Editorial — TransLink’s tax tentacles

TransLink has tax tentacles all over the place, yet in many parts of the region, there is abysmal service and little improvement in sight.

TransLink’s voracious appetite for taxpayers’ dollars puts it firmly in the sights of outraged members of the public these days. This caught the attention of Premier Christy Clark, who, as she called two byelections on Thursday, suggested that an audit of TransLink’s billion dollars in spending might yield enough money to avoid a controversial vehicle tax.

That immediately brought out the opposition in the form of TransLink Mayors’ Council vice-chair Peter Fassbender, who said the TransLink “orange” has been squeezed so often that there isn’t any juice left in it.

Times letter writer Jeanette Cartwright may have the best perspective. She wonders why Fassbender is a champion of TransLink, given that “Langley’s service is abysmal, anything east of 224 Street doesn’t even exist.” She adds that “I am so sick and tired of opening every utility bill and property tax with a hashtag #Translink attached to them.”

That’s the reason there should not be a vehicle tax, or indeed any new tax. TransLink has its tax tentacles all over the place, yet in many parts of the region, notably south of the Fraser, there is abysmal service and little improvement in sight.

Why should anyone in Langley, Surrey, Delta or White Rock pay one extra cent in tax towards this behemoth which spends the vast majority of its money transporting people on the Burrard Peninsula, with somewhat lesser service levels in Richmond and on the North Shore?

A car tax will take yet more money from people who simply cannot use transit. They already will be paying 17 cents a litre in fuel tax as of April 1. That’s more than enough from drivers of the region, and is already an unequal tax, given that those who live farthest away from downtown Vancouver tend to drive more and thus pay more towards TransLink.

Clark may want an audit for political reasons. However, one is needed. Taxpayers can’t be expected to shell out more of their scarce dollars until they are absolutely satisfied that no money is being wasted.

There needs to be more vigilance about collecting fares. TransLink Police need to be riding buses and enforcing fare payment. Fare gates need to be installed at SkyTrain stations, and those with the notion that it’s easy to scam a ride on transit need to be disabused of that thought.

There is no question that improved transit has great value, but  TransLink spending must be carefully scrutinized.