Metro Vancouver's congestion problem could be reduced if more bridges had tolls on them, says a new report by Canada's Ecofiscal Commission — a think tank headquartered at McGill University. 

"A small toll on a larger number of bridges makes us think about alternatives," said Chris Ragan, chair of Canada's Ecofiscal Commission. 

The report found that tolling one bridge is not enough.

"Don't toll just one bridge because then that diverts traffic from one bridge to the other bridge," he said.

For instance the report finds that the toll on the Port Mann Bridge is driving congestion to nearby Pattullo Bridge. 

Alex Fraser Bridge traffic

The report says congestion pricing would encourage drivers to use public transit (DriveBC)

"Small tolls really do make a big difference. A toll of a dollar or two does lead people to change their choices," he said. 

The report suggests Metro Vancouver apply variable pricing, which would target peak traffic times on each of the region's bridges and key roads to reduce traffic and encourage people to use public transportation.

Many challenges

Metro Vancouver has a unique challenge because of its constrained geography, says Ragan, and that is made more difficult because of the many municipalities that would need to be involved in making a decision. 

"You want to look at the region as a whole. There is a need to coordinate different parties, but if you look at a city like Metro Vancouver and see the traffic congestion and it really is pretty bad, you say, 'We have a problem to solve and how do we do it?'" 

The idea of tolling all of Metro Vancouver's bridges has been proposed in the past, as one of a range of possible solutions to deal with congestion and funding issues. But Vancouverites recently voted 'No' in a plebiscite to fund a $7.5-billion regional transportation plan.

Ragan suggests the city undertake a pilot project to tackle congestion.

"It's an experiment.You can see how well it works, and if it doesn't work as well as you designed, you can end it or redesign it," he said. 

Congestion report Canada Ecofiscal Commission

Metro Vancouver infographic on traffic (Canada Ecofiscal Commission)


To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Toll more Metro Vancouver bridges to reduce traffic congestion, says report with the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.