Poll finds public support for new bridge

Respondents not as keen to pay for transit improvements as all funding sources opposed

There's public support to build a bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel, but paying for transit improvements is another matter.

That's according to a poll released last week by Insights West, which found half of Metro Vancouver residents surveyed (51 per cent) support the replacement project, while one-third (32 per cent) are opposed and 17 per cent are not sure.

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As far as paying for transit improvements, around two-thirds of those surveyed voiced opposition to increasing property taxes (71 per cent), hiking fuel taxes (also 71 per cent),

tolling roads (66 per cent) and increasing transit fares (65 per cent). The level of opposition is lower, but still significant, when it comes to implementing a vehicle levy (60 per cent) or a levy based on the distance travelled by a vehicle in the past year (also 60 per cent) and tolling bridges (51 per cent).

The poll also found Metro Vancouverites who drive to school or work are more likely to support increasing transit fares than those who take public transit. Conversely, public transit users are more likely to endorse a vehicle levy.

"Despite supporting the Massey replacement proposal, Metro Vancouverites do not appear ready at this point to embrace tolls, levies or higher taxes to fund transit projects," said Mario Canseco, vice-president of public affairs at Insights West. "It is also evident that, for some residents, the preferred solution lies in making the other group pay more, be it drivers or transit users."

Mayor Lois Jackson recently told the Optimist any form of tolling or road pricing must be fair for people living south of the Fraser River who are already underserved by transit.

"It's got to be fair to everybody and I'm very concerned that people like us out here in the suburbs, we're already paying through the hydro, through our gas tax, through our property tax

and so on, are they going to be putting another tax on us if we are not going to be getting any additional service?" she asked. "I find that unfair and really hope they look at this road pricing, congestion tax, tolling, whatever that is, to make sure it's not just another tax grab."

The Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation last fall voted to get a staff report on how to advance "mobility pricing." Peter

Fassbender, the minister responsible for TransLink, said although it should be considered, it would not be allowed unless the mayors get permission from voters in another plebiscite.

A report last November by Canada's Ecofiscal Commission suggested more spans in Metro Vancouver be tolled to ease driving congestion and encourage drivers to use public transit.

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