TransLink should offer alternatives to driving before penalizing motorists with user fees.

EDITORIAL: Transit report puts cart before horse

Before driver user fees are implemented to increase transit use, shouldn’t transit alternatives actually exist?

Vehicle levies, road pricing, distance-based car insurance… sound familiar?

The notion of dinging drivers with added fees to help fund transit improvements has reared its fearsome head again, this time in the form of a report commissioned by the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association.

The report, titled Leveling the Playing Field, argues road expansion capital costs tend to be under-scrutinized compared to transit spending, and driving in general enjoys “perverse subsidies” that must be overcome.

The report offers a lot of great ideas for easing traffic gridlock in Surrey, including creating a network of HOV lanes for buses and ride-sharers; utilizing existing rail lines to connect town centres; improved cycling routes; and this herculean task that is staggering in its apparent simplicity: “Make public transit faster than driving.”

The report’s means for all this? Two words: User fees.

That means transportation levies to the tune of $65 to $165 per vehicle and paying more to travel long distances (say, from Surrey to Richmond for the daily commute).

This taxpayer pile-on is patently unfair – and backwards.

If the intent of motorist user fees is to encourage increased transit use, shouldn’t the transit alternative actually exist before wielding the big stick?

TransLink’s South of Fraser area transit plan (note that key word – plan) calls for an extra 600 buses to be added here. Eventually.

TransLink is also preparing to add a B-Line express bus service on King George Boulevard – in the next year.

And there’s talk of SkyTrain extensions… some day.

In other words, if you’re one of the people who chose Surrey for its lower housing costs and business-friendly climate, but still work in a neighbouring community and find yourself with no choice but to drive because there is no realistic alternative, tough luck. Fork over more dough and sit tight waiting for the improvements.

We’ve been patient enough. Surrey residents contribute $160 million a year to TransLink through gas tax, property tax and transit fares, but TransLink only spends $135 to $146 million on transit service here, or about 90 to 95 cents out of every dollar it collects in Surrey.

Punishing South-of-Fraser residents for their lack of transit participation when there is little transit in which to participate is discriminatory and just plain wrong.

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