A compelling reason for a Transit Yes

Campaigning in the Lower Mainland’s transit referendum begins to unfold in earnest and the Yes and No sides have now unveiled their core arguments. For my own part I feel we shouldn’t even being having a referendum on such matters. It is in my mind a transparent attempt to pit one set of users in our transportation system against another, for the political benefit of the B.C. Liberals. Whether a clumsy attempt to regain a degree of populist cred after the HST referendum fiasco or perhaps to distract from other things. Who can say?

Nevertheless, we can’t wish the referendum away. Thus I support the Yes side.

One the arguments for Yes, and Yes now – rather than 3 years from now hoping for a BCNDP victory – that I think is being overlooked (and what might appeal to small-c conservatives in the Langleys and Maple Ridges better than the health benefits of transit) is this argument put forth by David Dodge:

This is the right time to invest in infrastructure for both governments and businesses, not only because of our structural problems but also in view of the prevailing low real interest rates.

Interest rates are at historic lows. It has never been cheaper to borrow money to build stuff, especially economically useful stuff like public transit. In the 5 to 10 year period (or more) it might take to address this issue again in the wake of a No victory, it might cost us a lot more to build our needed expansion of public transit. But wait, there’s more!

Moreover, infrastructure bonds would provide suitable long-term assets for pension plans and insurance companies to match their long-term liabilities.

Kevin Milligan has some thought’s on Dodge’s arguments here.

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4 comments

  1. Norman Farrell

    Using this logic, I should take out a large mortgage and buy a bigger house, or use low cost financing to upgrade my 4-year-old small car to a more luxurious yet functional vehicle like a Range Rover. After all, it has never been cheaper to borrow money to buy stuff

    • spartikus

      Except we’re not buying a house or Range Rover, we’re investing in infrastructure that generates economic activity. The transit system is not matching the growth in our population.

      • spartikus

        And if you think expanding the public transit system to match population growth and buying a luxurious frivolity like a Range Rover is a valid comparison, I really think you need to revisit your base assumptions.

  2. Norman Farrell

    The yes side says give more money to TransLink and don’t worry, next time they’ll spend it wisely. I’d rather see reform of the management structure along with an independent and non-political examination of priorities and technology choices. Citizens get very little say in how money is raised in this province and here, we’re being asked to approve one of the worst possible choices. Pending implementation of road pricing, which could be implement easily with NFC tech, I prefer a further increase TransLink’s regional fuel taxes. The heaviest and most inefficient and damage causing vehicles would pay the most for transportation infrastructure. The higher cost of gas would encourage more use of public transit and the Mayors would not need a vote.

    Tax collectors would rather hit citizens with a variety of taxes so that each is less noticeable. Liberal politicians want taxpayers to fight over a sales tax so the “no more taxes” side is heard loudly. Then, they’ll use that messaging to reward their corporate friends with lower rates, subsidies and tax exemptions just as they’ve done with billions that once went into the public treasury for resources and now go to shareholders in the USA, China and elsewhere.

    Instead of applying lipstick to the pig that is TransLink, transit proponents should be crying out for fair tax and fair expenditure policies from government. Unfortunately, a system led by incompetents and self-interested parties wants more money that will be spent badly. That’s OK with beneficiaries of that spending but not for the souls who are asked constantly to pay more.