If the old line about ‘publish or perish’ is true for academia, I’m deeply appreciative to Bill Boei at the Vancouver Sun for giving me a little ink at the GVRD “Future of the Region” forum at the Wosk Centre last Monday. This one was on transportation.
The provincial government’s $3-billion Gateway project will commit Greater Vancouver to a car-dominated future, but it won’t solve traffic congestion, urban planning lecturer Gordon Price told a forum on the future of the regional district Monday.
“Gateway will fail. They know that,” said Price, a former Vancouver councillor who now head of SFU’s City Program.
“They will do it anyway,” he told about 200 community leaders and local politicians.
Price challenged the meeting to find an example of a city that solved traffic congestion by building more roads, but had no takers.
I doubt the Minister of Transportation will lose any sleep; he’s heard it all before, many times, and delights in affirming that Gateway is a done deal. None of the Ministry staff even bothered attending. But some of his presumed allies revealed a scepticism that was surprising:
Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce president John Campbell insisted the Port Mann Bridge must be twinned to keep traffic moving, but agreed with Price that would be only a short-term fix.
Specifically, Campbell acknowledged, about five years before the highway and bridges filled up again. Given that it may take longer than that to build this infrastructure (and generate additional congestion as a result), the Gateway Project may come in at a net loss.
Chris Newcomb, a director of the Consulting Engineers of B.C., went further: he said his organization thinks Gateway is a mistake. He then went on to what on to discuss what was clearly the consensus of the forum: the need for road pricing. By the end, no one had rejected it, despite qualms by some about the method of imposition and who would be effected. It’s a big deal when you get truckers, chambers of commerce, consulting engineers, environmentalists, academics and politicians all agreeing that, one way or another, charging appropriately for road space is part of our transportation future.
“We agree in principle with Gordon Price that road pricing is the solution we should be advocating,” Newcomb said. “We see the present direction as being wrong-headed.”
A $1-per-trip toll on Greater Vancouver’s major commuter routes would raise $300 million a year that could be used to build transit and bicycle networks, Newcomb said.
Alan Durning, director of Seattle’s Sightline Institute, was there too. (Disclosure: I sit on Sightline’s board.)
He said road pricing can include not only the obvious — tolls — but also car co-ops, car pooling and ride-matching programs in which users pay for each trip.
Durning said car owners tend to use their vehicles a lot because they’ve already paid for them. With a per-trip pricing system, they would have an incentive to walk, cycle, take transit or share rides.
“The future of transportation may be less transportation, not more,” he said.
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