Monday, February 27, 2017

A path towards mobility pricing in Metro Vancouver

In Metro Vancouver, we pay for our transportation system through a combination of general taxation such as income, sales, and property tax, and user fees.

Some of these user fees are direct such as paying for bridge tolls, parking, or transit fares. Other fees are indirect, such as paying fuel tax and auto insurance. Fuel tax is both a source of general taxation and an indirect user fee in Metro Vancouver as 23.75¢ per litre of fuel taxation goes directly towards roads and transit.

Within our region, it is well understood that how we currently fund our transportation system is broken. The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation notes some of the challenges such as:

  1. A well-developed, but uncoordinated system in place to charge for the usage of parking, transit, car-share, and bike-share
  2. An undeveloped and ad-hoc system of charging for the usage of roads and bridges such as tolling on some new bridges, and indirect fees such as fuel tax, insurance premiums, and vehicle permits.

Over the last several years, there has been an increasing desire to shift away from the current way that we pay for transportation towards mobility pricing. What exactly is mobility pricing, and why is it better than the current “system” in place within our region today?

Examples of how we pay for our transportation system today. Source: Mayors' Council

The Mayors’ Council has defined mobility pricing as “the suite of public and private usage charges associated with using everyday transportation services, including: transit fares, road usage charges, parking fees, and shared mobility services such as ride-sourcing, car-sharing, and bike-sharing.”

Mobility pricing will help manage congestion, maximize fairness, and support continued investment in transportation infrastructure into the future. For example, our current ad-hoc tolling has led to traffic diversion and regional inequity. Fuel tax is currently used to fund a large amount of our transportation system. Vehicles continue to become more efficient, and people continue to shift to transit and active transportation, making fuel tax an unsustainable funding source for transportation.

As has been noted in the media, the Mayors’ Council will be setting up an Independent Commission that will:

  1. Recommend a coordinated approach for regional road usage charging in Metro Vancouver that considers all existing or potential charges (direct and indirect) associated with road usage by motor vehicles.
  2. Assess the implications of the specific proposal outlined above in terms of consistency, compatibility, and coordination with other forms of mobility pricing in the region, including: transit fares, parking fees, and fees for shared mobility services.

The Commission will be arms-length from government, and will be comprised of “eminent and unaffiliated local citizens and community leaders” that are a representative sampling of the diversity within our region.

It is expected that the Commission’s work will be completed early in 2018. More information about this can be found in the most recent Mayors’ Council agenda.

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