With 2014, comes increased user fees for transportation in Metro Vancouver and especially the South of Fraser. Global News did a story about the toll rising to $3.00 for the Port Mann Bridge. Global didn’t note that you can also purchase a $150 monthly unlimited-use pass for the bridge. Global also interviewed me.
In the news story, I talked about how it would make more sense for the province to put a toll on all major bridges in the region. This could allow for the replacement of aging infrastructure or building of new rapid transit lines, and would reduce congestion throughout the region.
Traffic on the Port Mann Bridge is down about 13% compared to the old, free Port Mann Bridge. With a $3 toll, traffic volume will be likely go down further. Traffic has gone up slightly on the Alex Fraser Bridge and has increased by 16% on the Pattullo Bridge. While some trips have disappeared, some people are choosing to spend more time in congestion than pay $1.50. The over $3 billion dollar Port Mann project was supposed to reduce congestion in the South of Fraser, but mostly it has just shifted congestion around. Regional tolling on the other hand would actually reduce congestion throughout the region, and would be more equitable. In fact, if the province introduced a small $1 to $1.50 toll on all major bridges, they could reduce congestion in the region without building one new lane of highway.
Of course many people don’t have an alternative to driving in the South of Fraser because there is a lack of transit infrastructure. Instead of pouring billions into highways that people won’t drive when tolled, why not build more rapid transit that people will actually pay a direct user fee to use? The Evergreen Line costs less than the Port Mann Bridge to build, and will actually attract ridership as opposed to the Port Mann which is driving people away.
Sadly the province is fixated on building highways while abdicating responsibility for transit in Metro Vancouver.
2014 also marks the end of the TransLink Employer Pass program which means that many people employed by larger companies will see a 15% increase in transit fare. My monthly transit pass jumped from about $145 in December to $170 for January.