The B.C. Green party is suggesting that road tolls and distance-based car insurance be implemented to ease urban traffic congestion and fund public transit.
Although Jane Sterk anticipates that the public will instinctively react against these measures, the provincial Green leader believes pay-as-you-drive systems are the way to go.
“There has been a tradition of believing that vehicle driving is some sort of sacrosanct privilege that we have, and there’s not been a lot of education of what it costs society for us to have that privilege,” Sterk told the Straight in a phone interview.
Several mayors in Metro Vancouver favour slapping a price on road usage in order to raise money for TransLink. But with a provincial election just months away, the two main political parties aren’t expected to come onboard. B.C. Liberal minister of transportation and infrastructure Mary Polak has previously stated that it’s up to the mayors to come up with a detailed proposal and proof that the public supports road pricing.
Polak’s counterpart on the Opposition benches indicated that a B.C. NDP government would look at other transit-funding options first. According to Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains, restoring corporate taxes to 2008 levels would generate about $300 million. “It’s not chump change,” Bains told the Straight by phone.
The new Port Mann Bridge will become the second tolled bridge in the Lower Mainland starting in December, but transportation economist Robin Lindsey suggested that crossing fees may divert traffic to other bridges.
The professor with the UBC Sauder School of Business floated the idea of tolling all 22 bridges and tunnels in the region. “One thing which I also recommend is that the toll be not the same level 24 hours, seven days a week,” Lindsey told the Straight in a phone interview. “If you want to use the toll to manage traffic, reduce the peak, spread the peak, you want the toll higher when the usage is heavy.”
District of North Vancouver mayor Richard Walton underscored the challenge of bringing forward measures like road pricing. “If you’re going to introduce any kind of major change, people will never trust the political system to introduce any kind of new tax or levy because they think it’s an additional one,” Walton said by phone.