TransLink isn't sure why it's not collecting as much in gas tax as it expected. Motorists aren't buying as much gas – at least not within Metro Vancouver.

TransLink isn't sure why it's not collecting as much in gas tax as it expected. Motorists aren't buying as much gas – at least not within Metro Vancouver.

TransLink finding less gas tax to guzzle

Eight per cent drop in revenue stream problematic for Metro Vancouver transit authority

A big drop in TransLink’s gas tax revenue may be because of the difficult economy, more efficient cars or more motorists driving out of town for cheaper fill-ups.

The latest estimates suggest the transportation authority will end 2011 earning almost $26 million less than it expected from the current 15-cent-per-litre fuel tax it charges within Metro Vancouver.

The eight per cent differential – $298.5 million for the full year compared to the $324.3 million budgeted – casts doubt on the future reliability of the gas tax, according to a TransLink third-quarter financial report.

The shortfall is particularly troubling because TransLink has just won approval from Metro Vancouver mayors and the provincial government to raise the gas tax another two cents next April to generate an estimated $44 million needed to help fund the Evergreen Line and other transit upgrades.

At the current rate, more than half the new money would be eaten up making up for the shortfall – assuming the two-cent increase generates as much as it’s supposed to.

Spokesman Ken Hardie said fuel sales are down generally in B.C., but added work is underway to “drill further into the phenomenon.”

TransLink has asked federal agencies to look at the revenue capture and reporting systems.

One aim, Hardie said, is to determine whether large numbers of drivers are heading to areas free of the TransLink gas tax, like the Fraser Valley or Washington State, where gas is even cheaper.

“If we saw lower sales here but remarkably higher sales in the Fraser Valley, that would speak to the issue of leakage as people go out of their way to get cheaper gas,” he said. “We’re also working with Washington State to check on gas sales near the border.”

Vehicles have become steadily more efficient – both by manufacturer design and consumer choice.

“If electric vehicles take off, that is very clearly also going to be a factor,” Hardie said. “All of the indications are pointing to people using less fuel. Which is a good thing.”

Another factor in the drop in gas sales, Hardie said, appears to be that more motorists are switching to transit.

Transit ridership for the first nine months of 2011 is on a record pace, running five per cent ahead of the same period in 2010, when a huge number of visitors rode the system during the Olympics.

Although new riders mean more fare revenue, TransLink also normally has to pay for more service, which means a net loss once the lost gas tax is factored in.

There was no significant service boost this year, although TransLink did succeed in reconfiguring routes to more efficiently carry riders and generate two per cent more from the farebox with the existing bus fleet.

Hardie said the gas tax problem underscores the need to find new and more diversified revenue sources for TransLink – the subject of negotiations next year between mayors and the province. Possible options include an annual vehicle levy or road pricing.

TransLink statistics also show complaints from riders are up sharply.

Bus passengers are most frequently complaining about overcrowded buses, full buses that pass them without stopping as well as buses that arrive earlier or later than scheduled.

“There is more crowding, there are more pass-ups – certainly more than we want to see,” Hardie said.

He said TransLink’s increased use of social media like Twitter has also opened more avenues for the public to lodge complaints.

Tweeted complaints (see feed below) are welcomed, Hardie added, because they give transit managers real-time insight into trouble spots, where they may be able to react quickly and throw on more service.

@jeffnagel

Just Posted

Chilliwack Fire Department. (Chilliwack Progress file)
Fire crews respond to house fire on border of Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Flames, dark smoke reported coming from front of house when crews arrived

Brandon Hobbs (turquoise shirt), brother of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs, gathers with other family and friends to distribute posters in Chilliwack on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Search efforts expand to Chilliwack and beyond for missing Abbotsford man

Family, friends put up posters in Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope for missing 22-year-old Adam Hobbs

AHL president and CEO Scott Howson believes the new Abbotsford franchise is off to a strong early start. (AHL photo)
AHL president: ‘Tremendous success’ selling season ticket deposits for Abbotsford franchise

President and CEO Scott Howson optimistic about new Vancouver Canucks affiliate in Abbotsford

Stock photo by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay
Drop-in vaccination clinics slated in Abbotsford for construction workers

Among three sites in Lower Mainland holding no-appointment clinics in June and July

A CH-149 Cormorant from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron out of CFB Comox on a training exercise in Chilliwack on June 16, 2021. (William Snow photo)
VIDEO: Military search and rescue training in Chilliwack Wednesday

CH-149 Cormorant and CC-115 Buffalo from CFB Comox participated in downed aircraft rescue simulation

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read