Road tolls recommended for Metro Vancouver

Item date: 
February 24, 2012
Item context: 

This article shows how far ahead Vancouver is when it comes to considering mobility pricing and other transport revenue tools. A related CBC article quotes Transport Futures advisor Dr. Robin Lindsey.

By DON CAYO

A comprehensive road pricing scheme — tolls that you’d have to pay to drive pretty well anywhere in Metro Vancouver — is the method favoured by provincial and regional bureaucrats to finance TransLink’s ambitious spending plans well into the future.

But they have many other ideas on how to extract, over time, hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers. The proposals are outlined in a confidential report, Evaluation of Revenue Sources to Support Transportation Improvements in Metro Vancouver, that was distributed to hand-picked political and stakeholder groups earlier this month. The proposals cover the gamut — from fuel and carbon taxes to property taxes, development fees and fare hikes, as well as stiff new or additional levies on everything from parking to business payrolls, car rentals, hotel rooms and goods transported around the region.

The Joint Technical Committee, composed of senior executives from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, TransLink, and the cities of Vancouver and Surrey, ranks more than 20 proposals according to technical suitability and — as the committee members interpret the broad direction they’ve received from the region’s mayors — political desirability.

Next, for any of these measures to be adopted, the regional Mayors’ Council that oversees TransLink will have to decide which options it wants, and the provincial government will have to pass enabling legislation.

A copy of the document obtained by The Sun says the move to road pricing could be implemented in various ways, including by tolling major water crossings, tolling entry and exit points to defined areas of Metro Vancouver — possibly varying by time of day — or by tracking and charging for total kilometres driven. All these options were given high or fairly high ratings on all four criteria taken into account: the impact on people’s transportation choices, the impact on families and the economy, fairness and transparency, and the ability to generate and sustain revenues.

One table in the report estimates a toll of $1.60 per trip at major bridges and tunnels — which are not named — could raise $100 million a year. Another table suggests toll revenue could total between $100 and $200 million a year.

However, the report notes one drawback — none of these road-pricing schemes could be implemented in time to meet TransLink’s 2013 needs...

The confidential report outlines several other options the politicians are likely to consider.

Other highly ranked options are:

•An increase in the Metro Vancouver fuel tax...
•A new regional carbon tax...
•An increase in parking sales tax from its current level of 21 per cent...
•A new vehicle registration fee — either a flat fee, or one based on emissions standards, or on the owner’s proximity to public transit.
•Transit fare increases over and above the rate of inflation...
•Higher property tax with a portion allocated to public transportation
•A benefiting area tax, which would mean an extra assessment on property that gained value because of its proximity to a major transportation development...
•Project tolls, described as “charges for use of a new facility that would otherwise have been free to use.”...

A second list of six strategies is given a medium ranking based on their technical merit and political sensitivity, and thus might still be considered by the politicians.

•A flat levy per property...
•A regional sales tax...
•A parking levy on all stalls, free or paid...
•An employer payroll tax...
•Development charges...
•New charges to municipalities that see their property tax revenue increase as a result of new transportation facilities...

Finally, there are four areas that were ranked as low in potential — a vehicle sales tax, a car rental fee, a fee for goods transported in the region and a hotel tax.

FULL ARTICLE