Jason Magder writes in the Montreal Gazette: Shaping a new funding model for public transit in Quebec
David Levinson, who teaches in the department of civil, environmental, and geo-engineering at the University of Minnesota, said there are several ways to capture the value of transit developments without taxing citizens heavily.
One idea is to reverse the way property is taxed so that the land portion is taxed more heavily than the development portion.
“You should tax the land more. That way, you encourage development as a way to pay for transit, instead of having all these lots of land lying fallow,” he said.
Another method of capturing the value of real estate is for the transit agencies themselves to purchase land around future stations and then develop them, or sell them off.
Any future agreement with the Caisse to build the two train projects will probably end up with the Caisse owning the train stations so that the pension fund can develop commercial or residential properties.
Levinson noted that the city of Vancouver is particularly good at this type of land capture. Land development has helped pay for a portion of the new Canada Line — part of the SkyTrain network that links the suburb of Richmond to the airport and the city’s downtown centre. The transit agency in Vancouver, Translink, is in the process of buying up land around a proposed subway, at least 10 years before the project’s construction is slated to start.
Vancouver is looking to find new sources of revenue to fund a $7.5-billion 10-year wish list, which includes a four-stop subway, and extensions of the SkyTrain network. The city has proposed to increase the provincial sales tax in the metro Vancouver region from 7 to 7.5 per cent to pay for the project, and a write-in plebiscite on the proposal will take place in the spring.
In part 2 Questions surround who should make decisions about future transit projects, he writes:
David Levinson, who teaches in the department of civil, environmental, and geo-engineering at the University of Minnesota, said the London model is worth exploring.
He said it forces transit agencies to think more like companies, and make decisions on projects based on where the service is most needed, in a way that will provide the best value for investment.
“The only way that public transit is sustainable is if it’s serving customers,” he said.
He said the London model still relies on the government to subsidize less busy routes. Private bus companies also compete to run routes that are not profitable.
Levinson said rather than pouring more money into transit, government policies should make it more expensive to use a car to travel, by charging what’s called a congestion tax to drive into the city.
He said governments must make it more expensive to drive, and that will automatically give a major boost to public transit.
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