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Are harmonized tolls on all bridges the key to cutting traffic congestion?

Last Updated Nov 2, 2015 at 4:34 pm PST

(iStock Photo)
Summary

Canada's Ecofiscal Commission suggests congestion fees on all bridges, which would vary depending on time of day

METRO VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Would you be okay with paying tolls on every bridge in Metro Vancouver, if it meant you could get around faster than you do now?

A new report is promoting harmonized tolling in our region, suggesting pilot projects be done to explore the idea.

Greg Moore, chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, says the report from Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission gives the concept more validity as a viable option for Metro Vancouver.

The commission is made up of a group of economists from universities across the country.

The Mayors’ Council is already looking at road pricing as a way to potentially fund transit and transportation improvements.

When asked whether this report increases the possibility of the mayors pushing for the idea to be implemented, Moore said, “It’s something that we’ve always had on the agenda.”

“When we developed the mayors’ 10-year plan a year and a half ago, road pricing was a second traunch of funding as well as policy management that we thought in about year five of the plan should be implemented, because we think there needs to be a large discussion with citizens and society about what road pricing means. I think this Ecofiscal Commission will help spur on that discussion about what road pricing means, how can it be implemented here in Metro Vancouver.”


Premier Christy Clark has said there would have to be another referendum before any road pricing goes ahead.

“With road pricing and congestion pricing, there needs to be actually a couple of pieces of legislation that change,” says Moore.

“One: the referendum legislation would have to change, or… you’d have to go through a referendum. Plus, the province has a tolling policy that states that there has to be at least one free alternative to a tolling structure, so you’d have to have that change as well.

That’s a big discussion and I think the province needs to be a part of it. The mayors need to be a part of it, as well as the business community and citizens because this could affect how citizens get around our region, as well as how businesses also operate.”

The commission suggests having congestion fees on all bridges in Metro Vancouver that would vary depending on the time of day. They’d be higher during rush hour and lower during off-peak times.

It claims tolling only some crossings just pushes traffic to the free alternatives.

The commission thinks to make it work, congestion fees should be part of a larger strategy; that includes more seabus service and expanded rapid transit.

Among its four recommendations are that the provincial government initiate or facilitate the pilot projects, and the federal government help to fund them.

Audio – Alison Bailey reporting on this story on NEWS 1130: