Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Transit riders subsidize the auto, not vice-versa

Mayors who voted for more #transit
Motorists Who Slam Transit Levies Have the Wrong Target: And yet, it's clear that I depend on our roads, highways and bridges far less than the person who commutes everyday in a single occupant vehicle from Abbotsford to Burnaby and back. But when the topic of drivers paying a toll for traversing a bridge or new stretch of highway comes up, invariably they get hopping mad. They forget that every time I take the bus or skytrain, I pay a toll - otherwise known as a "fare."

For example, if I want to go to Surrey from Vancouver - unless it is for a few short minutes before jumping back on the train to Vancouver, lest my 90 minute fare expires - it costs me $10 to go there and back by skytrain! That is, unless I'm really thinking ahead and save one dollar by buying the $9 all-day pass. If we are trying to incentivize public transit use, we're certainly not doing so with money; rather we punish transit users with the heftiest tolls around - and there are no "toll-free" skytrains or bus routes to choose from, unlike our road system.

Plainly put, transit riders have been on an expensive "user-pay" model for decades, while road tolling remains a hated and relatively little-used tool. Not only that, I've been subsidizing road building through my tax dollars far more than motorists have been subsidizing my transit infrastructure. And because these big-buck highway projects have the backing of the Province and feds, we're all paying for them - through provincial and federal tax dollars. They aren't subject to the complaints of local motorists confronted with unwelcome property tax and gas tax hikes because their funding is secured from upon high and, thus, less visible. But make no mistake, I am subsidizing the hell out of blacktop and bridge projects I will use relatively little of.
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