British Columbia

Steer motorists toward distance-based pricing, UBC expert advises

A distance-based charge would be the most effective way to introduce mobility pricing to Metro Vancouver's roads, a UBC expert believes.

When it comes to mobility pricing for Metro Vancouver commuters, government faces a hard sell

The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission put forth two options in a recent report: distance pricing and fees at congestion points. (CBC)

A distance-based charge would be the most effective way to introduce mobility pricing to Metro Vancouver's roads, a UBC expert believes.

As the region's population continues to grow, mobility pricing is being increasingly discussed as a way to reduce traffic congestion — but it remains a hard sell for the government, with drivers already paying a range of taxes and fees.

Robin Lindsey, a professor at UBC's Sauder School of Business, is looking at how a skeptical public could be convinced that mobility pricing in Metro Vancouver is a good idea. He's in the middle of writing a paper about the subject.

There are two main suggestions in the recent report from Mobility Pricing Independent Commission, Lindsey told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn. 

"One is point charging and, yes, that is tolling by another name," he said. "The other possibility is to implement road pricing in a more comprehensive way in what's called distance-based pricing."

A small charge, between one to two cents per kilometre, is a better way of approaching mobility pricing than putting a toll at specific congested areas, Lindsey said.

Unlike tolling, he added, it doesn't divert traffic to other routes and so is a more efficient way of combating congestion.

"You get better utilization out of the infrastructure," he said.

Added cost to drivers

For many commuters, though, the idea of paying more to get to work is not appealing.

Craig Cherlet lives in Maple Ridge and commutes to Vancouver by car every day.

"The whole point of moving out and into Maple Ridge is to have a bit more space and more affordability," said Cherlet. "All of a sudden, the affordability starts getting eroded by the cost of commuting."

Between paying for gas, insurance and vehicle maintenance, he said, getting to work is already pricey.

"I'm open to the idea, but just adding more cost doesn't always help the situation," he said.  

Lindsey argued that British Columbians are already indirectly paying for the roads through other means like taxes, vehicle registration fees and fuel surcharges.

Fuel taxes, he said, are becoming a less effective way of generating revenue as fuel efficiency improves and electric vehicles become more popular.

"Some of the other monetary costs could be eliminated," he said.

With files from The Early Edition

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