It’s time for “fair tolling” across Metro Vancouver

Contrary to what Minister of Transportation Blair Lekstrom would have you believe, now is the prime time to talk about fair tolls for Vancouver. The current haphazard policy that only allows for tolls on new infrastructure has placed an inequitable and expensive burden on commuters in one area of the region.

With tolls upwards of $3 one way, commuters have already given the Golden Ears Bridge their thumbs down – all evidence suggests they will do the same to the new Port Mann in December. Thousands of drivers will move west to the deadly Pattullo in an attempt to save $1500 a year on tolls, funnelling even more congestion through the streets of New Westminster. Meanwhile, commuters in Vancouver, most of whom have reasonable alternatives to driving, will face no such dilemma.

The current policy must be changed. We need fair tolls across Metro Vancouver. Fair means tolls that are equally applied across all areas of the region. Fair means tolls that are affordable to the average family. Fair means tolls that can help fund rapid transit for areas that lack alternatives.

A fair tolling policy would place $1 tolls on all major bridges. A dollar per crossing is a reasonable and affordable price, one that is not a heavy burden on family budgets. By applying them on all bridges, there will be no incentive to opt for one bridge over another, ensuring traffic flows remain constant. With fair tolls, the revenues collected would not only pay for the new Port Mann and a Pattullo replacement, but would also contribute significantly to building new rapid transit lines and would help maintain a high quality highway system.

For decades, our congested transport network has been holding back Vancouver’s economic potential and degrading our quality of life. Now is the time to solve that outstanding issue by introducing a fair tolling policy that will keep our region strong, united, and moving.

– post by Paul Hillsdon

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Calm down, everyone. BC Place naming rights worth much more.

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  • Toowoozy

    I believe with further study that a toll set at a maximum of .50 would be more reasonable and acceptable to the population, especially in consideration of the massive revenue that will be generated through crossings/tolls on te Alex Fraser, Iron Workers, Oak Street Bridge, and the tunnel.

  • Andrew

    have to agree with Toowoozy.  $1 is too expensive when applied across the board.  From working abroad and driving toll highways, the tolls were in the $0.25-0.50 range, took no time to collect (as people usually have small change in their car to toss in the collection bin for the arm to raise up) and the tolls collected paid for the initial construction in less than 10 years and then the tolls were removed.
    I am not advocating ever removing the tolls once implemented as we need transit and infrastructure improvements region wide that will cost a lot of money over a long period so that is fine.
    I also think it's a waste to have the transponders as then we need an administrative body to collect money from those who don't pay the bill when sent.  Have a small toll, accept cash and be done with it.  Collect the money and HAVE IT GO DIRECTLY TO FUND THE TRANSIT!!!!!
    Having carbon taxes and other fees that go into the general pot is a joke of a way to run a business and that is almost as irksome as the toll discussion!

  • Steven Forth

    I don't know what the right price is, but I agree that all bridges in the GVRD should have tolls and people in the suburbs should not be penalized. Not sure that I follow the argument against transponders. I have used them in other cities and they seem to work well.

    • Daniel Fontaine

      Rather than setting up a new and complicated tolling system on all our bridges, wouldn't a simpler solution be to use the existing gas tax? The tolling system currently doesn't impact out-of-province vehicles (most won't pay any kind of toll) who use our roads/bridges.

      Meanwhile, the gas tax is collected by attendants working at Esso, Shell, Chevron etc…no need to set up a new and costly infrastructure/bureaucracy…and everyone pays, regardless if you are from out-of-province or not. I think we should think long and hard before we attempt to raise $ through quick solutions that might end up costing us more in the end to administer.

  • Richard

    There was open and fair public processes around the tolls before building the new bridges. There were very few people that objected at the time and even fewer said don't build the bridges. The deal was that they would get nice new bridges and they would pay for them through tolls. 
    Now that they are built or almost built, they seem to want taxpayers or drivers throughout the region to pay for the bridges that they use. This is a totally differenent discussion. For this to be fair, there should have been this discussion before the bridges were built. Maybe there would have been other decisions made such as improved transit throughout the region instead of building these bridges.
    On top of that, Rapid Transit is needed all over the region including South of the Fraser. So now they what the rest of the region to pay for their bridges and for rapid transit South of the Fraser too?
    Even worse, if the tolls on the bridges go down, ridership and thus revenue would go down thus even more money would be required for transit.
    When a one way transit ticket across most of these bridges (or by SkyTrain across the river) is $3.75, a toll of $3.00 seems totally fair and rather cheap for that matter.
    There should be congestion pricing on other bridges and roads in the region but that should be used to fund transit near those roads or bridges or for the expensive maintenance on those bridges. It would not be fair to subsize the Port Mann or Golden Ears with tolls on other roads and bridges.
    And actually, the tolls don't cover the cost of the Golden Ears Bridge. It is being subsized by regional tax payers to the tune of $30 million a year. I expect it will be years before the tolls on the Port Mann cover the financing and operating costs of the bridge in which case, provincial taxpayers will be subsizing the Port Mann.

    • Daniel Fontaine

      Richard you make a lot of good points here! Well said.

    • Blair

      I would beg to differ. The reason so few people complained during the planning of the bridges is that, to put it simply, we were lied to. I spoke to a Translink representative during a Golden Ears Bridge open house who assured me that the government tolling policy ensured that a "reasonable untolled alternative" to the bridge would exist and for those of us in Langley it would be the Port Mann Bridge. That satisfied me and I went on my merry way. Then when it was too late to complain they turned around and decided that our "reasonable untolled alternative" would be tolled. Put simply, the easiest way to avoid debate seems to be to outright lie to your constituency and since you aren't accountable to the public you need not fear any repercussions for your lying.

    Daniel, Gas tax is a poor instrument. Further increases lead to more revenue leakage by encouraging out-of-region refueling, which also worsens cross-border shopping. Also doesn't capture electric vehicles, which shouldn't be entirely exempt from contributing. TransLink is already finding gas tax is too unstable, uncertain. It also provides no ability to charge motorists selectively — ie HOVs vs non-HOVs; goods movers vs non; peak times vs off peak; congested corridors vs underused ones.
    With road pricing you could do those things.
    You could also offer a first 10 kms (or whatever) free per day to accommodate most neighbourhood trips along with a cap on the maximum payable per day or month, perhaps varying on income level.
    Another option: a percentage of the road tolls you pay each month is rebated to you as a time-limited credit in your TransLink smart card account. In other words, pay $90 in tolls one month, you maybe have $30 of free transit use available to you the next month. Becomes a carrot to encourage SOV drivers to try transit alternative.

  • Very good points from Richard.
    Paul writes:
    For decades, our congested transport network has been holding back Vancouver’s economic potential and degrading our quality of life
    Absolutely right: the point is do we want  a road toll to improve the road network efficiency or do we see it just as an ATM machine?
    Whether the former is what we want, I also suggest reading
    (the link also addresses the good question of toll collection cost, raised in a comment)