VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The BC Liberals’ pledge to introduce a yearly toll cap for the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges has been attacked by a New Westminster City Councillor, who says the plan defies basic economics.
The BC Liberals rolled out a suite of commuter-friendly promises this morning, one month before BC voters head to the polls.
If re-elected, the BC Liberals would cap toll crossings for frequent Port Mann and Golden Ears travellers at $500 a year, meaning savings of $1,000 per year for commuters using the bridges to travel to and from work.
The toll cap would also apply to the replaced Pattullo Bridge and the George Massey Tunnel once these are in operation.
But New Westminster City Councillor Patrick Johnstone says the pledge undermines the work of mayors in the region, and defies basic economics.
“The Port Mann Bridge is still going to have to be paid for. The toll structure was supposed to be paying for this bridge. It hasn’t been meeting its toll targets already. The economics for the bridge are already not working, it’s costing the province money, it’s costing us money.”
He says the same logic applies to the Golden Ears Bridge, which was built on the promise that users would pay for it.
“And the economic model for the Massey Bridge and the environmental assessment for the Massey Bridge were both built built on the premise that tolls would be used to manage the transportation on that bridge. And now they’re going to undermine their own business case for a bridge they haven’t even built yet.”
“It’s not just a pander to votes south of the Fraser, I think this is a flip of the bird to anyone who lives on the Burrard Peninsula and anyone who is trying to develop a regional plan based around public transportation, based around sustainable sustainable transportation and sustainable development.”
The BC Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Jordan Bateman, has welcomed the bridge toll cap commitment.
“I think it’s great news for anyone who uses the bridges, specifically those families who have really been scraping to get by south of the Fraser. It never really made sense that we had bridges and other highway projects throughout the province that didn’t have these tolls, and that you were digging the South Fraser people sometimes as much as $1,500 to $1,800 a year just to use Highway 1.”
“If political parties are serious about making life more affordable, doing things like cutting tolls for families south of the Fraser is a good way to do it.”
The BC Liberals have also promised to develop a loyalty discount program for frequent BC Ferries users by 2020. Until that’s up and running, there would be a 25 per cent ferry fare reduction for residents of ferry-dependent communities, up to $1,000.
The party would also spend $1 million improving Wi-Fi on BC Ferries and in terminal waiting areas.
The Liberals anticipate an annual cost of $30 million per year for the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges pledge. The cap would take effect in January next year.