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Exploring Regional Tolling Options

Mar 15, 2016

Metro Vancouver is growing. As a result, we need to provide the means for people, goods and services to connect with one another in a sustainable and responsible manner. Our local economies depend on it, our communities benefit from it, and our daily lives improve dramatically when transportation systems are fast and efficient.   

Transportation has always dominated the conversation in Delta. With the results of the 2015 Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite, it is apparent now more than ever that we need to explore different avenues to tackle congestion and fund transportation and infrastructure projects.

Projects like the Port Mann Bridge have attempted to bring funding to our road and infrastructure through selective tolling, but in response, drivers have navigated towards other free alternatives, including the Alex Fraser Bridge. Bypassing the Port Mann Bridge’s tolls and avoiding the ongoing construction on the Patullo Bridge has dramatically increased congestion on the Alex Fraser Bridge, creating capacity issues and frequent gridlock. As Figure 1 shows, the Alex Fraser Bridge experiences the second most volume of any bridge in Metro Vancouver.

Figure 1. Source: TransLink 2011 Metro Vancouver Regional Screenline Survey
*Daily traffic volumes are based on an average fall weekday in 2011.

On the other side of Delta, the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project is attempting to provide relief by replacing an aging tunnel that has reached vehicular capacity and is nearing the end of its useful life. The new bridge would provide much needed transit, cycling, and pedestrian improvements, and would improve air quality on either side of the crossing. With the Province intending to fund the replacement bridge through user tolls and both Surrey and New Westminster Mayors supporting the tolling of a Patullo Bridge replacement, traffic will likely divert to other free routes that are already experiencing extraordinary congestion like the Alex Fraser Bridge. With this in mind, the Province is committed to receiving feedback to review its current tolling policy.

In response, Mayor Lois E. Jackson has suggested the possibility of tolling all major regional crossings at a reasonable rate, well below the $3.15 per crossing for small vehicles on the Port Mann Bridge. A nominal amount of $1 for all vehicles on all bridges would be more fair and equitable. This price drop is not insignificant and could greatly impact Metro Vancouver residents’ accessibility to neighbouring communities without being a large financial burden.

Delta understands that with this type of funding model there will be capital and ongoing operating costs that would factor into the net revenue. However, based on the estimated annual traffic volumes, as presented in Figure 1, this option could potentially generate close to $300 million in annual gross revenue. This suggested tolling method can provide the initial financial support for transportation infrastructure until a long term funding strategy can be developed. This approach would also eliminate the incentive to avoid bridge tolls, allow equitable use of infrastructure, and potentially spur sustainable transportation methods throughout the region.

With congestion becoming a prevalent issue, steps need to be taken towards rectifying our transportation systems. Mayor Jackson believes regional tolling is an idea worthy of exploring through public discourse.