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New taxes best way to fund transport projects: report

Jun 27 2012

New taxes on parking, vehicles and employees could be the best options to fund major public-transit investments, according to a report produced for the Capital Regional District and the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.

The 60-page document was commissioned last year to look at local funding options for light rail transit, but its authors indicate all 17 recommendations could raise money for any major transit project.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, who is a member of the transit commission, said discussing funding for a new LRT is questionable, given that there are no concrete plans in place.

"We could ask, what's the project, and then discuss what are the options for paying for it," he said.

"I would prefer to have them linked. I'm always a bit reluctant when dealing with a hypothetical."

The CRD's transportation select committee will discuss the report at a meeting today.

Levies on parking, vehicles and employees were highlighted as the most effective ways to generate revenue while distributing costs to those who use transit the most, according to the report. Increases to existing revenue sources, including property tax, fuel tax and advertising, could bring in more funds.

The committee could consider increasing transit fares, particularly by returning to zoned fares with higher charges for longer trips, but this often comes with reduced ridership, the report states.

Whatever funding options the CRD decides on will make up the business plan that will be sent to the provincial and federal governments, asking them to pick up most of the costs to construct the proposed LRT.

B.C. Transit said the report's broad scope reflects the Victoria Regional Transit Commission's goal to implement interim measures to improve ridership.

"It doesn't seem to specifically focus on LRT," said Meribeth Burton, spokeswoman for B.C.

Transit.

"But I don't think we're disappointed. Any time the public's talking about public transportation, it's a winwin for us."

Results of a separate study, ordered by transit commission members, on the viability of bus-only lanes along the main corridors in Greater Victoria are expected in fall.

The lanes would only be interim measures, according to staff at B.C. Transit.

"B.C. Transit is still committed to light rail. A fourlane highway can't be the only solution," Burton said.

"Five or six years down the road seems far away.

We are looking at a multiyear process."

Burton said municipalities would ultimately decide on funding sources.

"We're all going to make a contribution somehow," she said.

cclancy@timescolonist.com

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