“The B.C. government is getting rid of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges starting Sept. 1, Premier John Horgan has announced.”
The Premier and assorted ministers articulated the reasons they’re getting rid of tolls – effectively on all existing and new road-and-bridge projects:

  • Reduce costs for drivers
  • Reduce congestion
  • Reduce impediments to movement across the region

You can do one or two of those goals; you can’t, over time, do them all.  Less visible cost per trip, the more incentive to drive.  The more incentive to drive, the greater the likelihood of congestion.  And hence more impediment to movement – unless, of course, the belief is that we’ll build and widen more bridges and roads, which will all be ‘free’, thus continuing the fruitless cycle.
Three other impacts:

  • This is the end of the public-private partnership for funding infrastructure that requires a cash flow generated by the infrastructure funded.  (In other words, a perpetual money-machine, where debt to build infrastructure created more cash flow to generate more debt to build more infrastructure.)
  • Good luck to the ‘Mobility Pricing Independent Commission’ set up by the Mayors’ Council to explore the feasibility of road pricing.  The NDP decision today reinforces the notion that no senior government will accept a proposal that would require them to spend political capital to impose a visible charge on road users.
  • Though the government didn’t say so, I’m sure one of their goals would be to reduce sprawl in the Lower Mainland.  But as of today, that goal not only got so much harder, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an uptick in housing costs east of the Port Mann.


  1. I think the congestion he is referring to is the congestion created on other routes by drivers trying to avoid the tolls. The bridge tolls were unfair as we all know. They targeted drivers who need to use those bridges while allowing other commuters to Squamish and Whistler for example to enjoy free infrastructure Those tolls needed to be eliminated and be replaced with something more equitable.

  2. Remember that the Gateway Program reports relied on tolls for “Traffic Demand Management” in order to moderate traffic flows on the Port Mann Bridge so that it was able to remain free-flowing for a 35 year period.
    Without the tolls to manage demand (i.e. limit the number of users), it will – as you all know – become increasingly used and will be come more crowded (i.e. congested).

  3. I think many readers are in favour of comprehensive road pricing to control congestion, but we got to be honest with ourselves here. Road pricing is only going to change behaviour if there are viable alternatives, and there simply aren’t in Surrey and Langley, where public transit options are bad and terrible respectively.
    In a scenario where there are weak alternatives, road pricing is simply punishing. It makes sense to pause on the idea until road pricing will be effectively able to convince people to switch their transportation modes.
    (Basically we need to build skytrain out to Langley sooner than later…)

  4. Macro elements such as the price of a barrel of oil consistenting hovering below $50, a massive over-inventory of vehicles (both used & new, with cheap pricing), combined with a political party prepared to toss tolls (and cap ICBC cost-recovery), all to buy votes, and we have a grand new age of motoring.
    During the election I heard that the NDP were “guys from the 90s with ideas from the 50s.” Didn’t realize how true it has become. Cruising is back in style.

      1. Meanwhile VKT (vehicle kilometres travelled) dropped, both absolutely and per capita, in the transportation surveys.
        Using vehicle sales as a proxy would be like counting condo sales to measure population.

        1. The Vancouver ones. For 2013. And 2014. And 2015. And 2016. It is what statisticians like to call a trend.
          So yes, recent ones.

        2. Oh, Vancouver. Obviously the population of the city of Vancouver is important but it’s only 2.5% of the population of Canada and a quarter of what the article refers to, the region, generally known as the Lower Mainland.
          Do you have any broader statistics that include the relevant area?

        3. Why Canada? The article is about Metro Vancouver.
          I don’t have trip data or annual VKT for each municipality in Metro, but I suspect that is because they don’t collect it. Fortunately, Vancouver does. It supports evidence based decision making, helps measure progress towards Transportation 2040 targets, and is something others should do as well.
          Otherwise we would have to rely on figures from the New Car Dealers Association.

        4. With all due respect, we are talking about the provincial government and policies that affect the province.
          Vancouver is only about 1/8th of the population of the province of BC.
          Sure, people might be driving a bit less in Vancouver after all the road closures and the Liberals pushing the Canada Line forward but that’s only one small area.
          Statistics Canada reports that for British Columbia in 2012 auto sales were 176,319. Every year since sales have increased, in 2016 they were 221,772. That’s an increase of over 30% in four years.
          Perhaps you’re confusing the City of Vancouver and the Province, which includes everything from Burnaby, North Vancouver and Richmond and beyond to the Alberta border.

        5. Which tolls in other parts of the province, apart from the Port Mann and the Golden Ears Bridges which are the subject of this thread, are you talking about?

        6. VKT is a pretty course measure in stop-and-go, urban areas. It drops when congestion soars. It’s what statisticians call relational.

        7. VKT can be related to the amount of driving. That is the objective.
          Sales of new vehicles can’t be related to the amount of driving unless you adjust for vehicles retired, deduct the multiple vehicles owned by the same person, and then multiply by the amount of driving per vehicle.
          E. = Ed = Ellerson= Eric?

        8. He makes a good point. Create congestion and kilometers traveled reduce. Create gridlock and now you’re down to zero.

  5. Michael Geller‏ commented on yesterday’s interviews.
    ” Hope new #MobilityPricingCommission is listening to @CBCEarlyEdition political panel. Sounds like @bcndp supports transit instead! ”
    It certainly would be interesting if the NDP were to bring in Roads Pricing to all the commuters and all the trucking families that live south of the Fraser – and just voted for them after they promised to cancel tolls.

    1. They could allow road pricing to happen by allowing Mayor’s Council or Metro Van to choose their revenue sources without interference from provincial government – i.e drop the referendum requirement. Then Metro Van could implement sales tax or road pricing to support improved transportation options in the region. This would be much more fair than tolling certain bridges and would improve mobility for everyone.

      1. And add in a reduction to the Metro gas tax to offset a portion of the mobility pricing costs.

        1. South of the Fraser the Metro Mayors Gas Tax is increasingly moot. Point Roberts, Blaine, Bellingham, Aldergrove, etc. already all benefit from realistic gas pricing.
          Electric and hybrid vehicles also make the punishing gas tax moot.
          There would have to be substantial benefits to drivers if the NDP want to even consider Road Pricing.
          If the NDP let the Mayors bring in Pricing the populace will blame the NDP.

        2. “If the NDP let the Mayors bring in Pricing the populace will blame the NDP.”
          yes, and after having campainged on a “toll free BC” platform, that could be considered as a betrayal of biblical order.
          That is the reason a referendum is currently the only method to get this policy passed (and more importantly not get questionned in the election round).
          I also notice everywhere road pricing exists, the policy hs been directly approved by the voters, either referendum (Milan, Stockolm), or a clear electoral platform on an election level matching the tolled zone (mayor of London, Singapore)…

        3. I agree with a reduction in the gas tax. On could also introduce distance based insurance go insurance. With this model, I am sure that a majority of drivers would pay less than they do today.

  6. Absolutemente!
    Especially when Metro Vancouver defines bridge tolls as part of Mobility Pricing.
    Mobility Pricing (Metro Vancouver)
    “What is mobility pricing?
    Mobility pricing refers to the suite of fees and charges for using everyday transportation services. These include things like transit fares, bridge tolls, road usage charges, and fees for any other services involved in the movement of people and goods.
    The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission is tasked with:
    – making recommendations on ways to improve our current approach to pricing roads and bridges
    – providing advice on how to better coordinate pricing of all transportation modes and services in the region ”
    Toll Free BC.

  7. Voters have to decide: pay in time, or in money ?
    Today we pay in time. Many people are OK with it, but many would gladly pay more to get more free flow.
    There is no free lunch. Someone always has to pay. It may be the non-voting future generation, a popular vote buying technique employed by political parties, both left or right. Party now – pay tomorrow.

  8. As was pointed out during the referendum, if municipalities took better care of the money they now get they could build out the transit they need, easily.
    The majority of citizens in Metro drive for one reason or another and they do not want to be the ones always tapped on for grand expensive schemes dreamed up by the Metro Vancouver Mayors Council.
    One day there needs to be a cold discussion on efficiency in transit in Metro Vancouver. This meme that drivers must pay for hundreds of $100,000 to $300,000+ a year fat-cats living off of Metro Transit splurging on grand schemes, while not getting proper rail transit built, must be reassessed if the population needs to be in agreement.
    The other thing that the people see right through is that so much of Metro Vancouver transit dreams are based on ideology which is blatantly paternalistic, rather than providing a service. This is where tenured bureaucrats and public servants make mistakes at public expense, yet none of theirs. This waste does not and cannot happen in the private sector. The public that has to go to work every day sees right through it.
    Joe six-pack is not a dummy, as they think he is.
    Cancelling the Gas Tax while simultaneously initiating Road Pricing for every kilometer traveled would be received with appropriate cynicism because those transit crazies would be stuffing one pocket while stealing as much, if not more, from the other.
    Translink really need some management similar to YVR or The Port.

    1. Even after the TransLinkk tax, driving is still heavily subsidized in Metro Vancouver. TransLink is one of the best transit services in North America and many come here to see how it is done.
      interesting that hardly anyone complains of Telus execs earning millions per year while gladly forking over $100s per month for telecom services. Ditto for your bank execs or most other corporations.

      1. The TransLink tax should be abolished.
        All it does is make motorists feel entitled to slam transit and be smug about funding it. But they don’t. How can they if they haven’t paid their own way first? It’s just smoke and mirrors. It’s absurd that transit should be dependent on more people driving.
        There should be no reference to “transit” in whichever form of road fees are adopted.
        Get motorists to pay their own way and more people will take transit. More people will live where transit is convenient. More transit services will become self-funding as the busy routes often are.
        By subsidizing MVs we are forced to subsidize transit for it to compete. It costs the taxpayer less to move a person than a car. We are literally paying more taxes in order to increase the amount of taxes we pay.

    2. Yup.
      Yet: Assuming 20,000 driven annually with 8l per 100 km that is 1600 l of gasoline a year. At 50 cents per l that is only $800 per year for the average car for all roads or bridges used. Far too low ! Hence: bridge tolls or per km and/or congestion surcharges make total sense !!
      But: is this politically doable or will politicians merely chose the easy way out ie create more debt debt DEBT and heap it onto non-voters under 18 and the yet unborn ?

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