08/27/2013 11:51 EDT | Updated 10/27/2013 05:12 EDT

Sales tax can fund transit expansions, bloggers say

Two local transit advocates say a 0.5 per cent regional sales tax is the best way to fund transit expansion in Metro Vancouver.

Paul Hillsdon and Nathan Pachal, who blog regularly about transportation, spent more than a year researching a proposal they say will secure funding for a long list of expansion projects — including a SkyTrain extension to UBC.

The "Leap Ahead Plan" touts $21.5 billion in economic returns, a net benefit of $15 billion for taxpayers, 234,000 jobs over 30 years and a significant expansion of rapid transit to Surrey, White Rock, Langley, Maple Ridge and the North Shore.

All this, the bloggers say, can be achieved with a 0.5 per cent regional sales tax that will generate the $6.5 billion needed to expand bus and transit service.

"With a two per cent decrease in the federal GST and 0.5 per cent decrease in the PST over the last decade, there is room for the proposed sales tax," the authors write. "A 0.5% regional sales tax would amount to just $0.35 per day, per resident."

Voter-approved regional sales taxes for similar transit expansions have been successfully introduced in Los Angeles, Seattle and Denver, according to the authors.

"Folks here in Metro Vancouver want more transit service and we need it to unlock some of the economic potential," said Pachal, who founded the South Fraser OnTrax blog.

"This will actually end up saving people in the long run. Once people south of Fraser have the choice, they might have to get rid of vehicles."

Pachal said if the "Leap Ahead" plan was approved, many projects like the SkyTrain to UBC and the light rail in Surrey could be built and operational within seven years.

According the the authors, funds could go towards the immediate construction of:

- UBC SkyTrain.

- South Fraser LRT & B-Line.

- Expo Line Upgrades.

- SFU Gondola.

- Marine Drive (North Shore) B-Line.

- Hastings B-Line.

- 41 Ave B-Line.

- Hwy 7 B-Line.

- Hwy 1 B-Line.

- Hwy 99 B-Line.

- 200 St B-Line.