Thursday, July 2, 2009

I tolled you so...

With the Pitt River Bridge coming online later this year, I decided to dust off on my readings at the Gateway Program website and found a memo on traffic capacity on bridge. Not surprising to anyone:
Traffic demand forecasts for both the AM and PM peak periods indicate that in the peak direction, three lanes are required across the Pitt River beyond the implementation time frame of the Fraser River Crossing. As a minimum, three lanes would be required in the peak direction with only two lanes required in the opposing direction, therefore implying that a counterflow operation would need to be maintained.
So they found that a five-lane bridge would be fine. We got a seven-lane bridge. What is more interesting is:
Traffic demand forecasts were generated for the 2011 planning horizon for the North Fraser Perimeter Road. These forecasts assume that the new Fraser River Crossing is constructed and tolls are imposed on this new crossing.
So my question is why aren’t we tolling the bridge? The Gateway Program folk even admit that a bridge without a toll will become congested at a much faster rate than a tolled structure. To answer my own question on tolling, the Provincial government has a dusty, outdated policy that says tolls can only be used for new construction and when there is a free alternate route available. This policy should be looked at again, as it was probably put in place to calm people down when they first tolled the Coquihalla. Tolling is proven to help reduce demand on infrastructure. The revenue generated from the tolling should be used to maintain current transportation infrastructure (including transit) and building sustainable transportation options.

I think that people would be willing to pay a toll if they knew that it would help make their travel time faster. The argument that "my taxes already pay for the highway" is not valid in this day and age. User-fees are nothing new to the province. Everything from Township of Langley fields to transit to MSP has a user-fee. People tend to respect a resource more when they have to pay for it directly.

No comments: