Province and municipalities discuss bringing road pricing to Metro Vancouver
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
Ever since the transit plebiscite, where 62 per cent of Lower Mainland residents voted against a tax that would have funded transportation infrastructure and projects, both the provincial and municipal governments have been working toward other methods of developing the much needed infrastructure for the growing Metro Vancouver population.
An idea being currently discussed is the concept of road pricing. Road pricing is the practice of placing tolls on busy roads during peak hours. Installing such an infrastructure can have many results, one of which would be reducing traffic during usual times of congestion, as drivers would be more likely to drive on busy routes during peak hours. Another benefit comes from those who do choose to utilize the busier roads; charging a fee to drive on these roads will create an income that could go towards improving transportation infrastructure.
Other cities around the world have already adopted road pricing with some success, which brought the idea to those in power in Metro Vancouver. The topic of road pricing was discussed in a forum at the SFU Surrey campus on November 5, during which the forum dove deeper into the concept of road pricing, discussing multiple ideas on how to enforce it. One idea in question was the idea of installing High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, alongside regular lanes. HOT lanes would allow a driver faster access through a busier road, but for a price.
“What they found there is that it reduces traffic congestion. The HOT lanes travel quickly, but the non-HOT lanes—let’s call them the cold lanes—they travel faster too,” said Chris Ragan, chair of the Canadian Ecofiscal Commission, to Global.
According to road-pricing experts, the key to successful instalment requires a public contentment on how the funds raised will be used. However, it is a difficult call. Eight years ago, New York City attempted to install road pricing, with no success. The reason behind the failure of road pricing in New York City ultimately fell on the local transit authorities, whom New Yorkers did not trust with the funding. Similarly, a large reason behind the failure of the transit plebiscite earlier this year was due to a lack of public trust in TransLink.
Still, with a dwindling number of options available for funding Metro Vancouver’s transportation infrastructure, some hypothesize that residents won’t get much of a choice in regards to road pricing. Deron Lovaas, who works with the National Resources Defence Council as a senior policy advisor, told Global: “Based on projections for cities, including Vancouver, eventually I think everyone’s going to have to adopt this policy.”