British Columbia

Metro Vancouver's mobility pricing commission starts consultations

A commission charged with exploring how people in Metro Vancouver could pay for transportation in the future is beginning talks with the public.

No firm proposals on the table yet but new revenue sources needed for transportation system, mayors say

The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission will report on its findings in Spring 2018 to the Mayors' Council of Metro Vancouver and the TransLink board of directors. (CBC)

A commission charged with exploring how people in Metro Vancouver could pay for transportation in the future has begun its work — but it will be some time until firm proposals for new taxes, tolls or other road pricing concepts are on the table.

The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission held a news conference Wednesday to launch the start of its project, entitled "It's Time" and released a poll showing a majority of people support studying how paying for transportation could change. 

"We already pay some forms of mobility pricing — such as gas taxes or transit fares — but those changes are not always applied in a fair and strategic way to help reduce congestion on our roads," said Allan Seckel, the commission's chair.

The commission will focus on "decongestion charging," which means a variety of fees are on the table, including traditional road tolls, as well as distance or time-based charges, costs for driving in certain locations at certain times of the day.

Public engagement will take place over the next few months, with preliminary recommendations likely to come in January. 

The commission is independent, and it will be up to TransLink and the Mayors' Council to accept or reject its recommendations. Ultimately, any new fees would have to be approved by the provincial government. 

Fuel tax declining

The commission released a report detailing the arguments for why mobility pricing needs to be explored, focusing on the congestion that already exists on many bridges and major roads in the Lower Mainland. 

"Congestion and unpredictability are the two biggest frustrations of moving around in Metro Vancouver," the report says, with 89 per cent of poll respondents saying they had at least some frustration with delays caused by high traffic volumes.

The report, which can be read here, argues that with increasing density and with fuel tax revenue expected to decline as vehicles become more efficient, new forms of transportation funding will be needed. 

"This is the first step in creating a "made-in-Metro-Vancouver" approach that fits the unique needs of the region," it says. 

The Ipsos Poll was conducted online from Sept. 12 to 19, with 1,002 Metro Vancouver residents surveyed.