Multi-billion debt calls for new incentive
By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter
Drivers who have previously been steered away from the Port Mann Bridge due to tolls might change their route in the near future. The Transportation Investment Corporation (TIC), the company that runs the bridge, has a new incentive.
In an attempt to bring back customers after a depleting revenue flow, the province will offer a $10 credit to customers who choose to switch from printed bills to paperless e-billing. Coincidentally, mailed bills are among the top costs for the company.
“We are trying to improve efficiencies in our operations, and one of the biggest costs is mailing out paper bills,” said Greg Johnson, TIC spokesman to the Vancouver Sun. “Some people aren’t aware we provide this option [of electronic billing].”
According to a press release from TIC President and CEO Irene Kerr, “The more customers signed up for e-bills keeps the system streamlined and our operating costs low.” The Crown corporation hopes to salvage anywhere from $500,000–750,000 with their $10 appeal, available until March 15.
Since the new Port Mann Bridge opened back in 2012, it has been losing money—and lots of it. According to reports from the province, $86 million was lost in the past year, with continued deficit predictions of $100 million annually for the next 3 years.
Understandably, big projects such as these take a few years to break even, but new reports suggest that the toll bridge might take as long as 12–15 years to do so. Comparatively, 2012 predictions predicted revenue surpassing debt within the first 5 years.
“Our plan has always been to post a loss in the early years,” said Greg Johnson, spokesman for the TIC, to the Vancouver Sun. “It’s something expected when you start a toll operation. [But] the period of time for traffic to come back to the Port Mann is longer than we anticipated.”
Obviously, tolls on the Port Mann have decreased traffic flow, but the end-goal to reduce vehicles on the road and increase ridership on transit has been met with the disbursement of drivers across the Metro Vancouver area. According to TransLink data, the number of daily crossings on the Pattullo Bridge has increased from an estimated 65,000 to 85,000. While Premier Christy Clark remains optimistic on the growing use of the bridge, local mayors are honking the horn on the need for an open discussion to address road pricing across Metro Vancouver.
“We do need to look at it,” Cote said to the Vancouver Sun. “What you’re seeing is the Port Mann not getting the revenues they’re looking for, and New Westminster is seeing the traffic congestion that is better suited to a new highway network. With the new Massey Bridge and the Pattullo, we’re better off having that discussion now instead of sticking our heads in the sand and pretending we don’t have a problem.”