Organizations and government in East Vancouver support the 0.5 per cent tax increase to upgrade Metro Vancouver’s transit system.
Lower mainland residents will vote on the transit tax this spring, beginning March 16 and ending May 29. If the majority of respondents vote yes, the provincial sales tax will be raised to 7.5 per cent, which would partially cover the $7.5 billion transit improvements over a ten year period.
Vancouver’s city council unanimously passed a motion supporting a yes vote in the referendum on Jan. 20.
“People at the lower income level rely on transit more, so good transit is absolutely essential,” said Adriane Carr, Vancouver city councilor. “We do need more transit.”
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson was voted in as chair of the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation on Jan. 16, where he emphasized the importance of getting the yes vote.
Joji Kumagai, executive director of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association said that his board has talked extensively about the referendum.
“We’re in favour of the tax,” Kumagai said. “Anything that has opportunities to move people and goods more efficiently is something we support.”
Kumagai said he feels that those pushing for a no vote may be a little shortsighted.
“A lot of the push back has more to do with perceptions of TransLink versus the actual benefits,” he said. “But if we’re looking at a ten year plan, things can be very different in terms of administration and governance and those kind of things.”
Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (BEST), an East Vancouver-based environmental organization devoted to promoting sustainable transportation in Vancouver, supports the tax increase.
“It’s not just for transit, it’s not just for biking, it’s for everyone to get around much more easily,” said Sinead Stinson, the BC Commuter Challenge coordinator at BEST. “It’s something that we really need, because we’ve got a million more people that are projected to be moving to Vancouver.”
Stinson said that in addition to reducing the amount of cars on the road, the improved transit would result in healthier people.
“If people are biking or walking or taking transit more they’re more active and there’s less people in the hospital,” she said.
Deb Bryant is the chief executive officer of the Association of Neighborhood Houses of British Columbia, based in East Vancouver. She said that while the association hasn’t formed an official stance on the issue, she is personally in favour of the tax.
“Traffic congestion and the environmental costs of that are bad for people and for neighborhoods,” Bryant said. “I see this as reducing that congestion.”