Things I learned today: bridge tolls are a polarizing issue

Consistent with the NDP platform, today the new government announced that as of September 1, tolls for the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges would come off.

And then it got weird.

Already known, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver was opposed to the plan during the campaign, opposed now. His bulletin today merely confirmed that point.

The problem with the toll policy of the BC Liberals is that with the inexplicably high toll rate, it shifted large volumes of traffic to drive further in search of free options.

Both Alex Fraser and the Patullo Bridges saw major increased traffic flows. In the case of Patullo, this is a critical mistake. The bridge is already 80 years old and is already over utilized.

Arguably, Patullo should have been the first to be replaced and tolled at a rate far lower than what's being demanded at the other two bridges.

But that's not how things went. BC Liberals wanted their sexy showpiece landmark item, and it was Port Mann. So they passed a law that built a Crown Corporation to run the bridges and administer the toll collection.

What will this do? Well the debt drawn up to build the bridges will be rolled into the regular taxpayer supported debt. Some would (legitimately) argue this should have already be done with the chronic money losing Crown Corp. The revenue stream, as low as it was, will dry up. Folks driving extra distances to avoid tolls can resume their traditional routes (on nice new bridges with extra lanes). Pressure on Patullo and Alex Fraser will ease off.

Carbon footprint may ease with fewer traffic jams and shorter commute times.

But we do need to get going on a better thought out road pricing model..and not just for the lower mainland. Traffic jams and aging transportation infrastructure aren't unique to one region of the province.

To be clear, bridge tolls are one form of road pricing. So are 'downtown' taxes, as charged by London, UK.

Other models exist too. I'm not an expert here, but so long as it's fair and easily understood, I could defend it.

Let's hear some ideas.


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