Burnaby on transit referendum: residents yes, councillor no

Burnaby residents may be more supportive than the city councillor’s no on the upcoming transit tax referendum.

Metro Vancouver is currently set to vote from March 16 to May 29 on a 0.5-per-cent increase to PST for transit expansion plan, including light rail transit in Surrey, rapid transit in the Broadway corridor, replacement of the Pattullo Bridge, and new bus lines within the region.

Burnaby-specific proposed upgrades include new express bus lines from Downton Vancouver to SFU’s Burnaby campus and from Metrotown to Capilano University.

Dangerous precedent

For Burnaby city councillor Sav Dhaliwal, also the president of the Union of BC Municipalities, the upcoming plebiscite for the 0.5 per cent increase in the Provincial Sales Tax to fund transit expansion is setting a precedent in asking the public to bear the burden of funding major projects.

“I’m not prepared to ask the public to pay more, like half a percentage of sales tax, and turn that money over to TransLink board, which is not accountable to public, not accountable to the mayor and councils,” said Dhaliwal.

Transit supports growth

Carolyn Orazietti, executive director, Burnaby North Road Business Improvement Association, says businesses in her area are supportive of the increase in transit services.

“Transit and infrastructure is important for sustainable growth,” said Orazietti. “The money has to come from somewhere.”

TransLink unpopular

SFU business professor Lindsay Meredith said Translink may have a hard time rousing public support for the referendum, in light of past service disruptions and as an increase in costs for all consumers.

“TransLink doesn’t have many friends in town,” said Meredith, “Bad service, executives get paid too much.”

Sara Shaw, program director at the Burnaby Neighbourhood House, has heard both sides of the argument in the neighbourhood.

“A lot of people I work with are transit users and increase in services is very important to them,” said Shaw.

Tax increase

Those who oppose it, however, are concerned about tax increase and past TransLink service problems, continued Shaw.

The mayors’ council on regional transportation had proposed the tax increase to fulfill the additional $250 million required for the region’s share in the expansion plan.

Other sources of additional revenue considered by the council include property tax capture, annual vehicle registration fee, carbon tax increase, and mobility pricing on roads such as tolling.

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