Just one day after Metro Vancouver drivers were hit with a two-cent-per-litre hike in the gas tax to pay for transit expansions, CTV News has learned that cash-strapped TransLink is considering big bonuses for its executives.

Nine executives including CEO Ian Jarvis are eligible for the bonus, which would generally be 15 per cent of their base salaries. However, Jarvis could receive as much as 20 per cent or about $60,000.

Jarvis defended the potential bonuses Monday, saying they help improve performance.

"Any payment of incentive plans or bonuses are, I would say, quite often criticized by the public. My experience is, having worked where an incentive plan is in place and where it's not, in my view in terms of improving overall performance, of focusing the executive team and the organization around the priorities that have been set, it works," he told CTV News.

Last year, 22 executives received about $325,000 in bonuses. The incentives program in under review for 2012.

As of Sunday, the regional gas tax jumped to 17 cents per litre, a move that will help fund the long-awaited Evergreen rapid transit line.

The transportation authority is also dealing with a $30-million shortfall to pay for other upgrades to the system. At the request of regional mayors, the province has ordered an audit of TransLink's books to find possible ways of covering the funding gap.

The mayors have also asked for the right to impose a regional carbon tax or introduce vehicle levies, but the B.C. government has indicated it will not approve those options.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Michele Brunoro