Vancouver council bans staff from work on any future ‘road tax’

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Vancouver city council has passed a measure to put the brakes on any future “road tax” in the city.

The Tuesday vote broke along party lines, with six councillors from the new ABC Vancouver majority in support and three opposition councillors abstaining. Mayor Ken Sim, who is in Qatar for the World Cup, was absent.

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The road tax ban was a key ABC campaign pledge in the October election.

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ABC Vancouver advertised heavily with claims then-mayor Kennedy Stewart was committed to bringing in road pricing in the range of $5 to $30 per trip to the city’s downtown core.

Tuesday’s motion directs staff to cease all work on road pricing “planned or otherwise or by any other technical definition or name,” unless it is part of a regional initiative.

During the election campaign, Stewart pushed back on the road tax allegations, calling them “misleading,” denying he supported the idea, and pointing out the city doesn’t have the authority to implement road pricing on its own.

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Vancouver city councillors did vote in November 2020 to ask staff to study the idea of road pricing in the downtown core in the long term as a part of its Climate Emergency Action Plan, though no formal proposal was ever drafted.

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In June 2021, the city put out a contract tender for a third-party feasibility study on a “road use fee” in the city centre, based on a variety of factors, including vehicle type, time of day and traffic congestion.

The idea of road pricing in the Lower Mainland to reduce congestion and carbon emissions has been bandied about at a regional level for years, though never put to a vote.

In 2018, the regionally-focused Mobility Pricing Independent Commission concluded charging road tolls would be the most effective tool to reduce regional congestion and could raise up to $25 million annually for transit funding, adding that a “downtown cordon” would be an effective component to such a scheme.

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