The recent news about tolling highways hit me in the head like a freight train. I mean, this means the Beatle’s song, Taxman, is becoming a reality. Remember the line….”if you drive a car, I’ll tax the street.” It used to be a poetic joke? You know, an exaggeration not intended to deceive. Now the political and government leaders are serious.

The second image that flashed before me after hearing about the new tax idea was Translink. You know, the financial black hole in the lower Mainland of British Columbia that keeps sucking up millions of dollars that vanish forever, never to be seen again – but whose hunger is never satisfied for tax dollars. It’s a bit like a horror film where an invisible creature that only eats tax dollars never gets satisfied or full.

In the past, highways and bridges were an indisputable destination for tax dollars. Governments did not complain about not having enough money to build and maintain transportation routes. It was one of the prime reasons for taxation.

Gradually and quietly, the practice of disguising tax increases by calling them tolls has become popular. Most recently, the toll on the Port Mann Bridge avoided extreme criticism against governments by tolling just the users. This was a grandiose version of the user pay principle. The toll lost its tax quality because it made sense to everyone else (except the users) that only those who used the new bridge would or should be tolled. (Taxed)

In my view this unending demand for more and more taxes, fees, levies, and tolls needs to be better studied, more thoroughly understood and for transit authorities to operate more efficiently. We need to get a close-up digital picture of the insatiable appetite.  

I’m very surprised the topic of telecommuting hasn’t entered the discussion of congestion on our highways and bridges. How many people are ‘forced’ to commute because of their employer? How many people must use a car to get to work because they have children to take and pick up from day cares and school? Would it not be better to find a way for parents to work from home that would also mean more quality time with their children?

It seems to me that the great promise of Skytrain in the beginning was to get people off the highways and bridges and get them to and from work faster, in a more environmentally friendly and affordable manner. For some reason Translink’s problems have multiplied since its inception. Translink has been transformed into a neo-feudal institution with kings and queens, barons and knights and peasants at the bottom (which are now called commuters) where the notion of affordable and efficient public transit has left the building.

Albert Einstein once remarked, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

There is no light at the end of the tunnel as long as we keep doing what we’ve always done. We desperately need change instead of tolls and higher taxes.

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