Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Followup on Moving In Metro: A discussion on mobility pricing

Last night, I attended “Moving In Metro: A discussion on mobility pricing” which was hosted at the Langley Hampton Inn & Suites. This dialogue was the last of four put on by the SFU Centre for Dialogue throughout the region. Ironically this was the only dialogue in the series hosted in an area with poor access to transit and in the most unwalkable part of Surrey and Langley. It drove home the point about the imbalance in our transportation system in the South of Fraser. While the dialogue's title contains the words mobility pricing, it was actually a discussion about road pricing.

As you may know, in Metro Vancouver the societal contribution to our transport system is $4.5 billion per year when taxpayer revenue and external cost such as pollution are factored in. Trucks and automobiles alone are subsided by $3.6 billion per year. Gas tax which is the closest thing to a user-fee we have for roads is on the decline as vehicles become more fuel efficient, and people drive less. Congestion is the result of any transportation system when the direct cost to use the facility is under-priced. It has been proven the world over that building more “free” roads, only results in more congestion and more pollution. With this in mind, the dialogue was looking at road pricing as a way to fund our road network in Metro Vancouver. Road pricing has been shown to reduce congestion and provide sufficient revenue to fund transportation systems throughout the world.

Total Annual Societal Contribution to the Transportation Network in Metro Vancouver

Tuesday night’s dialogue focused on bridge/tunnel tolls, area charge schemes like the London Congestion Charge, HOV/HOT Lanes, and distance-based pricing. The SFU dialogue folks gave a brief overview of these road pricing ideas, including examples of where they are in used throughout the world. You can read more about the different types of road pricing in their discussion guide.

The group of people at last night's meeting included truckers, a motorcycle enthusiasts, a driving school instructor, automobile commuters, cyclist, and transit-users. One of the things that pleasantly surprised me was people’s willingness to consider a direct user-pay model to pay for our road network. In fact a distance-based system seemed to be the most popular choice of people at last night’s discussion. Participants wanted a system that was fair, affordable, and accountable. They also wanted a system that would create a sustainable region and improve transit. Reading between the lines, people also didn’t want to have a double-pay user-fee system. It would seem that if distance-based road pricing was introduced, gas tax would have to reduced or removed. This is alright by me as gas tax is a poor way to pay for roads anyway.

Another point that people brought up was that the general public needs to be engaged in a discussion about road pricing and also be provided with information about how it works. One person commented that they didn’t like the idea of road pricing until they learned about it last night.

I walked away last night encouraged that our region seems actually ready to move towards a direct user-pay road pricing system. In fact, it is probably only provincial politicians that need convincing.

While road pricing is part of mobility pricing, last night's event did not talk about the price of parking and the major effect it has one land-use and transportation.

Information from these series of workshops will be complied into a report and present to TransLink and Metro Vancouver. I hope that the province also gets a copy of the report as well.

1 comment:

SFU Centre for Dialogue said...

Great blog post Nathan. See here for all the reports from the citizen and stakeholder dialogue sessions: