Since it may result in ‘pricing the ride’, and thus plunge motordom into a user-pay system, the road use charges proposed by Metro Vancouver’s Mobility Pricing Independent Commission in their final report, issued today, will no doubt raise anguished howls of outrage.
But the proposed charges, along with more (and better) alternatives like transit, are crucial to building a region that works. Without these charges, the future will be even less functional than it is now.
Read, if you dare, the Metro Vancouver Mobility Pricing Study: Findings and Recommendations for an Effective, Farsighted, and Fair Mobility Pricing Policy (55 pages)
Price Tags welcomes your thoughts – for your consideration, here’s an excerpt from Part 1. Context.
Metro Vancouver is growing, bringing lots of new opportunities.
By 2040 there are expected to be around a million more residents and half a million new jobs. The regional growth strategy Metro 2040, and the Regional Transportation Strategy define the pivotal role of an efficient, affordable, and sustainable transportation system in giving everyone access to the opportunities growth will bring.
Density brings many advantages. Being closer makes it easier and faster to get together, increasing opportunities for trade and innovation and increases our quality of life. A region that is more spread out means longer trips to get together and more time spent in traffic.
But our rising population and its demand for goods and services will bring more vehicles and a need to manage traffic growth. This will keep denser urban areas as attractive places to live and work. The regional growth and transportation strategies include a plan to explore demand management strategies, such as road usage charging. This is why the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation and the Board of TransLink established the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission (‘the Commission’).
Traffic congestion is a growing threat to those opportunities.

Imagine if those million new residents bring with them as many cars as Metro Vancouverites own today. There could be more than 600,000 new vehicles trying to find space on our already crowded streets. Congestion is already having an impact on our quality of life, our health and our safety, and our region’s economy. Estimates of the economic cost of congestion to our region range from $500 million to $1.4 billion every year. That means the costs of congestion are one of many things contributing to our region’s challenges with affordability.
From the Executive Summary:


  1. I think it’s a great idea.
    But I think I am saying what we all think: It’s not going to happen. Not this time. This is a harder sell than the sales tax. The ball is in motion, those “howls out outrage” have already begun, and the NDP can’t afford the political capital.
    The report says that the proposal probably can’t be watered down: “the charges needed to achieve such a reduction [in congestion] are likely to be understood by many as high. Lower charges that might be considered more affordable can generate revenues but produce little or no congestion benefits. The paradox is that the lower the charge, the more it can be described as a “tax grab” – only at relatively higher charges do the congestion benefits start to appear.”
    I hope that I am wrong, but I believe that it will become increasingly clear that this proposal won’t be implemented. I think the goal then should be to play the long game. Indeed, I imagine this is part of the plan. If you’re going to fail, proposing high charges may be a good thing: it can reduce the shock and give you room to manoeuvre next time around.
    I don’t expect this to succeed, but the need is only increasing every day. During the referendum, I thought the Yes side exaggerated how bad things could get. Within a year I thought they had understated it. I hope this proposal lays the groundwork for the moment when when mobility pricing becomes politically possible.

    1. I think the only way to sell this is to make it revenue neutral. IE use the revenue to make our first 25k of income tax free.

  2. The narrative is all wrong. For all the whining I’ll bet it’s still a minority who are often stuck in serious congestion and they know they could often avoid it for free by travelling at different times – however inconvenient that might be. The majority do experience congestion but not enough to “rob” them to subsidize smelly transit riders.
    They really believe they are already covering their costs and subsidizing transit too. Until they understand that they are doing neither there is no hope in getting them to agree to pay more. In the unlikely event they see through the delusion they will fight hard to keep it that way anyway. There are a million excuses.
    Would people buy less food if it cost more? Not likely unless they’re financially desperate. So most people don’t see the connection between pricing and road demand because to them there is no real difference between needing to eat and needing to drive.
    You’ll never convince many drivers. Mobility pricing will be implemented only when the majority do not drive. As long as the majority do they will boot out any government that attempts it.
    Vancouver might be successful in going it alone if it were allowed to. Yet it has the least need to. The jurisdictions where congestion is the worst would be the least likely to go for it.

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