Eleven new B-line express bus routes that run very often would be added across the region under the plan advanced by Metro Vancouver mayors.

Study claims savings will offset cost of transit tax

'Flimsy' report from Metro Vancouver mayors forecasts household-level benefits from a Yes vote referendum

Metro Vancouver mayors say their plan for transit upgrades would save residents much more money over the long run than they’d pay in extra sales tax if this spring’s referendum on the proposal passes.

A report commissioned by the mayors estimates the savings for a typical family at $360 per year by 2030 in combined fuel, vehicle and other costs, including the value of time savings.

It estimates that advantage would climb to $1,100 per year by 2045 versus a base case scenario without the proposed upgrades and worsening congestion as Metro’s population grows.

Those are net savings minus the $125 per year an average household would pay as a result of the extra 0.5 per cent sales tax to be levied in Metro Vancouver.

Two thirds of the estimated savings are attributed to reduced travel time, while one third is the result of direct reductions in out-of-pocket transportation costs.

The mayors’ council released only a four-page summary of HDR Consulting’s findings without providing details on methodology.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore predicted some households will save even more – an estimated $10,000 a year over and above HDR’s estimates – if they are able to give up a vehicle as improved transit service arrives.

“More people will have the option to use the bus, which is a less expensive way of getting around than driving,” Moore said.

He said even drivers will spend less time on the road and money on gas and maintenance because of congestion relief.

Transit improvements – including a 25 per cent increase in bus service, new B-Line express bus routes and new rapid transit lines in Vancouver and Surrey – are expected to greatly increase the number of households in the region that live close enough to frequent transit service to rely heavily on it.

The mayors’ council estimates round-trip travel times by transit will be cut by at least 40 minutes between certain town centres, including Maple Ridge-Cloverdale and Coquitlam-Langley, a route that would be served by new B lines.

No campaign head Jordan Bateman called the report “flimsy.”

He said it doesn’t take into account the opportunity cost of how families might benefit if they weren’t subjected to the extra tax and could instead spend that money on different priorities or invest it.

“The mayors refuse to acknowledge this is a regressive tax that hurts poorer families more than richer families,” Bateman said.

He said poor families can’t think decades down the road because “they’re trying to put groceries on the table this week” and added it may be risky for planners to use such a long horizon as well.

“No one knows what the world is going to look like in 30 years,” Bateman said, suggesting self-driving cars may end up carrying many people some day instead of public transit.

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