Thursday, January 1, 2009

No Gas Tax?

Happy New Year! I hope you had a safe and fun New Year’s Eve. Anyway, I saw a link from the Price Tags blog to an article in Crosscut and the Albany Democrat-Herald about the governor of Oregon's plan to move away from gas tax in 2009 and replace it with a distance based tax. The makes total sense as people are driving less and driving more fuel efficient vehicles. Gas tax is not a sustainable funding source to pay for transportation. Our own Translink is seeing a decline in gas tax revenue. It’s ironic that as more people drive less, less money is going into transit.

The Oregon plan is to have GPS receivers track the distance people go and bill them accordingly. For the people that have privacy concerns, the government would still allow the old gas tax system. Road pricing is coming to North America. User fees are really the only sustainable way to fund transportation and help manage congestion.

Let's take this one step further, why not have distance based transit fares. This is happening in many cities all over the world like the BART rail system in San Francisco. In Metro Vancouver, we could apply this to our whole system. Our Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon, wants to see smart cards replace the current fare system on our buses and trains. This technology allows for a very flexible payment system. All our buses now have GPS systems installed. Whether we like it or not, we are getting turnstiles on SkyTrain. Hook all theses systems up together, and we could have a fair distance based transit system. The zone based system really isn’t fair, and I hear people complain about it. North Road is one of those areas where people have to unfairly pay for two zones even if they’re just going a few blocks.

With a distance based road and transit system, we would be able to fund a fair, sustainable transportation system. Those people in Oregon are really on to something.

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