Photo: Top five reasons to vote Yes in the transit referendum... even if you hate TransLink

Credit: Difei Li via Flickr

By Steve Kux, David Suzuki Foundation Communications & Research Specialist

1. Your Yes vote means 20 fewer minutes commuting each day.

With increased bus service, new rapid bus routes, expanded night service and a Broadway subway fewer people will get passed by full buses, helping transit users get to their destinations on time. Increased service on SkyTrain, Canada Line, West Coast Express, SeaBus and HandyDART will also shorten commutes. Light rail transit for Surrey and Langley would help move people in those communities as well. If you do drive your car, you'll be able to get around faster because fewer cars will be on the road.

Shorter commutes, reduced road rage and more time with family are just of few of the benefits. Better transit also means better air quality, as cars spend more time parked and less time burning fossil fuels. Easier movement to and from work also means we can all spend less time on the road and more time in nature. Research has shown that spending 20 minutes outdoors every day improves energy, mood and well-being.

2. You are voting for specific transportation improvement projects, not for TransLink.

All of the funds generated through the new tax will be spent on the specific projects outlined in the plan (Broadway subway, light rail in Surrey and Langley, 400 new buses across the region, a new Pattullo Bridge, bike lanes, etc.). Third-party auditors will ensure that the money goes to these improvements, not into TransLink general revenue.

A small group of people wants you to believe the referendum is your opportunity to voice concerns over how TransLink is governed. That is not accurate. The time to vote on changes to TransLink is during provincial elections when we elect the government that will have control over the transit authority's organization.

If the Yes vote wins, everything raised through the PST surcharge for transportation will be subject to independent oversight and audit. Third-party auditors will ensure that the money raised is spent on the improvements voters have agreed upon.

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3. This is the biggest thing you can to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Metro Vancouver.

Cars are responsible for 31 per cent of the region's greenhouse gas emissions and are now the dominant travel mode (73 per cent cars and 27 per cent walk/bike/transit). If we don't expand transit, cycling and walking options, the additional one million new residents (projected over the next 30 years) would mean 600,000 additional cars on the road. That would lead to increased congestion, more toxic emissions that cause pollution and climate change, and a greater incidence of negative health impacts like asthma.

Supporting public transit in Metro Vancouver will go a long way to helping B.C. reach greenhouse gas reduction targets and will support Vancouver's ambitions to be the world's greenest city.

4. Everybody benefits, regardless of how you get around.

The proposed transportation plan will make this region more livable, less polluted and less congested for everyone, regardless of how you get around. The Mayors' Plan has something for everyone — drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and bus and SkyTrain users.

Supporting diverse transportation infrastructure will promote equality and protect nature. In one of the most expensive cities in the world, alternative transportation options will ensure that low- and medium-income people, many of whom live outside of the city, can get to work without the need to pave over more land to widen existing roads and build new ones.

For those who will still drive, more people on transit will mean less traffic and more parking availability. That means more trees and wetlands and fewer parking garages. Planners estimate that if the one million people moving to our region by 2040 bring with them 600,000 cars, we will need to pave over an area the size of Richmond (66 square kilometres) to provide adequate parking for them all.

5. We will save more than we will pay.

Vancouver has been named the most congested city in Canada, and congestion is expensive. Traffic costs the average household more than $300 a year and our regional economy about $1 billion annually. An analysis by economists at HDR Consulting found that the transportation improvements would actually create a net savings for families of $360/year in the short-term—Increasing to $1,100 by 2045. When you factor in health care costs and lost productivity associated with respiratory problems caused by polluted air, these costs of doing nothing are likely to be even higher.

To ensure that our region has clean air and healthy ecosystems as its population continues to grow, we need a funding option for transit improvements that is fair and that most people can support. The Congestion Improvement Tax will cost an average household $125 per year or about 35 cents a day, based on average spending. The tax will not affect the price of things like food, children's clothes, books and bicycles, because these items are PST-exempt.

This tax is a more equitable and manageable than imposing roadway tolls or parking taxes, which penalizes drivers; or raising property taxes, which penalizes homeowners; or taking the money from existing municipal funds, which penalizes firefighters, police and paramedics and everyone who depends on them. With the PST, everyone pays a little, including visitors (who increase the burden on our transportation systems). Low-income families and people who spend less will pay less. Taxation doesn't get more equitable than that.

Pledge to vote YES for better transit.

March 3, 2015

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