Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cap or scrap tolling receives tepid support. Mayors’ Council releases five principled points for transportation funding.

On April 9th, the BC Liberals and NDP announced that they would either cap tolling in Metro Vancouver, or eliminate tolling on the Port Mann Bridge and Golden Ears Bridge. I posted about how both these options raise serious concerns about increased congestion, and reduced funding for transportation in our region.

On Tuesday, Mainstreet Research released their latest poll on the BC provincial election. It found that the majority of British Columbians don’t find either option that appealing. In fact, the polling found that more people supported reduced tolling than removing tolling altogether.

People understand the benefits of tolling when it comes to reducing congestion and paying for much needed transportation infrastructure.

Of course, the current system in Metro Vancouver is not working well. Tolling is only applied at the Port Mann Bridge and Golden Ears Bridge. This causes some people to use “free alternative” bridges like the Alex Fraser and Pattullo, increasing congestion along those corridors.

It is also only applied at South of Fraser river crossings which is not equitable. To reduce congestion throughout the region, and to be able to fund transit and road improvements throughout Metro Vancouver, we need a fair mobility pricing systems.

I believe that this system should be distance-based, and be applied region-wide. It should also replace gas tax which is currently used to fund a portion of our transportation network. As vehicles become more efficient or electric, and as more people use transit, walk, or cycle, gas tax revenue is reduced while the demand to fund transportation improvements increase.

The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation is working on a funding strategy for expanding transit and improving roads in Metro Vancouver. Jonathan Cote who is the Mayor of New Westminster and chair of this committee, recently released the mayors’ five principles for transportation funding in our region.

  1. Mobility. Changes to our transportation network must improve mobility for people and goods in the region, by providing more choices, reducing travel times and improving the experience of users.
  2. Accountability. Every dollar raised from fares, fees, taxes or other revenues intended for transportation must contribute to improvements that benefit the travelling public and that will help meet our objective of reducing congestion.
  3. Fairness. Benefits of new transportation infrastructure and services, and revenues to support them, should be applied in an equitable way throughout the region. Our transportation network is integrated – all users should contribute to maintaining it.
  4. Affordability. A high quality transportation network that improves mobility gives residents more choice where to live and work, which helps combat the region’s housing affordability challenges. At the same time, building and maintaining this network must respect taxpayers by making smart choices to keep costs low, and maximize return on investment.
  5. Engagement. Metro Vancouver residents and businesses should have a say in establishing priorities and making choices about transportation improvements, and how those improvements are paid for.

Whichever party is elected this May, I hope that they will work with the Mayors’ Council to find a permanent solution to funding transit expansion and regionally-significant road improvement projects in Metro Vancouver.

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