Jon Kesselman from SFU’s Public Policy Program had a killer op-ed that went up online late Friday afternoon, when I’m guessing not too many other transit geeks were scouring the internets looking for interesting new things to learn.  So let me flag a couple of things about it now.

First, a really general point.  Kesselman observes that there are a variety of different ways Translink could raise the new revenue it needs.  So what would be best?  He says Translink ought to

apply economic principles so that transit finance contributes to solving transit problems rather than being just a revenue grab. Any new revenue source should improve incentives for drivers and riders to economize on their use of roads and to reduce congestion and the need for costly new facilities. Existing revenue sources should be subjected to the same discipline.

Exactly.  Translink ought to raise money by making driving and parking more expensive.  That way, it doesn’t just raise money–it gets people out of their cars.  At the same time, it ought to make it easier for people to get out of their cars by spending the money it raises on making public transit better and cheaper.

The second point follows from the first.  I’ve talked before about why tolls, congestion pricing, and vehicle levies give people economic incentives to leave their cars at home, and so why those would be better new revenue sources for Translink than a bump in property taxes.  But Kesselman points out that property taxes aren’t just not-as-good-as tolls, etc.  They’re actively bad, since they give people incentives to buy property in cheaper, lower-density areas far away from good public transit.  At the margin, they make it more likely that a family looking to open a produce store is only going to be able to afford the rent in a place where people drive to get their groceries, instead of picking up a few things on the way home from the bus stop.  At the margin, higher property taxes make it more likely that a couple looking to buy a condo are going to keep their car because they can’t afford to live in a dense, walkable neighbourhood close to the Skytrain.  Higher property taxes create exactly the incentives we want to avoid.

Read Kesselman’s whole piece.

Advertisements