Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Mobility pricing plan needs regional fairness to succeed

Last fall, the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission was launched at the behest of the Mayors’ Council on Transportation. The mandate of the commission is to recommend mobility pricing options that will:

Reduce traffic congestion on roads and bridges across the region, so people and goods can keep moving and businesses can thrive and be competitive.

Promote fairness to address concerns around our long-standing approach to tolling some roads and bridges but not others.

Support transportation investment to improve the current transportation system in Metro Vancouver for all users.

The commission was launched because there is currently a $60 million to $80 million funding gap in the 10-Year Transportation Vision for our region to pay for needed transit upgrades, new rapid transit lines, regional road improvements, and active transportation infrastructure. This funding gap is nothing new; local governments and the province have been at an impasse for close to 20 years on how to provide stable, long-term funding for regional transportation in our region.

The Mobility Pricing Commission recently released a report on the public engagement they recently completed around mobility pricing. The following shows the level of support for answers to the question What does fairness mean to you?

I think it should cost less to drive in areas that have fewer transit options. 58% Support

I think people with lower income should pay less. 40% Support

I think people should pay more to drive in and out of downtown areas. 35% Support

I think people should pay more to drive in congested areas. 35% Support

I think people should pay more to drive at busy times of day. 34% Support

I think people should pay based on how many kilometres they drive. 32% Support

The commission also asked people in our region what their priorities for transportation investment should be:

Improvements to transit should be a priority. 85% Support

Affordable transit fares should be a priority. 71% Support

Improvements to roads and bridges should be a priority. 68% Support

Addressing transportation pollution should be a priority. 56% Support

Reducing driving costs (i.e. insurance, parking fees, fuel taxes) should be a priority. 44% Support

Better walking and cycling options should be a priority. 44% Support

Based on the results of the public engagement, and their mandate, the commission will now be studying the following options:

Congestion point charges, which is an umbrella term including system of point charges (which involves charging vehicles when passing a defined point or location, like a busy section of road, a bridge, or tunnel), and cordon charges (which involves charging vehicles when passing through entries and/or exits to and from a defined area)

Distance-based charges varying by time and location (i.e. some locations and times could have a higher $/km charge at busy times of day)

It’s clear to see that people are very interested in seeing investments made in public transit, as there is near universal support. Where the commission has their work cut out for them is to get the public on-board, linking mobility pricing, transit investments, and congestion reduction.

In my opinion, the “distance-based charges” option has too many political and technical hurdles to overcome for it to be a viable option today. With the removal of the tolls this fall on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, congestion increased in the South of Fraser. Linking “congestion point charges” to reducing congestion is an easier case to make.

The big question that the commission will have to answer is around fairness. Is charging a toll to cross the Granville Street Bridge as fair as charging a toll to cross the Port Mann Bridge? In order for the commission to get buy-in, the majority of people in Metro Vancouver will have to see how they will benefit from mobility pricing.

I look forward to seeing the results from the next phase of the Independent Commission’s investigation.

1 comment:

neil21 said...

Re Granville and Port Mann, it would great if the system was joined-up and transparent in real time. So the fee to use granville bridge would vary depending on the number of cars currently on the downtown peninsula (and some measure of that busy-ness would be posted at the bridge entrance). Ditto port mann fee might vary depending on measured traffic speeds/counts on the patulo or the trans-canada through coquitlam. No traffic, no/low fee. And drivers would be transparently told why they will be charged $2 or $20 via license plate readings at whatever time of day it is.