A Question of Fairness


A Question of Fairness

Parking World technical editor Pete Goldin blogged last month on the parking tax in Montreal – he followed up with this tidbit:

On March 22, I posted a blog outlining the controversial parking tax in Montreal. The city has instituted a new tax on parking lots in the downtown area, and is using the revenue to fund public transit. I ended my blog with the statement, “Maybe that’s the price a city must pay for good public transit, but it just doesn’t seem fair.”

I want to explore the logic of the fairness issue a little further.

I support Montreal’s efforts to improve public transit. My only concern is whether it is fair to saddle the parking lot owners of downtown Montreal with a major portion of the cost.

When I interviewed Alan Desousa, Vice Chair of the Executive Committee for Ville de Montreal, he spoke about the fairness issue, saying that of the CA$60 million Montreal was contributing to the Montreal Transport Commission for public transit, CA$20 million would come from the parking lot tax and CA$40 million would come through municipal property taxes, “which we thought was a reasonable balance. And these are parking lots in the downtown area, since it is a primary beneficiary of our public transit system in Montreal.”

I agree with the idea that businesses in downtown Montreal should help pay for the transit system if they benefit from the improvements. But the parking lot owners of downtown Montreal will not benefit from public transit, and in fact could be hurt by it – and yet they are the businesses being singled out to pay the bill. The balance does not seem to be so reasonable when you break it down like that.

DeSousa says that if the money from the parking tax is used as a downpayment that will enable the city to gain even more provincial funding for public transit, “then I think everyone would recognize that this is a triple win situation – a win for the city, a win for the province, and a win for the business community.”

And a loss for the parking lot owners of downtown Montreal.

I agree and would like to add the following:

Why is it that transit systems can’t pay their own way? They must be subsidized by the city. Like parking lots, which I strongly urge should charge market rates, rapid transit should charge what it costs to run them. I can’t for the life of me figure out why my taxes should subsidize companies who have workers in the downtown core. If a company wants to located downtown and have folks come in from the burbs to work there, then it seems to me that the cost of that location should be borne by the company, not the residents of the city. If they wish to pay their employees more to work downtown (that happens in New York and London), then the employees can live where they like. If they want to pay the rent to live across the street from their job, they can, and if they want to pay for transit or to park, they can. My guess is that most would rather pocket the money and live close in. But who knows – in the UK, folks pay thousands a year to take the train in from the burbs and work in the city. A perfectly reasonable individual decision. However if the cost of the transit is borne by the taxpayers, the market is skewed, out of balance. Individual choice is taken away, and the state begins to affect the way people act, usually to the detriment of all concerned.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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