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Vancouver’s mobility pricing debate dominates council’s approval of emergency climate plan

Last Updated Nov 18, 2020 at 7:30 am PDT

Summary

Vancouver councillors approve Climate Emergency Action Plan, send mobility pricing portion to staff to work out details

City of Vancouver is set to expedite investments in walking, cycling and transit

Vancouver city staff to report back on mobility pricing plan in two years

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A debate over charging Vancouver drivers a fee in a bid to reduce congestion and emissions dominated city council ahead of its approval of the Climate Emergency Action Plan, on Tuesday.

Council voted 6-4 to adopt the plan, including an amendment to have staff report back in two years with a feasibility plan on road pricing for all of the downtown peninsula and part of the central Broadway corridor.

“The already insufficient and unstable gas-tax revenue will decrease further as we continue to encourage an uptake of electric vehicle use, whose drivers currently pay little toward the roadway network,” the report says in arguing the need for a new revenue source.

NPA Councillor Lisa Dominato says she didn’t support mobility pricing, in part, because it would be better to take a regional approach to transportation planning.

“The number one issue we’re hearing about from the public was the City of Vancouver advancing a transport pricing framework without any coordination regionally,” says Dominato, adding it’s critical to coordinate with other municipalities and TransLink to invest potential revenue back into public transportation.

“But it has to be a regional approach because we’re so interconnected in our economies across Metro Vancouver,” Dominato says.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart acknowledged last week that the city lacks the power necessary to tax roads and the law would require changes before the city can go-it-alone on charging drivers.

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Councillor Rebecca Bligh says she’s happy her amendment to separate the road/mobility/congestion vote from the rest of the plan was accepted, adding she heard loud and clear that more stakeholder engagement is necessary.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic and in two ears we’ll still be feeling the effects of a pandemic, financially, for sure, and so we need to take all that into account while we study mobility pricing,” she says.

Bligh says she believes in the long run a system can be designed that will reduce congestion and accomplish a fair and equitable tax while reducing city expenses overall.

New focus on climate initiatives

With the adoption of the Climate Emergency Action Plan comes a commitment to add electric vehicle charging stations and city-wide residential parking permits. It also includes a plan to grow walking, cycling and alternative transportation methods.

Another large focus will be on using more sustainable building materials and reducing the use of natural gas, which accounts for 54 per cent of the city’s emissions, according to staff.

In an op-ed in the Georgia Straight this week, Councillor Christine Boyle made her case for parking fees and surcharges on high-emission luxury vehicles.

“Transport pricing and parking permits need to have fairness and equity at their core. We need to incorporate discounts or exemptions for low-income people and people with disabilities, and to consider the needs of precarious and low-wage workers,” she wrote.

Dominato and others have criticized the inclusion of additional parking fees and permitting, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has put too much strain on people’s wallets and the economy already.

“I really didn’t see a strong business case for that in terms of affordability,” says Dominato

-With files from Nikitha Martins and Tarnjit Parmar