B.C. could see alternative road pricing after elimination of bridge tolls
B.C. is getting rid of tolls at the end of the week, with motorists getting a free ride starting on Friday.
The BC NDP campaigned on eliminating the tolls on all bridges and made the announcement last Friday.
While the news is welcome for some, it has many wondering if B.C. could see an alternative form of road pricing.
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“I understand that some people are hit harder than others who have to use these bridges but we should remember all the bridges in the region at some point were tolled, so that was a more equitable situation,” said Patrick Condon, the chair of the Urban Design Program at the University of British Columbia.
“However, I also understand the politics of the situation, that the best way to get elected at the provincial level is to get rid of tolls, so the tolls in the past have been removed almost entirely before elections, so this is just more of the same.”
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Condon said an alternative to the tolls is congestion pricing, where certain parts of the region contain electronic monitors that charge you when you use those areas.
“The other one that people are talking about however is to just have a flat cost-per-kilometre that everybody pays so the more you use your car, whether you’re on a bridge or not, the more you end up having to pay since you use the roads more than other people,” Condon added.
However, this would likely be a very unpopular choice for British Columbians, but Condon said anything the government does to charge drivers for using their cars on the roads will be an unpopular choice.
Congestion pricing is used in cities around the world including London, Milan and Stockholm.
“In other locations, outside the political and local British Columbia, the most effective way [to reduce congestion] is to make the people who use cars to pay their way – to pay the full cost of using cars rather than having other taxpayers subsidize the use of the car, ” said Condon.
There are also concerns that by removing the tolls on the bridges, residents who were taking transit to avoid paying the bridge tolls may now hop back in their cars again now that the tolls have been eliminated.
“If you induce people with a cash break, if you will, to do something you don’t want them to do, which is drive, they’re going to drive,” said Condon. “You’ll see more congestion on those bridges and more demand for additional road infrastructure is what we can expect.”
“It’s also going to have an effect on decisions individual people make about where they can and should live so this adds additional fuel to the fire of people choosing to live very far away from their work… and therefore put additional strain on the region’s transportation systems.”
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