B.C. government taking wait-and-see approach on road pricing recommendations
Premier John Horgan wouldn’t speculate on whether his government would approve or reject any proposal by Metro Vancouver mayors for road-pricing tolls around the region to reduce congestion and pay for transportation upgrades.
“I’ll await their requests for action by the government before I take any speculative action,” said Horgan, hours after the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission said it was studying “congestion point charges” as a possibility for its final report.
“We’ll wait to see what they come up with, but I haven’t formed an opinion on what those outcomes would be,” he said.
The independent commission said congestion point charges is “an umbrella term that includes a system of point charges (which involves levying fees on vehicles when passing a defined point or location, such as a busy section of road, a bridge or tunnel), and cordon charges (which involves levying fees on vehicles when passing through entries and/or exits to and from a defined area).”
Such a system could promote equal charges throughout the Lower Mainland, while also reducing congestion at key choke points.
But Horgan, who campaigned and delivered on a promise to remove tolls from the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, expressed some concern on the costs of such a plan.
“I want to see what they come back with and how it fits in with our affordability plan for British Columbians,” he said.
“I don’t want to see inconsistent policies come forward from other jurisdictions.”
The commission will further study the options and engage with the public before a final report is issued in the spring.
Would first need regional approval
Being a new fee, Horgan’s government would have to approve any mobility pricing approval proposed by the commission.
But first, it would have to be endorsed by the Mayors’ Council — no sure thing, according to Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read.
“In Maple Ridge, we’re pretty afraid of what mobility pricing might look like and the impact on households already struggling with affordability.”
“We’ve got a lot of people who work in the trades, businesses who commute around Metro Vancouver to service clients, and we really need to understand more about mobility pricing … before we can understand what our response will be as a community.”
New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté, who has been a proponent of mobility pricing, agreed that regional equity would be key.
“If the region is going to get the public to buy in, those issues are going to be addressed,” he said.
“We can all agree that looking at policies that can look at some of the congestion challenges is important … but if we can’t solve the affordability and fairness question across the region, it’s going to be very difficult to go ahead.”