Strong opposition to transit tax options: Poll

Bridge tolls come closest to majority support to solve Metro Vancouver transit funding puzze, Insights West finds

The province's plan for a 10-lane toll bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel got 51 per cent support compared to 32 per cent opposed in a recent Insights West poll.

A new poll shows strong public opposition to nearly every conceivable way to raise more money to fund public transit expansion projects in Metro Vancouver.

The Insights West online survey found the most hostility to raising TransLink property taxes or gas taxes further – 71 per cent rejected those options.

About two-thirds of respondents opposed raising transit fares or tolling roads.

The poll found somewhat more support for a vehicle levy or a charge based on how far each vehicle is driven each year, but those options still face 60 per cent opposition.

Tolling more bridges got the most support of any other funding source in the poll – 46 per cent supported that as a transit revenue source while 51 per cent were opposed.

Insights West vice-president Mario Canseco said that may reflect a growing appetite for tolling reform, particularly with the province’s announcement that the new Massey Bridge will be tolled, putting more traffic pressure on remaining free crossings.

“The idea of tolling bridges is not that unattractive,” he said, adding residents are much more decisively opposed to property taxes, which he noted has been the province’s preferred source of new funds.

The poll also found 51 per cent support the plan to replace the Massey Tunnel with a new 10-lane toll bridge, compared to 32 per cent opposed.

Metro Vancouver mayors and the province are hopeful the new federal government will offer more generous contributions to new transit lines in Metro as part of its infrastructure stimulus program, potentially reducing the amount of new money that would need to be raised locally.

The poll did not ask about the use of a sales tax, which was the proposal that went down to defeat in last year’s transit tax plebiscite.

Canseco said the poll uncovered a striking divide between the views of transit users and motorists.

“The transit riders say a vehicle levy is the way to go – if you drive a car you should pay for the privilege of using our roads,” he said. “And the drivers say no, raise the transit fares. They should pay more for the services they get.

“So we’re not going to find an easy solution to this because everybody wants somebody else to pay for it.”