Lots of coverage in the past few days on the removal of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges, plus the implications for mobility pricing.  Here are my thoughts as reported in various media:
From the Vancouver Sun:

By removing tolls, more people may choose to drive

British Columbia’s new NDP government will scrap tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges on Sept. 1, but motorists should enjoy the free ride while it lasts.
That’s because a commission is investigating mobility pricing options for transportation, which could include bridge tolls and other road usage fees.
The NDP government is now championing the phrase “Toll Free B.C.” — and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena denied in an interview Friday that this slogan would be temporary given the work of the mobility commission. “What the mayors are looking at is mobility pricing, which is not tolling. It is looking at how people move,” she told Postmedia News.
But Gordon Price, an expert on all things urban, said the reality is that motorists will, of course, be paying for road infrastructure again under any mobility pricing system. A new system would likely look very different, though, and could be more equitable than merely taxing bridge users south of the Fraser Valley.
There are also other inequities in the local transportation system, Price noted, such as paying for ferries and transit. “Is a Compass Card really different from a TReO card?” asked Price, a former Vancouver city councillor and former director of the Simon Fraser University City Program.
The key will be to find a solution that doesn’t politically alienate drivers (a.k.a. voters), who have come to expect that roads are an essential service funded by governments. “We have been raised on the free road. It is called a ‘freeway’ for a reason,” Price quipped

From the CBC:

Does loss of Lower Mainland bridge toll revenue pave way for mobility pricing?

Gordon Price, a fellow with the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, says mobility pricing has evolved beyond tolls.
“Bridge tolls are very 20th century,” he said, adding that having tolls connected to a particular infrastructure piece is an outdated system.
“More and more we’re going to be thinking about transportation as a range of choices, and yes at this point you’ll individually pay for them [whether] it’s a bike share, car share, car rental, car use, taxis, transit,” he said.
He says governments could find ways to offer transportation services to commuters that would bring in tax revenue and cover maintenance costs as well.
“If I can buy a monthly service, that will give me all of these choices in one integrated package, very simple, seamless pricing, that’s very desirable.”
From News1130:

By removing tolls, more people may choose to drive


LOWER MAINLAND (NEWS 1130) – The province’s move to scrap tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges will change your commute. But it’s still unclear what it will mean for traffic flows and volumes in our region.

By removing the tolls, Gord Price with SFU’s City Program believes more people will choose to drive.
“If you build an urban region that’s designed for the car, you get more cars,” says Price. “If you build it around transit, Vancouver an example built around the electric streetcar back in the day, still functions pretty well with a more balanced system.”
So while in the short term congestion may drop at the Pattullo and Alex Fraser bridges, the increased overall traffic could create new choke points.
“The idea of having a free road just encourages more traffic,” says Price. “Eventually there is some kind of congestion point, whether it’s the kind of mass congestion that occurs at rush hour, or it moves the traffic further along to the next congestion point.”
Price also believes this move will lead to more people moving to the suburbs now that they won’t have to pay the toll.


  1. Unclear if the removal of a toll sets a precedent to not introduce per km or decongestion charges?
    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. EVs or folks incl trucks that gas up in US pay zero. Far too low !
    Hence: bridge tolls or per km and/or congestion surcharges make total sense !! But: will politicians play ball or rather use the easy way out and create more debt instead ?

    1. A smart politician could say that foreigners would get the free ride we don’t charge per usage in a area rather than targeting people who register vehicles in BC or metro Vancouver. That could be used to have smarter transportation pricing.

  2. Vancouver should have a London type downtown congestion charge paid for by people who Don”t live in C O V. & can’t vote.

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