A possible solution to TransLink's financial woes?
The Globe and Mail recently suggested that our TransLink is the envy of other jurisdictions.
TransLink is that unelected public transit body which has proven its ability to bury Lower Mainlanders in fuel taxes, property taxes, parking taxes, hydro surcharges, tolls—and, oh yes, ever-higher fares for the actual users. At the same time, it haemorrhages cash at a rate rivalling the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, paying an army of transit cops up to $100,000/year each to cite fare evaders with uncollectable tickets, managing to lose millions in fares, paying its executives—who seem to devote most of their time to figuring out how to extract even more money from us—very handsomely and then expecting
"performance" bonuses for the privilege of mistreating us.
TransLink has managed to turn ordinarily benign citizens into foaming revolutionaries.
Maybe we can expand on the Globe and Mail’s suggestion by exporting the TransLink structure to other less stable parts of the world where regime change is desired. A year of being subjected to the imperial whimsies of TransLink poobahs and potentates should be sufficient to incite popular uprisings which bring down hostile regimes. And we wouldn’t have to send any troops or jets or tanks!
In response to public outrage, a moratorium on TransLink’s expansion plans and scheduled fare increases has recently been put into place. It’s only a stopgap and can’t hold. The real need is to find a more creative approach to financing its operating and capital costs.
A solution – at least a partial one, for the capital cost portion anyway—may be gained through a more creative treatment of our provincial (and perhaps federal) income tax system. Until the mid-'70s or so, earned interest was treated much the same way as capital gains are today. Up to $1,000 in interest per year could be earned each year tax-free. Not much, you say, but consider this: the average annual income in the early '70s was less than $5,000. So this represented a sizeable portion of personal income and encouraged the growth of private pools of capital, which is a very healthy thing.
Fast-forward to today, with annual incomes many times greater: so too would any corresponding interest credit. Many seniors have substantial pools of cash but the interest rates are so pitifully low they cannot—as they had once hoped—live on the interest earned, hence one reason for greater pressure on the public pension system. At the same time, TransLink does have a limited outstanding bond issue yielding 3.8 per cent but which has the authority to expand to $2.8 billion. Why not, then, expand the issuance to amortize the proposed capital costs for the foreseeable future, encourage seniors to buy the bonds and give them a tax-free incentive for doing so?
Anyway, for what it’s worth, that’s my two cents worth.
B.H (Brian) Pybus