Are tolls the answer to reducing traffic congestion in Kelowna?
KELOWNA–According to Stats Canada, Kelowna is the most car dependent city in the country, with the highest car ownership per capita.
It’s an issue related to urban sprawl, and it can lead to some pretty annoying traffic congestion.
Reducing people’s reliance on cars is something the city says is a priority.
“There are a number of benefits,” says Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran. “Firstly getting cars off the road for the environment. We know that it’s also a way to keep our residents healthy, which then keeps health care costs down and we also know that people who ride their bikes or walk are actually more prone to spending their money in local businesses.”
But one professor of economics is encouraging Kelowna’s mayor and council to consider getting people out of their cars by hitting them where it hurts — their wallets.
“This is always very unpopular,” says Martin Farnham, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Victoria, “but in the long run I would argue the city of Kelowna should go to the province and argue for traffic tolls.“
Farnham says if drivers have to pay to use city roads, more funds will be available for infrastructure like public transit and bike lanes. He says it would also influence public behaviour.
“If you charge people to use the roads then you get people making decisions to live closer to town. You get people deciding to car pool or take the bus. You actually get people out of the cars.”
Kelowna’s mayor says drivers don’t have to worry about paying tolls for now; though it’s not an idea that can be ruled out completely.
“I think it’s certainly an option but there are many out there so it’s not anything council has explored to this point,” says Basran.