Mayors see carbon tax as long-term transit funding source, but new bridge tolls, area taxes also possible

With provincial transport minister Blair Lekstrom promising to have Evergreen Line construction under way “within months” as a result of Friday’s Translink Mayor’s Council vote on funding, the struggle for Translink’s future shifts to the backrooms.

That’s where a joint technical committee of seni0r provincial, municipal and Translink bureaucrats are working on proposals for alternate funding sources that will take further property tax increases off the table.

If they can’t find a solution acceptable to all by early next year, property taxes will rise in 2013 once more to pay for transit. This is precisely the scenario predicted by Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, both former Translink chairs, who Friday voted against the new funding formula for precisely this reason.

(Note to drivers: fares have already been raised the legal maximum and are scheduled to rise another 13 percent in 2013, meaning riders will still pay the largest share of the overhead.)

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has proposed an increase in the carbon tax on a regional basis to pay for transit.

Surrey Mayor Diane Watts added two more suggestions to the debate on Friday: an “area benefitting tax” that affects properties seeing values rise due to transit investment, and a regional bridge tolling scheme that would put crossings like Lions Gate Bridge and Ironworkers Bridge on an equal footing with tolled crossings like Port Mann and Golden Ears.

Most agree the final package could include “all of the above,” but achieving agreement will not be easy.