Reducing traffic congestion and funding future improvements through mobility pricing
In early June, the Mayors’ Council and the Board of TransLink announced the creation of an independent commission on mobility pricing. This non-partisan, 12-member advisory body is tasked with recommending how to fund future improvements to Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation system.
The objective of the commission is to find a solution that will reduce congestion, improve fairness (in terms of burden and benefit to all users), and support continuous, long-term investment in transportation.
Reducing congestion and funding future improvements
The concept of mobility pricing is not new. It has been successfully explored in London, Stockholm, Singapore, and Oregon to resolve issues similar to those we face in Metro Vancouver.
Simply put, mobility pricing is how we pay for moving around our region; it includes everything from road-use charges like tolls, fuel taxes, and permit or insurance fees, to transit fares and charges for taxi, bike and car sharing services.
The goal of mobility pricing is twofold: reduce traffic congestion by incentivizing alternative modes of transportation, and establish fair and reliable funding sources for future improvements.
How does mobility pricing work?
Mobility pricing has been used for decades by airlines, in the form of seat sales, and by transit systems around the world, as a way to manage demand for services. The cost to use those services is more when they are in high-demand, and less during off-peak times.
Mobility pricing already exists in the Lower Mainland — it’s the fuel tax that you pay each time you fill your gas tank and it’s the tolls you pay when you cross the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges.
But the current pricing system is flawed because it’s not consistently or fairly applied and it’s not sustainable.
Consider, for instance, what will happen to the fuel tax – currently the primary source of revenue for transportation upgrades — as more people leave their cars at home and ride transit or cycle to their destinations. There will be less fuel consumed and ultimately less revenue for funding critical future improvements. It is a flawed long-term funding option.
A fresh approach to solving traffic and transportation issues
If we are going to improve transportation in our region, we require a comprehensive approach and proper funding.
The costs and the benefits need to be fairly distributed across the region — which is why an independent commission is necessary. Municipal biases need to be set aside, and a system-wide review must be conducted that considers every option for mobility pricing, with the ultimate goal being a made-in-Metro-Vancouver solution.
No matter what the commission recommends, one thing is certain: we need to change our current way of thinking about transportation. Continuing to spend on infrastructure expansion and upgrades will not solve our transportation woes.
We can’t build our way out of this.
A fresh approach that doesn’t favour one municipality over another, and that anticipates the needs of our changing society, is what we need.
Learn more and get involved
Over the next several months there will be opportunities for you to share your thoughts on mobility pricing with the commission. We encourage all of you to get involved.
We welcome lively debate on our blog. However, to ensure that conversations remain respectful and positive for everyone, we review all comments prior to publishing them, to ensure they meet our community guidelines. Those that do not will not be published.