‘Yes’ still ahead in transit plebiscite, but Metro Vancouverites appear confused

NEWS TRANSIT TAXSUPPORT for the Yes side in the Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite continues to be soft, as a large proportion of residents acknowledge having little information about what will happen in their community if the vote is successful, a new Insights West poll has found. (Results are based on an online study conducted from January 9 to 12 and have a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points).

The online survey of a representative sample of Metro Vancouver residents shows that 61% are aware of the upcoming plebiscite, and 53% claim to be “very” or “somewhat” familiar with it.

Residents were shown the ballot authorized by the provincial government in late December, with the question: “Do you support a new 0.5% Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, to be dedicated to the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan?”

This question differs from the one proposed by the mayors and used in the previous Insights West survey, conducted in December, which outlined an “increase to the Provincial Sales Tax” and mentioned “independent audits and public reporting” in the question itself, and not only on the ballot.

Upon seeing the new ballot, 46% of Lower Mainland adults say they will “definitely” or “probably” vote Yes (-6 since December), while 42% (+3) are “definitely” or “probably” voting No. As was the case last month, No is ahead of Yes (24% to 16%) among voters who claim to have made a “definite” choice.

The Yes option is still popular with residents aged 18-to-34 (52%, -6), but has fallen markedly among those aged 35-to-54 (44%, -8) and remains stagnant among those aged 55 and over (45%, +1).

Residents of Metro Vancouver who drive to work or school are now more likely to be No voters (49% to 40%), while Yes is still the favoured option for those who take transit (61%, -8) and those who bike or walk (51%, -11).

“While the Yes side is still ahead, the proportion of definite supporters remains low,” says Mario Canseco, Vice President, Public Affairs at Insights West. “Drivers are now more likely to say they will vote No, and the level of support from transit riders, cyclists and walkers has dropped noticeably in a month.”

Half of the people who voted for the BC Liberals (49%, +2) and the BC New Democratic Party (NDP) (49%, -6) in the 2013 provincial election say they will “definitely” or “probably” vote Yes in the plebiscite.


The Yes Voters

Seven-in-ten Yes voters (71%) concede that, while they are not satisfied with TransLink’s performance, they think the plebiscite is the best way to deal with current and future transit problems. Three-in-five Yes voters (63%) believe the plebiscite addresses the traffic, service and road problems we have in the Lower Mainland, and half (49%) think having annual independent audits and public reporting will promote transparency.

It is important to note that only 11% of Yes voters say they have confidence in TransLink to do a good job to ensure that these transportation projects are implemented properly, and only 17% trust the Mayors to make the best decision when it comes to funding these projects.


The No Voters

Three-in-four No voters (74%) think there are other ways to fund these transportation projects, and want TransLink to explain how funds are spent before residents vote on any tax increase. A similarly high proportion of No voters (71%) say they do not have confidence in TransLink to do a good job to ensure that the projects are implemented properly.

In addition, almost half of No voters (46%) do not trust the Mayors to make the best decision when it comes to funding these projects, and one third (35%) say they intend to send a message to TransLink and the Mayors by voting No.


Projects and Campaigning

When asked about the most important projects for them, residents cite maintaining and upgrading the region’s major roads (27%), increasing service on SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus and West Coast Express (22%) and building rapid transit along Broadway in Vancouver (13%) as their top three personal priorities.

Just over a third of Metro Vancouverites (36%) say they have enough information on exactly which projects will take place in their community if the plebiscite is successful. There are some striking differences on this question, with half of Yes voters (50%) saying they are aware of what will happen, compared to only 24% of No voters.

“Awareness and familiarity are nowhere near the levels seen for British Columbia’s previous mail-in ballot experience: the referendum on the harmonized sales tax (HST),” continues Canseco. “With only a few weeks left before the ballots are mailed out, most residents are unacquainted with what a victory for the Yes side will mean to their community and their commute.”

Two-in-five residents (42%) believe the provincial government, including the Premier and the Transportation Minister, should openly support the Yes side. Most BC Liberal (49%) and BC NDP voters (52%) in the 2013 election share this view.