Residents in Metro Vancouver have voted against a proposed 0.5% tax to fund transportation improvements in the region.

61.7% of residents voted no and 38.4% yes to a proposed $7.4 billion regional transportation plan that was supported by the Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation and most of the region’s mayors, police and fire chiefs. The vote was as close as could be in the City of Vancouver, one of 22 municipalities in the region: 50.8% no versus 49.2% yes. Belcarra, Bowen Island, and Electoral Area A (which includes UBC) were the only municipalities in the region with a majority of residents voting yes.

While opponents called the results “a victory for taxpayers”, Mayor Gregor Robertson warned that transit service could be cut and TransLink CEO Doug Allen said there could be years of delays before any new transit projects could be realized. Some speculate that the results indicate the public’s loss of faith in TransLink as an organization, rather than in transit. As a regional authority, TransLink has a precarious existence: it was created by the province yet is unable to operate or make major decisions on infrastructure or operations independently, as most transit and transportation funding comes from the province. The province is unwilling to give up control of transportation investments, and unable to make decisions affecting municipalities or regions (see my previous post discussing TransLink governance). Sound familiar, Metrolinx?

Andy Yan and Mark Heeney of BTAworks (the research and development division of Bing Thom Architects in Vancouver) looked at the percent of workers who were reliant on transit, median household income, type of housing as a percentage of city housing stock, residential tax rates, percentages of renters and owners, education levels, and the number of registered cars per 1,000 residents to see which ones influenced the “No” votes. They used the 2011 National Household Survey from Statistics Canada and Elections BC data on the transit plebiscite. Education levels showed the strongest correlation with a “No” vote, with high residential ownership and high property taxes showing moderate correlations. Medium household income, density, percentage of population renting, number of registered cars per 1000 people, and voter turnout were not important variables.

Voting on the transit plebiscite took place between March and May. The ballots were counted during June, and the results released July 2nd.

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