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Bridge tolling report author defends his ideas in front of Surrey crowd

Last Updated Nov 6, 2015 at 6:16 am PDT

The Port Mann Bridge (Courtesy pmh1project.com)

Member of Eco-Fiscal Commission explains merits of bridge tolling.

The problem is our roads are free, says bridge tolling advocate.

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – One of the people behind an eye-brow raising report recommending the tolling of all local bridges defended the idea in front of a crowd in Surrey Thursday night.

“The incentives are screwed up on our roads,” explained Chris Ragan with the Ecofiscal Commission, which issued the bridge tolling report this week.

“Canadians are ready for this discussion,” he added.

He says what it comes down to is our roads are free, so people use them, to the point of over-using them. Congestion pricing, he told the crowd, is a way of pricing the problem, so that people have financial incentives to look for alternatives to getting around.

But forum guest Maureen Cureton, manager of the environment portfolio at Vancity, worries what pricing will do to the middle and lower classes. And she fears that bridge-fees that fluctuate according to time of day won’t be well received.

“I think there is still a challenge, in that you need to redesign your cities for alternatives to transport. It’s nice to say you can change your habits, but a lot of people can’t change the time they go to work.”

Surrey city councillor Bruce Hayne came away from the forum a believer.

“Bridge tolls would raise the same amount of money (as from any other source), and we would get the same infrastructure upgrades, but if we can alter behaviour we can make that infrastructure last longer.”

Hayne says congestion pricing could go a long way to maximizing road and transit capacity.