We don't question the need to direct more of our tax dollars towards transit in the Lower Mainland. We don't even disagree with the need to raise taxes to do it.
However, the two-cent gas surcharge voted in Friday by the TransLink mayor's council makes us feel uneasy. Some argue it is an unpleasant but necessary first step toward healing our transit system. That may be, but it can't be the last.
The levy, together with a supposedly temporary rise in property taxes, is meant to help pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in needed improvements, including expansion of SeaBus service and Coquitlam's long-delayed Evergreen Line.
For sure, this needs to happen. In a growing region, improved transit is the only way to avoid snarled ports and highways - problems that can't be solved by endlessly widening roads.
It's also needed to contain sprawl and cushion the blow from oil prices, which have nowhere to go in coming decades but up.
For the plan to work, however, more steps must be taken. The mayors and the province have to work quickly to find fairer sources of revenue than the new property tax, which doesn't necessarily reflect a resident's ability to pay, and which, unlike the gas tax, can't be moderated through behaviour.
Municipalities have to focus growth along current and future transit corridors to boost ridership and curb increases in vehicle traffic, and TransLink's governance, with its unelected board and closed-door meetings, must be made more transparent to ensure accountability.
Meanwhile, the provincial government has to quit focusing on user-pay taxes and reconsider its mantra about lowering income and corporate taxes. It's only through these difficult but necessary steps that we will avoid much greater pain in the future.