Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Road Pricing in Metro Vancouver Report Released

In late October, I attended a workshop called “Moving in Metro: A discussion on mobility pricing.” This series workshops was put on by the SFU Centre for Dialogue. The workshops gave people a brief introduction to the different types of mobility pricing, their benefits, and their drawbacks.

With the government at all level tightening their budgets, the desires to reduce congestion, and the need for improved transit and well-maintained roads, many local politicians and transportation planners are looking at road pricing as a way to meet all these goals.

The SFU Centre for Dialogue recently released a regional dialogue report which outlines the results of the workshops that the organization hosted last year.

The report outlines people’s views about bridge/tunnel tolls, high occupancy/toll lanes, area scheme, and full network pricing. The workshops and the report are not meant to provide guidance on a recommended road pricing scheme, but simply outline likes and dislikes regarding the different options.

According to the report, the majority of participants at the workshops used the auto as their primary mode of transportation. At the workshops, participants were asked to graph their typical journeys. What because apparent is that most people use more than one mode of transportation. This information is often not captured with transportation mode share statistics as information is usually only on the primary mode of transportation when commuting. Clearly people’s travel are more complex than statistics would suggest. These complex travel patterns mean that government really needs to be focused on building a multi-modal transportation network.

While the transit referendum will likely not deal with road pricing, one of the key take-aways from the workshops is that education is key when people have to make a choice about complex issues such as road pricing or paying for transit. For example, after the workshops, 47% of participants increased support for road pricing while only 3% walked away with less support for road pricing.

At the workshops, participants were asked what key principles should guide road pricing in Metro Vancouver.

Two broad principles clearly stood out: there was almost unanimous agreement that a potential road pricing system in Metro Vancouver should be guided by the principles of fairness as well as transparency and accountability.

In more detail, participants thought that all transportation network users should pay user fees for the services they used. Of course affordability was also a concern, and it was noted that the transportation network should allow access for vulnerable groups such as seniors and other people with limited incomes.

Another key point was that there needs to be regional equity. People in Vancouver shouldn’t get a “free lunch” while people in the South of Fraser pay bridge tolls for example.

Participants also wanted to see that money collected from the use of transportation was directly used to fund transportation. They also wanted to ensure that we had a multi-modal transportation system that gives people travel choices.

The key take-away for me is that education is key for any discussion about transportation financing in the region, and will be the key to winning the transit referendum next summer.

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