2017 BC Provincial Election · Transportation

A Stab In The Back

Metro Vancouver has a traffic problem. A year and a half ago we had a referendum that’d put more money into fixing congestion, but it got shot down in a ball of flames. Nonetheless, the region’s mayors pushed on with their ten-year plan to do what they can to improve transportation in Metro Vancouver.

And one of the longer-term components in both funding their plan and actually reducing congestion is mobility pricing.

Use mobility pricing to reduce congestion and overcrowding, improve fairness, and generate revenue for new transportation investment

Currently there are tolls on two bridges in Metro Vancouver: the Golden Ears Bridge (operated by TransLink) and the Port Mann Bridge (operated by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure). This has led to complaints, mostly from people living south of the Fraser River, that they’re unfair. They’ve also led to increased traffic over the free bridges, mostly the Pattullo Bridge between Surrey and New Westminster.

Both the Pattullo Bridge and Massey Tunnel are slated for replacement with tolled bridges, leaving just one crossing of the Fraser toll-free: the Alex Fraser Bridge. This would lead to even worse congestion on the Alex Fraser, and this is why the Mayors’ Council has been pushing for a region-wide mobility pricing scheme. It might not be tolls on every bridge, but it could be some other kind of “pay as you drive” system. Tolling bridges is easier to set up, as it uses infrastructure that’s largely already in place.

So imagine the outroar when the BC Liberals announced that, if they get re-elected in the upcoming provincial election, they would cap tolls at $500 per year. It’s an announcement that reeks of pandering for votes. It’s completely at odds with any sort of region-wide tolling plans the mayors come up with. It’s also expensive, as both bridges are losing money as it is, and now the BC Liberals are suggesting to throw even more money at them. All in the name of getting elected.

And if you were a mayor in Metro Vancouver (except for maybe Lois Jackson) you’d probably be pissed right off at the BC Liberals, who have fought against the mayors at nearly every step in their plan to make transportation in Metro Vancouver a little better. And this plan to cap tolls is at complete odds with the regional transportation plan they’ve been working hard to develop and promote.

So how can you imagine they feel after the BC NDP came out and said they’d scrap tolls entirely?

After all, the BC NDP said that they’d “put the mayors of Metro Vancouver’s transportation framework into action“. He also said “I want to make it absolutely clear to mayors and councils in all corners of B.C. that I will be on their side and not picking fights,” and “the Metro mayors have worked hard to develop a 10-year transportation plan, and New Democrats support their vision.”

Imagine you’re New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote, a big supporter of the NDP and a proponent of mobility pricing.

Imagine you’re Metro Vancouver chair and Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore, who’s been pushing to get something in place by 2022, when the replacements for the Pattullo and Massey are expected to be completed, and has said, “we said mobility pricing, dynamic mobility pricing around the region is the way to go. One version of mobility pricing is tolling all of the various bridges.”

Imagine you’re Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson who said, “We want to see a very clear step to ensure we’re on track to implementing mobility pricing.”

And imagine you’re a mayor and both the BC Liberals and the BC NDP have scuppered your plans for tolling all of the bridges. And suppose the mayors come up with a plan for mobility pricing that doesn’t involve tolling bridges, so it fits the letter of what those two parties came up with but not the spirit. “BUT THEY SAID NO MORE TOLLS” cry the drivers. And the mayors now become former mayors. Mobility pricing is now off the table, politically.

How would you feel? Stabbed in the back?

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