Dynamic tolling could be the key to ease congestion while raising money

Item date: 
November 25, 2016
Item context: 

Toronto Mayor John Tory is supporting flat-rate tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway. While this system is better than no tolls at all, Transport Futures conferences have demonstrated that dynamic/variable tolling is the best system if  objectives are increased revenue, decreased congestion and less diversion on to adjacent roads. Transport Futures founder Martin Collier and past speakers Harry Kitchen and David Levinson are quoted in this article.


... Mr. Tory told reporters on Thursday he wanted “the most technologically advanced” tolling system in the world. There are lots of good examples to look to, although the city report talks about the sort of transponder-based system Singapore installed nearly three decades ago. And Mr. Tory said he was favouring the simplicity of a flat fee, which would limit the toll’s effectiveness.

“I think a flat fee anywhere is the wrong way to go,” said Martin Collier, founder of the road-pricing advocacy group Transport Futures. “It’s wrong to just say it’s going to be $2 all day. They have to have a dynamic price.”

Numerous jurisdictions have moved to a toll that changes by time of day. Some tailor the price to traffic conditions, adjusting as needed to keep vehicles moving at a specific speed.

This dynamic pricing is intended to put a fairer price on the road, which is more in demand at certain times of day than others. And it is a way to encourage people to shift their travel patterns. This can work, as shown by a toll road in California where the most severely tolled part of the day raises relatively little money, with the high price acting as a disincentive to travel at that time.

The staff report makes passing reference to the possibility of tolling by distance, but the revenue projections are based on fixed tolls. The numbers are also based on a transponder style of system that some traffic experts consider already out of date. Some jurisdictions are looking at using GPS to track road use or testing systems that charge for all driving, a way to prevent people fleeing toll roads and clogging other routes...