On Tuesday, Transit staff from the City of Kingston will ask City Council to approve a 0.5% levy on our property taxes to improve our urban transit system. At that meeting, I will ask Council to consider whether it is fair for rural citizens to contribute to a program that they don’t have access to and thus cannot benefit from.
It is clear that this expansion is the right thing for Kingston to do in support of reducing our emissions and becoming a modern city in terms of urban and suburban mobility. Regrettably, this expansion does not include the large rural area both in the short (2021) and long term (2031) plans. Most rural homes and neighbourhoods are not included on any map in this new Kingston Transit Business Plan, leaving out a sizeable area of our municipality.
Rural Kingston already provides support totransit and the average Countryside resident contributes $208 every year through property taxes. Since the proposed expansion explicitly avoids the rural area, rural citizens should not be asked to pay an additional tax for new services that they cannot access. I am in favour of a robust and efficient urban transit system and will support the recommendations in the staff report, but only if rural residents are excluded from the two year transit levy proposed.
This proposal is not revolutionary. In fact, many urban municipalities who have large rural districts recognize the service disparity for transit between urban and rural areas. For example, Ottawa and Hamilton do not tax their rural districts for transit at the same level as they do their urban districts.
Over two thirds of Kingston's geographic area is rural, but it’s voice is only represented by a single councillor. This area is filled with small farms, family businesses, and an aging population with limited incomes. It is time for Kingston to understand that we have a large rural component, that needs to be considered through a rural lens in our policy and programs.
Kingston’s urban community should support this exciting growth opportunity with open arms, but as you do so, consider your rural neighbours who stand on the margins of this expansion policy, and who will not benefit from any transit service in the next 15 years.
Note: This was submitted to the Kingston Whig Standard as an Opinion Editorial (Op-Ed).