Mobility pricing has the potential to raise more than $1 billion per year to cover Metro Vancouver transportation and transit costs, according to a new report.
But a so-called decongestion charge to reduce demand for road space will also cost the "average paying household" $3 to $8 per day.
The Metro Vancouver Mobility Pricing Study was prepared by an independent commission chaired by Allan Seckel, a former senior B.C. government bureaucrat.
"Our research has shown that a decongestion charge has worked to reduce congestion in cities around the world and we looked at how it could work in our region," the report states. "From our analysis we have identified two illustrative concepts that, if implemented as part of a coordinated package, could reduce our region's congestion and support transportation in a fair way."
The first is through "regional congestion point charges", which would cost the average paying household $5 to $8 per day. It would generate $1 billion to $1.5 billion per year and cut congestion by 20 to 25 percent.
The second would be with multizone distance charges, which would cost average paying households $3 to $5 per day. It would achieve a similar reduction in congestion and generate $1 billion to $1.6 billion per year.
"Changing the way people pay will be politically difficult, and the issues raised by a decongestion charge are many and complex," the report acknowledges. "But the possibilities to support regional goals for quality of life, environment, and the economy are significant."
For example, one of the biggest barriers to higher densities in areas like the North Shore is the impact on traffic. But were congestion to be reduced through road pricing, this would alleviate concerns in this regard, creating the opportunity for more housing to be built to meet the needs of a growing population.
Reducing traffic congestion could also enhance air quality, which would be beneficial for those with respiratory diseases, including children with asthma.
It would also help TransLink cope with the challenge of raising a significant portion of its budget through fuel taxes as more electric and hybrid vehicles are driven.
B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, however, isn't impressed by these types of arguments and has tweeted that he can't support mobility pricing in this form.
"I appreciate the work done by the Commission, but this proposal is unaffordable and the wrong direction for British Columbians," he declared.
The report notes that decongestion charging imposes higher fees to drive at busy times of the day or in heavily congested areas.
"The charge is set so that it motives just the right number of people to change their travel habits, by using another route, carpooling, taking alternative modes of transportation (tranist, walking, cycling or motorcycle), or simply avoiding travelling during peak periods."
According to the report, it has already been implemented in London, Stockholm, Milan, and Singapore, with pilot studies underway in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Oregon.
"Although people are often skeptical of decongestion charging before it is introduced, in most cases acceptance increases once the positive effects of the charges are demonstrated, and the adaptations are not as negative as people anticipated," the report maintains.More