Business coalition urging vehicle levy to resolve Translink’s financial pressures

The Drive Out the Tax Coalition, organized last year to fight against Translink’s hike in parking sales tax, is doing the rounds with Metro politicians this month urging a vehicle levy as the solution to Translink’s financial pressures.

It was, of course, Premier Ujjal Dosanjh’s 2001 decision to reject a vehicle levy that triggered massive service cuts at Translink and a serious strike. Times are changing and the vehicle levy is moving back to centre stage.

Although their brief is not on their website — as far as I can tell — I have seen the “Drive Out” presentation, which is endorsed by a wide range of Vancouver business interests who claim strong allies among business organizations outside the city. Sun business columnist Don Cayo reported favorably on the campaign last month.

(There is a catch, of course: they would like the vehicle levy to replace the parking tax as well as to fund new Translink investments.)

This advocacy from leading business organizations could be a game-changer for discussions between Translink’s Mayor’s Council and the provincial transportation minister. The outline of a new funding regime is supposed to be in place by the end of the month. There is a new premier. There will likely be a new transportation minister. Now a key group of stakeholders is proposing a solution.

If consensus builds around this new funding measure, or some variation of it, beleaguered commuters could look forward, at last, to transit service expansion.

A year after their Drive Out the Tax began, Vancouver’s downtown parking garages are seeing occupancy rates tumble. Vancouver’s parking charges, despite the taxes, are among the lowest in any major Canadian city. But the Canada Line, increased use of other transit options and the HST have combined to drive down parking demand in Vancouver’s downtown core. Parking operators say the decline is so dramatic that the parking tax will not produce the revenue Translink hopes.