Nanaimo city council is now deliberating how to keep its tax increase close to the official rate of inflation. Many choices are now being made in terms of what is ultimately most important. Some of the likely casualties are projects that would move the newly adopted Transportation Master Plan into reality.
This is a huge mistake. In the end it will cost us all far more.
Consider what the transportation plan will eventually provide for us: a far more robust public transportation system that quickly and seamlessly delivers passengers from everywhere to all major shopping areas, the hospital, the university, the ferry terminals, downtown, seaplanes and the proposed foot ferry to Vancouver.
The plan also promises far more dedicated cycling and walking trails throughout the city and beyond. Modern cities feature more sustainable ways of getting around because such cities are more affordable and attractive to businesses and young adults, and are more accessible to those who don’t drive – a growing segment of the population.
How would this plan save us money? The average motor vehicle currently costs about $800 per month in gas, insurance, licensing, leasing or loan payments and depreciation. This doesn’t include the cost of traffic violation tickets and accidents. At nearly $10,000 per year a vehicle costs more than most individuals receive on social services.
If most residents felt comfortable and safe enough to walk or cycle, the number of vehicles would be dramatically reduced. If only half of us were realistically able to reduce our transportation costs by 40 per cent or $4,000 a year (allowing for some cab rides and the use of the carshare co-op vehicles once or twice a week), this would have the effect of paying for our property taxes more than twice over.
But if the city instead axes the funding required to bring this plan to fruition, saving us an average of, say, $30 a year, are they doing us a service?
Transportation costs usually rise a lot faster than inflation or taxes. Maybe the city and the Regional District of Nanaimo could do us a service and increase our rates.
Ian Gartshore is president of Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island.