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Sep 28,2009 Tri City News


TransLink has yet to get concrete assurance from Victoria that it would be permitted to impose a vehicle levy.

The transportation authority proposed what it calls a Transportation Improvement Fee in its most generous expansion plan.

The levy would collect an average $122 per vehicle ($65 to $165 depending on fuel efficiency to punish gas guzzlers and reward econo-cars) to raise $150 million a year, roughly a third of TransLink's $450-million preferred expansion plan.

While that plan is off the table for now, area mayors hope to resurrect it.

CEO Tom Prendergast said there are still conflicting signals from the province on whether a vehicle levy would be allowed.

Former transportation minister Kevin Falcon had said he could agree to a vehicle levy if it came with a sweetener like giving drivers who pay it a free pass or tickets to try transit.

But Prendergast said TransLink staff determined the so-called "value proposition" wouldn't work.

Freebie tickets or passes would erode too much of the money TransLink needed to generate, he said.

Rather than the motorists using the complimentary passes, they would find their way into the hands of regular transit users who normally pay and deprive the system of that revenue.

If TransLink proceeds with a vehicle levy, Prendergast said it would be best if the province allows ICBC to collect it, saving TransLink up to $30 million in collection costs.

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