British Columbia

Road pricing best way to reduce vehicle emissions, concludes UBC study

Opportunity for Vancouver to be a leader in sustainable transportation, says UBC professor

Clare Hennig - CBC News

October 05, 2017

Road pricing helps reduce the overall number of cars on the road and improves air quality, a UBC study has found. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Pay-per-use road pricing is the best way to reduce air pollution from traffic, a new study from the University of British Columbia has found.

The traffic management strategy charges drivers for using the roads, and, so the argument goes, the extra cost encourages people to think twice before getting behind the wheel.

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Alexander Bigazzi, a UBC transportation expert and civil engineering professor, said a combination of road pricing and low emission zones leads to better air quality, because, overall, it leads to fewer cars on the road.

"The important thing about these strategies is they reduce, not just the amount of congestion, but also the amount of driving," said Bigazzi.

Bigazzi said his research, which looked at more than 60 studies on the topic, showed that people are more likely to take public transit or reduce the number of their trips when they have to pay to use the roads.

Growing in popularity 

Road pricing strategies have taken off in several European countries but haven't yet been embraced in North America, Bigazzi said, but he thinks it's just a matter of time.

"We are very used to what seems to be free transportation systems for driving but that is increasingly changing," he said.

Although the extra cost for road users is not popular when first introduced, Bigazzi said, his research found public opinion in the European cities with the measures becomes more positive over time.

"Opposition always wanes as the project goes on," Bigazzi said. "People start to realize that there are real time-savings."

Bigazzi said he will be presenting the research to policymakers and municipalities around the country.

"I do believe that road pricing is coming to Vancouver and many cities in North America," he said. "This is a real opportunity for Vancouver to be an innovator and leader in sustainable urban transportation strategies."

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