Two local transit advocates say a 0.5 per cent regional sales tax is the answer to the region's transit funding problems.
Their plan, called Leap Ahead, says the cost to residents would work out to just 35 cents a day.
It comes from a year-long collaboration between Paul Hillsdon, founder of Metro604, and Nathan Pachal, founder of South Fraser OnTrax.
"We've been needing an investment in transit for some time. It's just been frustrating because they've been talking about different ways of funding transit and no one's really committed to anything since 1999, really," Pachal said Tuesday. "It's time really to put forward something that's sensible, fair and equitable, and move it forward - to stop talking about it and start doing."
The regional sales tax would fund light rail in Surrey, a variety of B-Lines throughout the region, a SkyTrain to UBC and a gondola at SFU.
Leap Ahead would provide an economic benefit, Pachal said. The plan says it would provide $21.5 billion in economic returns, a net benefit of $15 billion for taxpayers, and 234,000 jobs over 30 years.
Premier Christy Clark announced in April that any potential revenue sources suggested by the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation, such as tolls on all roads and bridges or a vehicle levy, would be subject to a referendum during the municipal elections in November 2014.
Pachal wants the 0.5 per cent regional sales tax to be presented as a referendum question.
"I would like to see a clear question that says the 0.5 per cent sales tax, which will deliver light rail in Surrey, SkyTrain to UBC, bus rapid transit pretty much anywhere - do you support this, yes or no? Something clear and that people can see is attached to improving transit infrastructure."
Surrey Coun. Tom Gill, chair of Surrey's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has expressed opposition to putting transit funding options to referendum. Gill is concerned that people who are already well served - such as in Vancouver - may not be supportive of spending dollars for a system they won't benefit from.
But the Leap Ahead plan says voter approved regional sales taxes have been successfully introduced in Los Angeles, Seattle and Denver for similar expansions.
The plan goes on to say that with a two per cent decrease in the federal GST and 0.5 per cent decrease in the PST over the last decade, there is room for the proposed sales tax.
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson doesn't think the 0.5 per cent tax would be fair.
"Studies are out there that tell us that this tax will hit the lower-and lower-middle income households much harder than it will the higher-income," she said.
Jackson said she'd like to see a fair transit tax study or commission, to look at how to pay for transit to ensure everyone contributes and receives their fair share.
Jackson also thinks too much of the Leap Ahead plan's focus is in Vancouver and Burnaby.
"It's not enough. We are still so far behind in service yet we continue to pay and there's no one there to advocate for people on the south side of the river.... The loudest and the biggest, they get the most. And the rest of us, we stand and wait and wait."
On the other hand, Gordon Price, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University, has praised the Leap Ahead plan.
Gordon said in a statement that the proposal has a "realistic chance" of passage.
"At this point, they may have the only ideas worth considering, since everyone else seems to be waiting for somebody else to lead. And they have."
B-LINE ADDED TO SURREY TransLink recently announced new B-Line service for Surrey, starting Sept. 2, along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue, linking Guildford and Newton Exchange via Surrey Central.
Pachal said any increase is good, but the B-Line announcement simply means service is being taken from somewhere else.
"There's been, as I like to say, stealing from Peter to pay Paul, there's simply no money. For every increase in service from one part of the region, you're taking it from someone else right now," Pachal said.
Gill said any increase for Surrey is good. "In fact, I think this B-Line may help us actually make a better case for our future LRT hopes," Gill said of the city's discussions with TransLink.
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