Lukewarm support for Yes in Metro Vancouver transit vote

RESIDENTS of Metro Vancouver are offering lukewarm support for a Yes vote in next year’s Transportation and Transit Referendum, a new Insights West poll has found.

In the first public survey conducted since the introduction of the proposed ballot question, 52% of Lower Mainland adults say they will “definitely” or “probably” vote Yes, while 39% are “definitely” or “probably” voting No. Among voters who claim to have made a “definite” choice, No is ahead of Yes (24% to 18%).

The online survey showed residents the proposed ballot released last week, with the question: “Do you support a one half percentage point (0.5%) increase to the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) in Metro Vancouver, dedicated to the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan, with independent audits and public reporting?”

The Yes option is more popular among residents aged 18 to 34 (58%), but drops among those aged 35 to 54 (52%) and those aged 55 and over (44%).

Residents of Metro Vancouver who drive to work or school are almost evenly split on the ballot question (Yes 47%, No 45%), while the Yes side is decidedly ahead among those who take transit (69%) and those who bike or walk (62%).

People who voted for the BC New Democratic Party (NDP) in the 2013 provincial election are more likely to be Yes voters at this point (55%) than those who voted for the BC Liberals (47%).

“At this early point in the campaign, there are more voters who are siding with Yes, but most of this support is unenthusiastic,” said Mario Canseco, Vice President, Public Affairs at Insights West, on Monday. “One-in-four residents, including a third of those over the age of 55 and three-in-ten BC Liberal voters, say they have decided to vote No.”

Yes voters are motivated primarily by the idea that the referendum addresses the traffic, service and road problems in the Lower Mainland (71%), the notion that independent audits and public reporting will promote transparency (54%) and a conviction that there is no other way to fund these projects than by allowing for this small increase in the PST (40%).

Conversely, most No voters have little confidence in TransLink to do a good job to ensure that these transportation projects are implemented properly (71%), call for an explanation from TransLink on how funds are spent before residents vote on any tax increase (68%), and think the tax increase—if it goes through—will climb in the future (60%).

“While the Yes voters appear to be heeding the message from the recently elected and re-elected mayors on the region’s pressing transportation concerns, the No voters are directing their dismay primarily at TransLink,” continues Canseco. “Two-thirds of No voters are unwilling to provide more funds to the corporation without knowing more about their current expenditures.”

Across the Lower Mainland, 69% of residents have heard of the referendum, and 58% say they are “very” or “somewhat” familiar with it. Still, 58% think holding a referendum is a “good” idea—while 26% consider it “bad.”

The most important project included in the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan is maintaining and upgrading the region’s major roads (20%), followed by increasing service on SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus and West Coast Express (19%), and adding more bus service to crowded routes and adding new routes in growing areas (16%).

When asked about the best option to fund transportation projects in the Lower Mainland, the top choice for residents is the proposed 0.5% PST increase (30%). Support is lower for other options, including a vehicle levy (16%), an increase in property taxes (8%) and an increase in gas taxes (7%). Two-in-five residents (39%) are undecided on this question.