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Your Ride: Vancouver

Karen Quin Fung writes about sustainable transportation and transit policy every Tuesday.

Why you should vote yes on the congestion-improvement sales tax

Skate to where the puck is going to be — so that well-worn chestnut from a national hero goes. I’m not much of a hockey fan but I do know sound planning advice when I hear it.

So it goes for transit, too. At its heart, the referendum on a regional congestion-improvement sales tax is about making sure the region is there to get the puck to score our goals in the face of the coming challenges.

We know our population will grow — people already here will have children; people will seek opportunities that compel them to move here; some will choose to settle and feel secure enough to have their loved ones join them.

No more and no less than what we hear in the stories of our friends, co-workers and neighbours when we ask how they’ve come to be here.

Transit takes time to build; so do transit-friendly neighbourhoods. Hearing about the proposal for transit, walking and cycling improvements, it’s too easy to say: “Too much. What’s in it for me? When I could I buy so much right now with the money ($135 or $258 per year, depending on who you ask), we’d pay to this tax?”

Two-hundred-and-fifty-eight dollars a year sounds like a lot of money when you compare it to the abstract idea of more bus service — especially if you never use the bus, feel like you can’t even if you did want to and don’t know anyone around you who does.

But it’s the wrong question. The question should be, “What will this tax buy us as a region that you won’t be able to for yourself in 10 or 20 years?”

More transit service throughout the region means more seniors (me, or my parents?) able to live in walkable neighbourhoods they are familiar with and have friends in, regardless of their driving or economic status.

It means young people gain independent movement to enrich their learning and civic engagement, freeing up their parents (a future me?) from time spent shuttling people around.

It means less space required for parking and more green spaces, public spaces and preserved or restored natural habitat (and cleaner air).

Imagine your household saves that $258 (just one guess) for the years until these projects are realized.

You could maybe buy one thing with equivalent benefits to those that I’ve listed. But not all of them, and not without moving.

A yes vote is a yes to all those things, and more, that transit enables. I was that teenager, I might be that parent and, with time, I’ll be that senior. And I’ll vote yes, because I will want to have those choices — and I think you should have them too.

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