees, hydro levies, parking taxes, fuel taxes and property taxes are added together. It’s a gap of more than 20 per cent.

The figures show the larger a metropolitan area is, the less householders pay for public transit.

In the Toronto area, with over 5.5 million residents, the annual cost per household is $406. In metropolitan Montreal, with 3.8 million people, it’s $425.

In Metro Vancouver, with 2.3 million people, the annual combined cost is $533.

The numbers were generated in response to a request by Langley Township Councillor  Kim Richter, following a May report by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) that showed drivers in Vancouver, Victoria and Montreal paid the highest gas taxes in the country.

At the time, the CTF report complained that the gas taxes were being used to subsidize public transit, calling the practice “an inherently unfair tax scheme when the people who use public transit the least (or not at all) are the ones subsidizing it the most heavily.”

Richter requested a breakdown of the costs compared with other cities.

The TransLink numbers, provided to The Times by Richter, show that roughly half of the transit funding in Metro Vancouver comes from gas taxes, about 10 times more than in Toronto and roughly five times more than in Montreal.

In Toronto, most of the transit funding, about 90 per cent, is raised through property taxes, while in Montreal, about half the transit funding comes from property taxes, with another third coming from vehicle fees.

TransLink said some of the difference between Metro Vancouver and the other two regions is due to the fact the local authority also collects money to fund major roads and four bridges.

The report goes on to say that transit costs are rising faster in Toronto and Montreal than they are in Vancouver.

Between 2007 and 2013, per-household transit costs rose 27 per cent in Metro Vancouver while they went up 53 per cent in Toronto and 77 per cent in Montreal.

These numbers reflect current taxes paid to operate TransLink. Under a proposal released Thursday by the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation, taxes would rise much higher, with the biggest jump being in fuel tax. The proposal calls for a  5.5-cent carbon tax on fuel, which would boost TransLink's tax per litre to 22.5 cents.

At the 2013 TransLink Annual General Meeting, the authority reported it managed to reduce costs by $16.3 million last year while investing $248 million in road, bridge and transit fleet upgrades.

TransLink said it also added 58,600 bus service hours last year in the form of the new 555 bus route that connects Langley to New Westminster over the Port Mann Bridge, and for the new King George 96 B-line.

 

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