I have my doubts about whether Translink has the excess capacity to handle the new demand created by an increae in the price of driving.  But in principle, I think it’s a good idea.  Actually, I think it’s more than a good idea.  I think it’ll likely be necessary.  But Zweisystem had a post this morning criticizing the idea that we ought to increase demand for transit by increasing the cost of driving through gas taxes, and I want to pick on one aspect of what we said.

Zweisystem identifies the policy of making driving expensive — say, with high gas taxes — with North American transportation planning.  He says that these extra taxes are “onerous” and “punitive.”  In contrast, he seems to suggest, European transportation policy doesn’t have these onerous and punitive taxes.

But of course, the price of gas in Europe is much higher than it is in Canada.  And higher taxes make up most of that difference in price.  In the UK in 2008, gas cost about $2.13 Canadian per litre, and taxes made up about 69& of that price.  In the Netherlands in 2008, gas cost most than $2.20 Canadian per litre, and taxes made almost 69% of that price.  In France in 2008, gas cost about $2.13 Canadian a litre, and taxes made up about 70% of that price.  In the Denmark, gas is even more expensive.  But here BC, gas costs around $1.10 a litre, and only about 33% of that price is tax.  If Translink gets the bump in gas taxes they want, that tax rate will still only climb a few percent.  But Translink could double our gas tax, and it’d still be less tax than Europeans pay.

My point isn’t that making driving more expensive is what Translink needs to do right now.  I don’t know if it is.  My point is just that if we’re comparing carrots and sticks in Europe and North America, their sticks look like two-by-fours and ours look like Q-tips.