British Columbia

C.D. Howe estimates congestion costs Metro Vancouver up to $1.2B in hidden costs

Policy Analyst Ben Dachis says less congestion means more personal connections and a stronger economy

March 11, 2015

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The deadline to submit ballots in Metro Vancouver's transit plebescite is Friday May 29 at 8 p.m. PT (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)
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Metro Vancouver transit riders have been promised more services if the upcoming Congestion Improvement Tax plebiscite, also know as the transit tax vote, passes with a yes vote later this year. (Alan Stewart/CBC)
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Metro Vancouver mayors have promised more rapid bus service such as the 99 B-Line bus, if the proposal passes. (Alan Stewart/CBC)
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Cyclists ride the Dunsmuir bike lane over the viaduct. (Alan Stewart/CBC)
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Promises also include Broadway corridor rapid transit, and a Millennium Line tunnelled extension to Arbutus Street within the next 10 years.
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The mayors' plan also includes 50 per cent more SeaBus services - every 10 minutes during peak hours, and 15 minutes the rest of the day. (Alan Stewart/CBC)
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Replacing the Pattullo Bridge is also on the voting ballot. (CBC)
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Mayors have also promised more West Coast Express services: 10 additional fleet vehicles and one new locomotive. (Alan Stewart/CBC)
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Taxpayers are also being promised maintenance and upgrading of the Major Road Network (MRN) to keep people and goods moving.
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Some 200 more kilometres of B-Line routes are also promised, including 11 new limited-stop services that can be faster than driving. (Alan Stewart/CBC)
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Upgrades to the Expo, Millennium and Canada Lines are also part of the plan, including 129 additional fleet vehicles and stations upgraded to meet growing demand.
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The mayors' transportation plan also includes light rail between 104 Avenue and King George Boulevard in the first 7 years and Fraser Highway to Langley Centre in the first 12 years of the plan. Ballots will be sent out March 16, and votes must be in by May 29, 2015. (City of Surrey)

Congestion in Metro Vancouver has a hidden cost of between $500-million to $1.2-billion according to a new study from Clean Energy Canada and policy research organization the C.D. Howe Institute.

"What the C.D. Howe Institute study looks at is what are the hidden costs," senior policy analyst Ben Dachis told CBC Radio's The Early Edition. 


"When people decide that congestion is just too bad to even start travelling, and rather than going downtown to go to a restaurant or going to see a sports game — a Whitecaps game or a BC Lions game — they decide to stay at home."

Metro Vancouver residents will soon be voting in a plebiscite to fund the expansion of the region's transportation and transit infrastructure with a 0.5 per cent sale tax. (CBC)

Dachis said less congestion would also lead to higher wages, with every worker making up to $950 more per year.

"What we see around the world is when people are able to have more connections, meet more often in person, that often leads to higher wages," he said.

The study supports a "yes" vote in the upcoming transit plebiscite, which will ask Metro Vancouver residents to support a 0.5 per cent sales tax to pay for transit improvements.

Dachis said it's unclear what the implication of a "no" vote would be.

"It's difficult to say what the long term implications of where people are going to live are, but the nature of transportation infrastructure — enabling more connections — that is something that is going to benefit society."

Metro Vancouver's mayor's council on transit has estimated the costs of congestion at $1-billion by 2045, which Dachis said only takes into account visible costs to the economy, such as extra time and operating cost of vehicles and the costs of crashes and emissions costs.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation and Canadian Federation for Independent Business have both said they oppose the transit referendum, citing concerns over TransLink's spending.

To hear the full interview with Ben Dachis, click the audio labelled: C.D. Howe Institute report finds hidden costs of congestion.

Clean Energy Canada infographic

This infographic was commissioned by Clean Energy Canada to promote the findings of its joint study with the C.D. Howe Institute,' Tackling Traffic: The Economic Cost of Congestion in Metro Vancouver.' (

C.D. Howe study

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