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Road pricing, the Referendum and the Future of the Region

September 23, 2013

Looks like it’s Motordom Morning on Monday.

There’s an op-ed in the Sun by Patrick Jones, the executive director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, laying out the case for charge-as-you-drive universal tolling : Road pricing key to sustainable transportation funding

(And I get an upgrade to ‘professor.’  I ain’t – but thanks for the quote.)

As Simon Fraser Prof. Gord Price told a local radio station earlier this month, “we can’t have another million people in this town and not have a transportation system that can serve them.” Without adequate funding, “there will be no new transit in this region for a decade, or possibly a generation.” …

Road pricing expanded and improved transportation networks, relieves congestion, cuts tailpipe emissions and reduces vehicle wear and tear for everyone on the road. By putting more money into the system, road pricing can free up desperately needed funds to make transit and bike lanes more efficient, and therefore more popular.  …

As attractive as it sounds, charging cars to pay for transit and bike lanes may not be the most winning formula.  Most likely the money would go for things like this:

As North America’s second-longest cable-stayed bridge, and the widest bridge in the world, the new Port Mann Bridge is a beacon of progress for not only Canada, but also the world.

At the end, though, Patrick nails it:

The debate rests on ensuring we have transportation networks — both roads and transit — that are safe and reliable and meet the global challenge of moving safely and smarter — and Vancouver is at the forefront of this conversation.

Actually the conversation hasn’t really started.  I’m running into well-informed people who haven’t even heard of the referendum, or given any real thought to it.  And yet the future of the region is now in play.

Will South of the Fraser – Delta, in particular – be transformed into an industrial port to serve a larger vision: making British Columbia one of the world’s most significant carbon-transfer points.

Three factors suggesting it might be happening:

Dramatic new highways and bridges, notably the South Fraser Perimeter Road, spearing into the heart of Delta’s farmlands, stimulating development and speculation.  Tsawwassen Mills shopping centre is becoming a reality, and there are options on agricultural lands west of Highway 17, anticipating warehousing and intermodal port uses.

The ALR is up for review.  So if land in Delta was ‘freed’ up, the Massey Bridge might serve the same function the original Port Mann did for Surrey in the sixties: extending the suburbs.

Then of course, the transit referendum: if the voters say no to new money for more transit, then TransLink is crushed and the tax room is available for more road expansion needed to handle the growth transit would otherwise serve.  So no new taxes, no new transit, no ability to shape growth in the region.

Will this generation fail to pass on the region that was being shaped by the leadership of local government in the 1970s?  Given the emotional implications when people begin to see the actual conversion of the green zone to industrial development and sprawl, we can be sure there will be a ‘conversation.’

Road pricing may, as Jones suggests, actually be the way into this.  It is completely unfair for the Massey Bridge to be tolled so only those south of the Fraser have tolled bridges.  That should put the question of a more equitable mechanism up for serous consideration.

On the other hand, the Province may cover the costs of a P3 arrangement to build the bridge using general revenue.   That means, ironically, wealth  generated by the fossil fuel development in the North – LNG, bitumen, coal, oil – will then be used to maintain Motordom in the Lower Mainland.

More ironies to come.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim permalink
    September 23, 2013 12:43 pm

    Jordan is dumping on Transit again: http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/Opinion+TransLink+nest+redundancy/8940116/story.html

    • mezzanine permalink
      September 23, 2013 4:22 pm

      I hope people read Ken Hardie’s response below on the sun web page.

      ——–

      “Funny how four (or is it five) government audits and annual reviews by Standard & Poors and the Dominion Bond Ratings Service all disagree substantially with these ‘findings’. The provincial legislation gives TransLink the authority to set up subsidiary companies and contracts in order to drive efficiencies. Almost every subsidiary ends the year under budget almost every year…something that those individual Boards and management teams achieve (at a cost that’s way under the amounts saved).

      Also important about this structure is the fact that if one of these individual companies or contractors are impacted by a labour dispute, the others keep operating. That’s why SkyTrain, West Van Transit, West Coast Express and a number of community shuttle routes were still in service during the strike at Coast Mountain in 2001. ”
      ——–

      I think he’s retired now, but Ken Hardie is still fighting the good fight. :-)

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