An op-ed in The Sun from Jonathan Cote, the mayor of New Westminster and chair of the Funding Strategy Committee for the TransLink Mayors’ Council.

Transportation has become a big issue in the provincial election campaign. …

However, the debate so far has focused on whether to continue charging tolls for crossing certain bridges. The B.C. NDP proposes to eliminate tolls altogether, while the B.C. Liberals want to cap the amount charged per year at $500. …

But the so-called “cap” or “scrap” policies won’t help affordability of transportation over the long term, nor improve our region’s quality of life.

… those of us who have a role in shaping the future of transportation in Metro Vancouver must agree on some key principles that should guide all of the decisions we make — independently and collectively. These principles are:

1. Mobility. Changes to our transportation network must improve mobility for people and goods in the region, by providing more choices, reducing travel times and improving the experience of users.

2. Accountability. Every dollar raised from fares, fees, taxes or other revenues intended for transportation must contribute to improvements that benefit the travelling public and that will help meet our objective of reducing congestion.

3. Fairness. Benefits of new transportation infrastructure and services, and revenues to support them, should be applied in an equitable way throughout the region. Our transportation network is integrated — all users should contribute to maintaining it.

4. Affordability.  A high-quality transportation network that improves mobility gives residents more choice where to live and work, which helps combat the region’s housing affordability challenges. At the same time, building and maintaining this network must respect taxpayers by making smart choices to keep costs low, and maximize return on investment.

5. Engagement. Metro Vancouver residents and businesses should have a say in establishing priorities and making choices about transportation improvements, and how those improvements are paid for.

So where do we go from here? An important study is about to begin later this spring that will provide recommendations on a made-in-BC solution for pricing transportation in this region, and will tackle the issue of tolling head-on. The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission — led by experts and local community leaders — will undertake extensive research and public consultation, and look at best practices from other jurisdictions around the world. …   Once the commission completes its work and residents have had their say, the Mayors’ Council and provincial government can then make decisions about the best way forward. …

During this provincial election campaign, the Mayors’ Council is asking the major parties to clarify their commitments to Phase Two of the Vision. In addition to new rapid transit projects in Vancouver, Surrey and Langley — which the federal and provincial governments recently committed matching funding for — the Phase Two plan includes replacing the aging Pattullo Bridge; upgrading the existing SkyTrain system to deal with growing demand; expanding bus service; improving HandyDART service; ongoing improvements to road conditions for drivers, and safety improvements for cyclists and pedestrians. More information is available at CureCongestion.ca.