Metro Vancouver’s mayors have been pushing hard for road pricing as a way to pay for transit and other transportation improvements in our region. Road pricing can take many forms from distance-based pricing based on kilometres driven, tolling like on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridge, or cordon zones like the Congestion Charge in Central London.
If you are looking for some light reading this Family Day, I suggestion you read “Congested and Nowhere to Go: Congestion, Road Infrastructure, and Road Pricing in Metro Vancouver” by Jonathan Arnold. Arnold wrote the report while completing an SFU co-op term at the Business Council of British Columbia.
Arnold points out that there could be an additional 700,000 more vehicles in our region over the next 25 years. He points out the economic, environmental, and social costs of congestion, and points out that it is impossible both economically and physically to build enough "free" roads in the region. Arnold then explains road pricing, and builds a case for using it in Metro Vancouver.
While road pricing makes a lot of sense —we can see its power in reducing congestion along corridors like Highway 1 today— the province does not seem to see the benefit of a comprehensive, integrated roads pricing system for Metro Vancouver.
In a letter from last week between Transportation Minister Todd Stone and TransLink’s Mayors’ Council, Stone said, “the provincial government will not permit new funding to be collected from the provincial transportation system situated in the region.”
At first glance, it looks like road pricing is off the table. Provincial bridges like the Lions Gate and Iron Workers Memorial could not be tolled. The irony is that in the South of Fraser all river crossings, expect for the Alex Fraser Bridge, will likely be tolled in the next decade or so. We will end up with an unfair, ad-hoc “road pricing” system in the region.
While the BC government is starting to listen to the region about transportation issues, it seems like the province is not interested in using road pricing as a way to reduce congestion and pay for transportation in Metro Vancouver.