BC Transit floats pass linked to property-tax hike
It would mean paying more than $200 extra in property taxes per year, but BC Transit thinks a new funding formula that treats transit more like police and fire services could be the way of the future.
But, it needs one community to “take leadership” and volunteer for a pilot project, BC Transit spokeswoman Maribeth Burton told KTW.
“And,” she said, “it would be really neat if it were Kamloops.”
The Community Pass Program is part of BC Transit’s Transit Future Plan and, Burton said, a particular passion of the company’s president and CEO Manuel Achadinha.
A potion of the property-tax bill is already funding transit operations — Burton estimated it’s about $80 per household in Kamloops — but taxpayers who want to use the bus still pay to ride
The Pass Program would shift that model somewhat.
Taxpayers would contribute about $318 per year (a gas tax-based discount could bring that number down somewhat) to transit services and receive a yearly pass transferable to any member of the household.
“We all pay for fire and police service, but you don’t get a bill if you should happen to use those services,” Burton said.
“So, if you happen to use transit, why are you being billed?”
“People would feel like they’re getting value from contributing their property taxes to BC Transit.”
The program will likely be discussed in depth this fall by the BC Transit board — of which Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar is a member — and it will be up to a city to agree to take part in the pilot program.
Burton said Kamloops is a community the transit authority would be excited to partner with because the city is already an industry leader.
A report to Kamloops council last month showed the city’s transit service has the lowest cost per ride of any Tier 1 city in the province.
(Transit outside Metro Vancouver’s Translink system falls under BC Transit’s authority. The systems are divided into three tiers, with Tier 1 comprising the largest communities. Kamloops is one of seven Tier 1 transit systems.)
“There are only a few Tier 1 cities for BC Transit and it’s the one that sees year-over-year increased ridership,” Burton said.
BC Transit is also drawing up Community Pass funding formulas for other larger centres, including Victoria and Kelowna.
City of Kamloops transit planner Erin Felker said the idea isn’t one city staff have investigated, but noted she has had a few councillors pitch similar ideas to her in the past.
However, before the transit department takes a closer look at the pitch, Felker said she would need council to show an interest in it.
“It would have to be something they would like to pursue,” she said.
Coun. Donovan Cavers said he would be interested in bringing the Pass Program to Kamloops and called the tax increase a “bargain” when compared to the cost of a yearly bus pass.
“If every household had an annual bus pass, I think a lot more people would try the bus,” he said.
“Cost is definitely a barrier and, when the weather is like it is now, I’m sure a lot of people who’ve never used the bus would try it out.”
But, Cavers conceded the program would probably spark some backlash.
“I’m sure there’d definitely be some resistance. People never want to pay more taxes,” he said.
That higher tax bill is also an issue for Coun. Pat Wallace, who called the Community Pass Program a “nice idea,” but one not suited for to the Tournament Capital.
To make the program work, Wallace believes the city would require a major service expansion with more buses and better hours.
“I don’t believe the majority of people want to stand and wait for a bus or sit and wait for a bus that isn’t direct,” she said.
However, Wallace added, taxpayers cannot shoulder the expense of a bus system that will suit the needs of all.
Wallace does think the program might work somewhere like Vancouver, where taking transit can save time that might otherwise be spent sitting in traffic.
“I think it’s a nice idea and I think it sounds ideal,” she said.
“Unfortunately, I think it’s idealistic for Kamloops.
“Larger cities have a better shot at it.”