Could bridge tolls solve our transit woes?

Post by Paul Hillsdon in

86 comments

Lions Gate tollbooth
Lions Gate Bridge toll booths – Flickr photo by blizzy63

CityCaucus.com welcomes back urbanist Paul Hillsdon, editor of the Civic Surrey blog...

Dianne Watts said it best when she asked whether we want to become like Los Angeles. With an estimated million more people moving into the region in the next thirty years, our already congested transport network risks grinding to a standstill if we fail to make new investments into our system. The notion of less traffic, less emissions, and better transit is something we can all get behind - the problem still remains though, how do we pay for it all?

While TransLink floats increased gas and property taxes, there’s a big pot of money the region continues to neglect: bridge tolls. The proposed 2 cent gas tax increase will raise $40 million, just over half the tab required to finance loans for the Evergreen Line. In comparison, based on preliminary calculations using public traffic statistics, if all the major crossings in the region included a $1 toll each way, we could raise an estimated $200 million annually.

The impetus to begin this dialogue goes beyond raising revenues though - it’s also about fairness. With the current piecemeal approach to tolling, South Fraser residents are going to be hit disproportionately when the Port Mann Bridge opens in 2012. If the Pattullo replacement ever gets off the ground, all three major bridges in the Surrey area will face tolls of $3 or more.

Continuing forward with such an unequal policy will brew increasing resentment from suburban areas that currently lack the transit alternatives more accessible North of the Fraser. Applying a cheaper toll on all major crossings in the region will be more equitable to commuters across Metro Vancouver.

The proposal is not without precedent. One need only look to the success of San Francisco’s tolling policy. That region implemented $1 tolls on all seven state-owned bridges back in 1988 to pay for administration and maintenance costs of the infrastructure. The tolls have since risen to $5, with $3 paying for critical seismic upgrades to all bridges, and another $1 increase approved by voters to pay for a package of transportation improvements including BART extensions, new express buses, highway upgrades, and pedestrian and cycling facilities.

Following San Francisco’s example would allow us to not only resolve our unfair tolling policy, but also raise the hundreds of millions necessary to invest in our transport system for tomorrow. With the new revenues, we could pay for a new Pattullo bridge, rapid transit expansions to UBC and Surrey, the third SeaBus, new B-Lines, an expanded West Coast Express, and more. In addition to raising funds for reinvestment, the tolls will help reduce traffic on bridges as commuters will think critically about their travel habits.

Implementing affordable, regional bridge tolls will enable Metro Vancouver to reduce congestion, lower emissions and pollution, build reasonable transit alternatives, and ultimately improve our quality of life. Now that’s a win-win for everyone.

- Post by Paul Hillsdon. Paul is the chief editor of Civic Surrey, a local blog charting the maturation of BC’s second largest city. He is studying Geography at Simon Fraser University.

86 Comments

Rather then building mass highway projects, the resources should devoted to building better public transit (maybe devote carbon tax to this end?).

Bridge tolling negatively impacts those who have to travel great distances for employment or services. Those individuals tend to be persons or families that are FORCED to live great distances away in order to find affordability. Bridge tolling simply adds another expenditure to their limited budgets.

When the Golden Ears Bridge was being planned and built those on both sides of the river talked of great economic boon. Has that materialized? Far from it. The toll has hindered people from traveling freely; many not willing to spend meager resources on traveling across the river. This in turn has caused those communities and by extension the provincial government from enjoying any real economic benefit from the building of the bridge.

WA State, Metro Seattle, was facing huge cuts to their transit system.

Today they announced that driver's would now pay and extra $20 for their tags - this money going to transit.

Rather than losing 50+ % of their service, they are now only losing 17%.

The sooner ALL bridges in the Lower Mainland have a toll booth, the better. You cannot build a community if everyone is constantly moving to and fro. Live where you live.

Maybe the North Shore and Richmond should be hit with the same sort of tolls that people who come from Surrey and east will be hit with when they the cross over the Port Mann and the Golden Ears. Won't be long until the Mission Bridge will be hit with a toll.

An expanded West Coast Express!! Huh?

Translink should be winding down the WC Express as soon as the Skytrain makes its way to Coquitlam Centre.

They should immediately terminate the trains from Mission at Coquitlam Centre and let Skytrain take the commuters onto Vancouver from there.

If Translink doesn't do this then we know they are wasteful and trying to build an empire and the sooner we have an audit of them ala BC Hydro the better.

Toll them all. High time drivers start paying their share.

Living south of the Fraser is a lifestyle choice where you trade house and yard size for commute time. I don't know why the rest of the region should have to subsidize their personal choice to commute longer in exchange for larger homes.

To say that all bridges in the region should be tolled is to pretend that all bridges in the region are being expanded. They're not. But billions of dollars have been and will be spent on expanding bridge connections to Surrey and Langley.

Why should regional commuters pay tolls when their commute includes bridges that haven't been improved in 60 years? If given the choice between bridge tolls or the status quo (no Golden Ears, no replacement Port Mann, et al) I suspect that south-Fraser commuters would choose tolls.


AND, it is important to note, the choice to widen Highway 1, by necessity into the median, has now permanently eliminated the chance of commuter rail being provided in the median (no more room in the right of way). Another example of south Fraser commuting choice gone mad. They want their roads and cars, they just don't want to pay for it. Same old story.

And a short note re: West Coast Express. The Evergreen line is a replacement for the 97 B-Line bus, which runs every 3-5 minutes in peak and 8-10 minutes in off-peak, NOT to replace West Coast Express (which is, if I recall correctly, the highest performing service that Translink operates in terms of cost-recovery).

Yeah, god forbid Translink keeps a service that works. Give your head a shake.

Of course this is a wise proposal. The bridge tolls must consider future replacement costs for the Patullo bridge and a solution for expansion of the Deas Island Tunnel. A one or two dollar toll charge is a logical component of the financing plan for transit and bridges.

As a driver who crosses a bridge daily, I am generally in favor of tolls. However, it needs to be predicated on three key points:

- Evidence that Translink is operated efficiently and isn’t the whale that Hydro has become. I want to fund transit not 99% of the staff for bonuses. Translink has gone through a few shake ups in the last 5 or so years for this very reason – CEO resigned and 3 Vice Presidents fired. Bloat shouldn’t be synonymous with government run service.

-The fare charged on transit is reasonable and comparable to other jurisdictions – rider and driver should both pay. There is a series of articles in the Province (I think) of this very issue and on first blush fares look reasonably even across the country. I think the next several articles will dive into the specifics of each jurisdiction and compare the level of services for the fees.

-If you want to toll all bridges equally, then you need to provide a reasonably equal level of transit. Right now, imho, the North Shore doesn’t have nearly the public transit infrastructure that most other areas in the lower mainland do – I think Translink has admitted as much that the service there isn’t what they want it to be.

Would this include Burrard, Granville and Cambie? Perhaps it should. And before you ask, as a cyclist I am willing to pay a toll as well.

The one issue I can see with tolling all bridges, it highly penlizes those living outside of the Metro Van area. If you are coming into Van from, say - Surrey, you can hit 2 - 3 bridges (one way) depending on your final destination. How does that help the workforce that needs to commute - I think it is agreed that not all people can afford to live in Van. and according to 2006 studies, roughly 160,000 persons were traveling inbound from other areas; as well as families that may already be struggling?

It may also hamper those families travelling to the city for recreation reasons, like a concert, or football game...PNE.

Some interesting comments from Tranist riders:

Skytrain for Surrey, website.

http://skytrainforsurrey.wordpress.com

First of all, Surrey is in Metro Vancouver so when you say hurt those not living in Metro Vancouver do you mean those coming from Chilliwack and beyond--or do you not know what Metro Vancouver consists of?

Second, the 'penalty' comes after 60 years of 'free' access. So, sorry, but it's about time. And the money collected from tolls would (I would hope) go directly to bridge replacement if needed, new transit, etc.

Third, as for hurting those going to football games or whatever, you can have 'smart' tolls or different rates for different times. There are many options.

boohoo, you may not be aware but your writing style comes across as arrogant and rude which really puts some of your perspective at a disadvantage before it is even considered.

Nobody seems to be talking about the reverse commute out of Vancouver proper that is growing every year.

It is nice to assume that Vancouver is the centre of the universe but its not. 2 income households may have jobs in different jurisdictions. Jobs are fleeting - should someone move every time they change employers? At what point do you stop trying to pin all the problems and all the costs on to 1 source.

If we want jobs and tax dollars to stay in Vancouver we have to stop thinking people will endlessly choose to pay and pay for that option.

@ Max - agree with your comments. I wasn't thinking it would be a single toll all the time. There could be peak/off peak rates, regular commuter rates (discount), and selective tolling (i.e. certain routes into town could be mapped and you pay a single toll on that route regardless of bridges crossed for example). Tolls would also have a significant impact on businesses (mainly small ones) which would have to be addressed as well.

In my original post, I was more indicating I am not convinced Translink is doing enough with what they already have. However, if they are (or do), then tolls would be the next logical choice. If we get there, the point you raised would need to be addressed in detail. I'm sure there are best practices from other areas such as New York where people travel from the ‘burbs into Manhattan and cross several toll roads and bridges.

The Thought Of The Day

"Translink - like the Transfat in everything...it's bad for you."

An unelected, Saturated Pork-Fat corporate-controlled Selection Committee and not you the taxpayers who are stuck with their bills, decides who sits on the Translink board.
The Committee? Good you've asked.
"Cinque per l'Inferno" aka The Five for Hell and they are:
One Crony from the Province
One Surfboard Punk from Vancouver Board of Trade
One PickPocket from the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council
One Drunk from the Institute of Chartered Accountants
One Puppet from the regional Mayors.

OK I get it, the crooks got to manage the bank, but...even Mr. Bean would conclude "It's a scary movie all right!"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aIfMX7FBbI

For Translink to think,yet again of trying to milk an ox is not surprising considering, but for private citizens,people from Vancouver (remember the popcorn scene..."No, this are mine!") to support tolling the already paid for bridges... is insane.

I know that some people want to build walls around their built communities in order to preserve their own selfish way of life. This is the wrong approach.
Think about it, people from Richmond are coming to work in Vancouver and people from Vancouver are going to work in Langley, and people from Langley are crossing Vancouver to work in NorthVan or taking the ferry to the Sunshine Coast...

Walls, tolls on bridges, control points... the same thing, they didn't fancy well in Berlin, and it's not a deterrent for the border crossing Mexicans down South.

So, yeah, keep on shooting... yourselves in the foot, while deflecting from the fact that someone cut you (actually us all including me) from the decision making table and it's playing ones against the others. It's no longer about transit. Until you admit to that...

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Julia,

? It's an honest question. The internet is a poor place to infer emotion or intent. Max thinking in Surrey isn't in Metro Vancouver either shows a real lack of understanding, or they just mispoke. I was just asking which one it was.

Dear Glissando Remmy,
Your Translink Committee sounds about right(One Crony from the Province;
One Surfboard Punk from Vancouver Board of Trade;One PickPocket from the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council;One Drunk from the Institute of Chartered Accountants;
One Puppet from the regional Mayors)
One cannot do much or hope to influence the outcome when they are looking from outside... in!
Translink is an unelected board, all right, but look in Vancouver at how Vision Vancouver conducted their business and executed their hidden agendas. I don't remember any of us voting for this kind of 'respect'.
We are taxed already too much on things that we shouldn't be, and people should start finding alternatives elsewhere. This weekend I'll go berry picking in Richmond and I wouldn't be too happy to pay a bridge toll to get there. I'm old enough, and still with no signs of Alzheimer to state it for sure that 'I have already paid for that, thank you very much!" Do Not Get fooled into thinking that taxing or tolling is the way to go, cause it's not, and I agree, what goes up or it's taken away ...it never comes back or is reversed (let's wait to see the HST outcome)
I am looking forward to your next editorial!?
All my best,
Dr. Richard Unger (MD Ret.)

I would hope that with tolls will come computerized passes and that the toll could be adjusted. I agree that this could be crippling for people who have to cross several bridges on their commute in, and until their are real transit options there will be many people on relatively low incomes who have to commute. We need to build out the transit infrastructure but we also need to provide , uh, bridges so that people can transition.

Surrey residents don't consider themselves part of 'Metro Vancouver' anymore than those persons living in Coquitlam, Maple Ridge or Burnaby do.

The term was introduced by politicians in order to further their own agendas and gain tax $$. But if you ask people living in these areas whether they are part of or consider thesmelves part of 'Vancouver' their answer will be no.

The arrogance of Vancouver has reverberated throughout the province.

Vancouver is beneficiary to a lot of tax $$ while other communities struggle.

Although I understand this is not unusal for every major city across our country, it doesn't change the disdain some/many of our fellow BC'ers feel towards us.

Vancouver is looked at as 'priviliged' yet we whine about the littlest inconveniences. Now everything is about being 'green'.

People are making big money off that word and many of us are too stupid to realize.

Free access boohoo? You do realize all those people living in the outskirts of 'Vancouver proper' pay into a system they do not proportionally benefit from. 'All' of BC has paid into transit infurstructures that services 'all' areas and many better than others.

My parents are in Maple Ridge, and their tax dollars help support 'our' transit system. And I can tell you the bus system out there is dismal, hence they drive.

Don't sit there and spout a '60 year free ride' it makes you look ill informed. Many bridges and ferries (Albion crossing) were previously tolled.

Umm, sorry Max, Metro Vancouver isn't a fantastical, theoretical thing. There are memeber municipalities--Surrey is one, Burnaby is one, Coquitlam is one. Your obvious disdain for 'arrogant' Vancouver is clouding your vision.

Yes, drivers have had it good for 60 (more) years. They still do! -- How many roads/bridges have had tolls? Right.

Your point about taxes is nonsense. I pay for a hospital in Prince George or a bridge in Osoyoos. So what? The area with the greatest population gets a bigger share of the pie--how would you do it otherwise?

Have a peak at this Max--your politically fabricated, tax grabbing Metro Vancouver has been around since the 1880's providing services for the region and formalized by the province in the 60's.

http://www.metrovancouver.org/about/Pages/history.aspx

"My parents are in Maple Ridge, and their tax dollars help support 'our' transit system. And I can tell you the bus system out there is dismal, hence they drive."

My understanding is that suburban bus service is more heavily subsidized than that of downtown Vancouver's. I can only imagine how much taxpayer money props up the transit service of other communities such as the Comox Valley, where buses run empty most of the time.

Which isn't to say I don't think we shouldn't encourage public transit with public dollars, but rather that Max appears to have it backwards.

I twll you what Chris:

Head over to Surrey and see if you come back with the same statement.

I posted a link - comments from Surrey riders.

How about giving it a read.

Max:

Have Surrey and Maple Ridge amalgamated overnight? Because clearly I was addressing your comment about Maple Ridge, that's why I quoted it.

Metro Van is a governance model. Consider White Rock or Ladner/Tsawwassen - one is technically Surrey and the other is Delta. Stand at the main intersection in Tsawwassan and ask residents where they live - I bet the farm that 9 out of 10 will not say Delta. Same is true in White Rock.

The only time it matters is election time and you need to know who your candidates are.

Given that we live in a semi-socialist country, subsidy is part of the vocabulary. Households without children pay school tax, people who are not sick pay for hospitals, people that do not use transit pay for those that do, and everyone pays for infrastructure whether they want it or not - that includes roads.

Living in the suburbs, as I do, I can tell you that the transit grid sucks. It was more than adequate for my needs until the Canada Line prompted a full re alignment of the system and we lost all the commuter routes that were running from White Rock, Ladner, etc.

Canada Line might be popular but I am now driving my car to work. I am not interested in standing for my ride, or adding an additional 40 minutes each way to my commute.

If you want to start tolling me - I will spend more time working from home which I do now 2-3 times a week. That means I will stop spending money for lunch around my office, stop frequenting the shops after work, stop having dinner in town and generally spend my money elsewhere.

If you choose to make Vancouver the 'gated community' with tolls at every entrance you will see the city turn into a resort town.

White Rock is not technically Surrey, it is its own municipality. But I get your point.

Transit sucks in the suburbs because we've spent 60 years or more ensuring it sucks. It's time to change that. That takes money. How do you proposed we get it if not tolls?

boohoo, I think it starts with getting a clear idea how and where Translink revenue comes from and stop the automatic assumption that property owners should be the only ones picking up the tab. At the same time, services should be costed and reviewed so we make some either/or choices based on clear alternatives.

We look at fares and determine true costs per trip so we can decide how much we want to subsidize that bus pass.

Personally,as a property owner/car owner... I am tired of been considered a cash cow.

We also look at infrastructure as a benefit for all stakeholders - not just car drivers.

"We look at fares and determine true costs per trip so we can decide how much we want to subsidize that bus pass."

Let's look at true cost per trip for automobiles as well then. I think you'd be in for a shock at what a good deal you're getting.

"Personally,as a property owner/car owner... I am tired of been considered a cash cow."

As a property owner and car owner myself, I acknowledge I've had a good run of cheap gas, 'free' roads, etc... Times are changing.

"Personally,as a property owner/car owner... I am tired of been considered a cash cow."

I thought it was fairly well established that automobile drivers have their transportation choice subsidized to the tune of roughly $6000 a year?

and what is the subsidy to a transit user? Don't forget, the bus uses that same road.

When we look at issues in isolation, we can make any point that suits us.

As a car driver, consider the inflated insurance I pay, the taxes on fuel I pay, the parking I pay, the transit tax on my home hydro bill, the transit tax I pay on my property tax, plus the tax I pay into general revenue that gets poured into infrastructure and maintenance...

Julia:

If you think transit users are getting a better deal than car drivers I absolutely encourage you to make present that argument and the data that supports it. The Victoria Transport Policy Institute is a great place to find the information you need, but my understanding is that it's simply not the case.

If your special interest group is the beneficiary of government largesse, then that is just good social/economic policy. If someone else is receiving it, then it is a subsidy.

The way I look at it, the people out driving in peak hours are going to work so they can pay the taxes and create the wealth that is going to subsidize those who are not - if their driving is being "subsidized" then it is more than offset by what they are paying to subsidize other services they do not benefit from.

"if their driving is being "subsidized" then it is more than offset by what they are paying to subsidize other services they do not benefit from."

Pure speculation. This conjecture would never stand up to a thoughtful analysis of the real economics of transportation. If you disagree then lay out the numbers to support your assertion.

@Bill

"The way I look at it, the people out driving in peak hours are going to work so they can pay the taxes and create the wealth that is going to subsidize those who are not - if their driving is being "subsidized" then it is more than offset by what they are paying to subsidize other services they do not benefit from."

So you're implying that transit users somehow don't work in the economy, receive wages, and remit taxes? Good luck with that line of reasoning.

---

To change course somewhat from the road-user/transit-user schism, I'm just going to put out there that to me the issue seems to be distance from the core more than mode of transport. Commuting from south Surrey, Delta, etc. is costly and annoying whether by transit or car. People simply cannot expect easy commuting when they live so far from where they work. This is the real issue.

Andrew, it takes me less time to drive to my office from Ladner than it does from Commercial Drive. If I use transit - all bets are off.


Even if you dont own a car or use transit or ride a bike everything you buy comes on a road.If you own a store everything you sell comes on a truck and your customers come via roads or transit.If your employed your employer depends on the road system to supply the place you work.So how exactly do you say who benefits more?And how about emergency vehicles?

"So how exactly do you say who benefits more?"

Well, since as you point out it's all a wash in terms of the general benefits of a road system then we are left with assessing personal use. Automobiles require much more space to operate safely than buses, or bicycles, or those on foot. Putting aside personal choices about transportation, which are irrelevant to the overall issue, it's clear who benefits the most from roads -- those who are able to operate a motor vehicle. Which means a huge swath of the public are denied access to public space because they can't drive.

Chris, I think your number of $6,000 per automobile (where does this come from?) does not consider the fact that drivers represent a high proportion of the population and are effectively "subsidizing" themselves through their taxes etc. Really, the only people who have a legitimate complaint that they are subsidizing cars are those people who pay taxes and never get into a private automobile. This has to be a very small percentage of the population so I think your subsidy argument falls flat.

Nobody is denied the use of public space Chris K now your being kind of silly.Their bus they take uses it,the bike they ride uses it.And by your way of thinking you want car drivers taxed off the roads completely you seem to have an agenda that would put us back on dirt trails.

I have read this post from you a few times and I would be interested in what comprises the $6000 subsidy. Thanks.

Gman:

Roads are public space, but anyone who can't drive can't use them in the same way as those who can.

I have no interest in taxing cars off the road. They are a useful device in many circumstances. But if you are a 15 year old in a family with no car, you don't have the same access to roads as someone with a license and a car. So it's clear, we apportion this 'public' space in a way that not everyone can access it. Compared to a park, a bike lane, a bus, or a sidewalk, which anyone might conceivably use (except for the those with a physical or other constraint) roads offer a bigger benefit to car users than non-car users. Pretty simple.

"I have read this post from you a few times and I would be interested in what comprises the $6000 subsidy. Thanks."

I will try to dig up the pertinent info, but can't do so today.

cheers,

CK

Oh Chris K,now your being super silly.Roads are what make commerce possible and that benefits everybody.That includes people who cycle,walk,use transit,physically impaired,or that require emergency services. Pretty simple.And I also pay all the same taxes that a non car owner pays plus the taxes I pay to own a car.

Gman:

Please reread what I wrote. Once we do away with the road uses that benefit all (nowhere am I suggesting getting rid of roads) it's clear that automobile users get the most benefit from the road network. But the cost of admission is being able to drive a car. Not everyone can do that. In theory, roads are a public space. In practice, they are off limits to many.

Chris, we pay for that privilege through inflated insurance premiums, tax on our fuel, and tax on the vehicle itself. What is in question here is whether it is reasonable to heap on another premium to help subsidize other forms of transportation that use the very same infrastructure.

Chris K roads are not off limits to anyone,we just us them in different ways and in turn they benefit us all.You cant draw some imaginary line showing some people benefit more.If thats your line of thinking then cyclists should pay about $8000 a year for a bike lane tax.

"we pay for that privilege through inflated insurance premiums, tax on our fuel, and tax on the vehicle itself."

Julia:

This is the whole point. Drivers aren't bearing the full cost of their transportation choice any more than transit users or cyclists. All of 'us' are paying for 'your' privilege.

Here's one link that has the BC Ministry of Transportation pegging automobile subsidies in the Lower Mainland at $6.6 billion in 1991.

http://bc.transport2000.ca/learning/background/transport_2021/cost_report.html

"roads are not off limits to anyone"

If you truly believe that then I think we should have a contest. I'll stand at the corner of Cambie and Broadway. You stand in the middle of the intersection. Because if something isn't 'off-limits' to anyone, then there should be no requirement to have a piece of technology to utilize it.

You do have an up-to-date will though right? I don't want to be responsible for your next-of-kin fighting over your estate.

Chris, you are still ignoring that drivers are "subsidizing" their own costs through their taxes and economic activity. Again, only those who never get in a private car but pay taxes can legitimately claim to be "subsidizing" cars. This would be a very small number.

Bill:

It's not all or nothing. Bad drivers who cause accidents get a bigger subsidy. As do those who drive more. On the other hand, people such as myself who might only get in a car 3 or 4 times a month at most and have a clean driving record are financing the comfort and convenience of others. When I see countless 99-B Lines go by packed to the gills, I know I'd sooner see my tax dollars alleviating those peoples' transportation woes, rather than accommodating the user of single occupant vehicle.

Currently we are propping up an inefficient and costly transportation system with tax dollars. The lost opportunity of those billions, if they were spent on education, or public transit, or childcare subsidies is considerable. Once we accept that reality, we can start to make better choices. But pretending these subsidies don't exist is fruitless.

WOW,Chris thats almost as funny as that dusty old link you put up.To bad its behind a paywall or we could really yuk it up.Im dying to know how they spend 515 million on noise,air and water pollution and only 415 million on road construction?282 million on urban sprawl,whats that all about?And nothing about the benefit to commerce at all,oh well I guess it must be all bad.

Guess how I can tell you don't want to discuss the facts anymore Gman?

Cambie and Broadway. Any time you like.

You can borrow my magic styrofoam hat aka bike helmet so at least it can be a half-open coffin service. :-)

The Thought Of The Night

"So, yeah, keep on shooting... yourselves in the foot, while deflecting from the fact that someone cut you (actually us all including me) from the decision making table and it's playing one against the others It's no longer about transit. Until you admit to that..."

And this is how... after 53 comments of back and forth jabs at each other, my closing remarks from an early comment, have won its right to become the newest... Thought Of the Night.

BTW, it feels like trapped in a Chris Keam Roundabout in here! You know, they say that when God created the woman, he used a man's rib. According to Chris though... God used a bicycle spoke instead. Stainless steel, no question about that, of course.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Well Chris your wrong again,you didnt answer any of the questions I raised about your link,I assumed you had read it before you posted it,as I said its behind a paywall.As far as your attempt at a joke about my death and my families reaction at my funeral it was a fail and I cant see how such comments could possibly help your writing career.

Chris thats not the report its an excerpt from the report,you have to pay $5.50 to the GVRD for a copy.I like to read the story not just the headlines.

Welcome to capitalism Gman. Information isn't always gratis. There's two copies currently available at the VPL however. Put a hold on it and have it delivered to the library branch of your choice.

Now thats funny Chris,you offer up info and all I have to do is reserve it at the library and go down and pick it up do all that dry reading and come back here and tell you what my revue is and then you can argue about it when you didnt even read it yourself.Classic.

I'm comfortable that the summary is accurate. If you feel differently then by all means, do the work.

Thanks Glissy your right again,the good thing is Ive just caught up with myself and guess what,I have a nice cold beer in my hand.

To get back to the topic....

I think tolls are a bit of a blunt instrument. It certainly isn't fair to the person who has to cross a bridge on a short trip, while another might drive all over the City of Vancouver and never pay a toll. It's not unlike the bizarre situation with 1/2/3 zone fares on transit. Ride from Metrotown to Joyce station on Skytrain (two stops away) during the day and you have to pay for two zones because you cross a zone boundary. But you can go from UBC to Boundary Rd on the bus (far greater distance) and only pay a one zone fare. I think a better option whose time has come is distance-based insurance, with some of the money going to finance roads/transit et al. Obviously it's unpopular with the insurance companies, who benefit by charging a flat rate regardless of distance traveled, but in terms of an equitable way to apportion the costs of improving our transportation system it makes a lot of sense. There could even be a form of subsidy or compensation for commercial vehicles in the initial stages, that could be slowly removed as people start to rationalize their car use to minimize their insurance bill, which would reduce congestion and reduce travel time for commercial vehicles, balancing out the addt'l cost of insurance (if it were priced appropriately).

Chris, your suggestion deserves further consideration.

Chris, following your logic that we should be charging users of a common asset available to all taxpayers, like roads, based on relative usage perhaps we should be looking at other services, like education or health.

Someone who has four children is obviously getting more benefit than someone who has one child and is being subsidized by all those that have less than four children. Should parents be charged for education based on the number of children using the education system?

Similarly, someone who choses to ride a bicycle without a helmet and suffers injury as a result is being subsidized by all those responsible riders who wear a helmet. People who choose unhealthy lifestyles and suffer chronic illness are being subsidized by all those healthy cyclists. Should MSP premiums not be adjusted so those who engage in irresponsible behaviours pay more?

The whole question of tolls on bridges is not about equity or reducing subsidies but government trying to find another revenue stream that can be made palatable to the overtaxed public. They are finding it increasing more difficult to find a different way to pluck the golden goose without it squawking. Soon they will have to look at the alternative - reduce costs.

Bill:

If we had a problem with people having too many children in Canada, then I guess we'd have to look at ways to deal with the associated costs. But, we don't.

We do have a problem with road congestion. There are various ways to address that. I offered up an idea that seems fairer to me than tolls on bridges.

The reality is that in our society, there will always be some folks who might benefit a little more than others in certain situations. That's frustrating to be sure... when you're not that person. They may not even 'deserve' to get those benefits, for whatever reason. But, focusing on micro-leveling the playing field is un-productive and smacks of a collectivist approach that most people don't prefer.

Chris, you seem to think that just because you get by with 3-4 trips in a car per month, that is the norm and these everyday commuters need to be re-educated to "rationalize their car use". This may come as a surprise to someone who may never venture outside of Vancouver but for a majority of people most car usage is not discretionary but a necessity. You will be penalizing them greatly which means less money for other activities if you use road pricing to squeeze out the minority of trips that are discretionary.

I support the development of alternative forms of transit but these are costs that should be born by all of us since we will all benefit. Why don't we have a referendum on transit funding? If the majority votes for making drivers pay for transit then I can live with that.

Bill;

Ultimately our or other people's children support us when we are old and unable or unwilling to work. Pretty soon that will be a heavy burden for them, if Stats Can projections are right. Investment in education materially benefits everyone, not just parents and their offspring.

So you folks who haven't contributed to sustaining the population, with all the time and monetary cost that entails, be grateful to us breeders!

"Chris, you seem to think that just because you get by with 3-4 trips in a car per month, that is the norm and these everyday commuters need to be re-educated to "rationalize their car use"

Utterly not the case Bill. I know what the norm is. A huge lineup of vehicles with one driver all headed in the same direction. Ever noticed how many of those old Fifties TV shows feature Dads carpooling to work? I'm thinking of the classics like Dagwood and Blondie. That used to be the norm for many suburban families. Why don't we try to get back to that or something like it? Doesn't have to be five days a week, but with a bit of creativity we can find solutions. If you want the privacy of driving by yourself, then sadly, there needs to be a price attached to that, because as a society we simply can't afford to subsidize this luxury anymore, esp. when it has such an impact on our land prices, air quality, and bottom line.

David,

Don't get me wrong - I do not believe in charging parents for education as I agree that we all benefit from a well educated work force. My point was that we also all benefit from a transportation system that includes cars (and most of us pay for it through taxes) and to claim subsidy is spurious just like applying it to education or health.

You're shooting down everyone else's ideas Bill, but failing to provide a solution to road congestion that you think will work. How do you propose to deal with the traffic jams and tie-ups that cost us so much money? Do you even think it's an issue? I can't tell.

Yeah--carpooling is a great option. I carpool with 3 other people to work--it's cheaper, faster (with HOV), you can sleep if you're tired, talk, whatever. We pass thousands of single occupancy cars a day--that's the issue. It's not hating on cars or whatever, it's just how ridiculously inefficient we use them.

"Why don't we try to get back to that or something like it? Doesn't have to be five days a week, but with a bit of creativity we can find solutions."

In theory, I think that would be great. Unfortunately, the work place has changed since Dagwood and Blondie was published and more people seem to be required to have a car for work. Hours of work have also changed such that the 9-5 work day doesn't exist - more a common start and finish time.

So, I don't think it will just need a change in the commuter mentality per say. Rather, we are going to need more of a societal shift in expectations. Using the Dagwood example, it took us 40+ years to get here so it will take some time to unwind that.

For the change to be sustainable, we need to use a carrot and stick approach. Right now, it feels more stick (gas taxes, property tax, tolls, etc) than carrot but that could change over time.

"So, I don't think it will just need a change in the commuter mentality per say. Rather, we are going to need more of a societal shift in expectations."

Agreed, and a great place for employers to show leadership and flexibility towards their employees -- by encouraging creative ways to address issues such as start times, vehicle requirements, etc.

Having said that, the current traffic patterns clearly show that a huge number of people are still in the 9 to 5 world and there's lots of opportunities to seek efficiencies in private transport through car-pooling for at least the time being.

Chris, you are a moving target. There are two issues - what is the best way to move people throughout the community and how should any necessary investments be funded. You first advanced the argument that cars are being subsidized at the rate of $6,000 per year. Not only is that number dodgey but not true since it ignores the payments drivers make through taxes.

Now it is about reducing congestion but your solution is by pricing mechanisms to try to reduce demand which will hurt drivers who are commuting by necessity.

So, I am not shooting down all suggestions about how to reduce congestion, only your argument that the burden of cost must fall on drivers.

PS to boohoo - please pass on my sympathies to the other three people who carpool with you

Bill,

Shame, you were doing so well.

there is a huge hole in this funding model. We want less cars on the road... but guess what - if tolling them is the way to do it, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

Get people out of their car and your revenue tanks. So, ya think that is the solution long term?

Just as Vancouver what it's like to have drastically reduced parking revenue!

Obviously a shift would occur but that shift depends on the cost/benefit to the commuter. In San Francisco, they've seen minimal drops in usage, around 1 to 2% annually, after hitting tolls of $5 per bridge. We'd obviously see different drops with a $1, $5, and $15 toll.

The point is, with a small $1 toll, we can easily raise the money we need to build the alternatives that everyone is clamouring for. Once those are built, we'll be able to effectively transition commuters out of cars without the need to maintain high revenue returns on the toll crossings, although, again, based on the ultimate tolling cost, I doubt the drop would be significant.

I use a tunnel and 1 bridge to get to work. If I go downtown for a meeting it is a tunnel and 2 bridges. 2 ways. at $1 per bridge, that is $4-6 a day or if we get a little greedy $3- $12-15 a day. Multiply that by 20 days, and once a month for a weekend visit to the symphony. Low end $85 a month - High end - $255 a month or $2,880 a year.

Which bridges were you thinking of tolling?

Not wading into the back and forth debate between previous commentors. Just a thought:

I grew up in Langley. I loved it, and we drove everywhere. Now I'm a young professional and Vancouver seems like a more fun place to be right now, given my interests and where my friends live. The economics of car ownership and commuting (a well-designed toll system would be a factor) have pushed my wife and I to avoid/defer a car purchase, buy a couple decent bikes, and look for an affordable compact rental somewhere near the Canada line.

I miss driving, and I miss the space of the burbs, but I understand that we can't all have that, and you can't have the urban lifestyle AND the cars unless you have a massive income.

People get to make choices, and they don't like new costs (tolls on previously untolled routes) partly because they weren't able to factor that cost into their decision to live/work in certain areas, and to purchase or not purchase a vehicle etc. That's why I think we need to be looking at pricing, taxes, and pay-per-use schemes with a very long-term lens. That way, people can make the best decisions for themselves and not be surprised by unpredicted increases in the cost of living and working where they chose to live and work.

Paul, you need some growing up to do buddy before tackling a subject like that is clearly above your pay grade. You go to the barber. Every day. Your barber shaves a bit but not all, of your beard. Every day! You can say that you shaved, they can say that you shaved, yet you are sporting a beard and are growing a new one, but in the end you... look like shit. The tolls have been paid already. So please,stop getting ahead of yourself in the 'advice&analysis department'.

Its now been 48 hours and I see no objective data to support your claim of a $6000 subsidy per motor vehicle and in the absence of such data clearly the claim cannot be supported and is thus false.

Late to the party but I am glad to see a general agreement with the road tolling ideas, thought as noticed by some, the Paul idea could need to be refined to fit better the economic interest of the region...

The road pricing idea works, and Julia tell us why

"If you want to start tolling me - I will spend more time working from home which I do now 2-3 times a week. That means I will stop spending money for lunch around my office, stop frequenting the shops after work, stop having dinner in town and generally spend my money elsewhere."

It is exactly what achieve road pricing in addition: people spend money locally instead to pay toll and gas. and because they don't waste time in Traffic, they have time to spend money locally, and let road free of for economic contributor

In another comment Julia states that it could cost eventually mroe than a transit fare to access downtown:
"
I use a tunnel and 1 bridge to get to work. If I go downtown for a meeting it is a tunnel and 2 bridges. 2 ways. at $1 per bridge, that is $4-6 a day or if we get a little greedy $3- $12-15 a day..."

That is exactly the kind of trip we want to be be done byTransit...Why Julia don't use transit?
because according her accountability, driving is cheaper...but so doing she clog the tunnel, where companies pay truck driver to sit stand still in Traffic...and is the very reason for poor economic outcome of the region!

Again, glad to see, that apart some socialists believing that lane and queue are better than market price to regulate demand, most of the people agree with the general idea of this post (you can see a different view on my blog)


Voony, yes, you make a point from my comments, however the problem is that Vancouver will eventually become an economic wasteland. Half the taxes collected come from business - if there are no customers... there is no business paying property tax and your city budget is in the toilet.

If I work from home, Transit does not get my fare, BC government does not get my gas tax, and you do not get your public sector raise!

Voony, I don't use transit because it takes me 3 times as long to get to work... my car is already insured, I have advanced arthritis and I have no interest in standing for 45 minutes on the Canada Line.

Instead, I will operate a fuel efficient, commuter vehicle that gets me where I need to go, when I need to get there, is never over crowded, is clean and serves all of my needs nicely any time of day or night.

If Vancouver does not want my money... so be it.

Ask Penny how she likes the big hole left by reduced parking revenue. That is only the beginning.

penny ballem is another Vision holly..gan busy muddying herself inside the public money trough (300,000+++/per year for what, as we all remember the city was trashed on the 15 of June under their watch)? This is what Vision does best. Indulging themselves while hurting others and as long as they don't hurt their select affiliated people. Check it out, a 2011 years old racket. It's called the HoollyHock Bible. Phew

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