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Road pricing might help Surrey’s road problems

March 22, 2012

Traffic in Trondheim #2

Courtesy Eirik Refsdal/Flickr Creative Commons

More buses on Surrey’s roads will certainly be a welcome addition for many, but on their own, they won’t solve the city’s traffic problems.

But coupled with a concept called road pricing, bus make a huge difference. The TransLink Mayor’s Council appears to understand this. This week, in a letter to transportation minister Blair Lekstrom, the council asked the provincial government that the regional transportation body be allowed to investigate road pricing as one possibility for both generating revenue.

Road pricing has an added benefit: it has been shown to reduce traffic problems.

The premise is simple: ask motorists to judge their daily travel based on a schedule of prices. At peak hours of the day, using the region’s roads will carry a toll; at off-peak periods, charge a lesser toll or no toll at all.

Research has found that although buses improve the volume of people carried by a given section of road, but they do nothing to remove cars from the road. Drivers may choose to leave their car at home and take the bus, but in the long run, that road space their car might have taken is eventually occupied by someone else’s car.

Road capacity inevitably fills to the limit. Always.

That’s because drivers see no penalty for driving; the choice to take the bus is rarely made for financial reasons. If driving your car during rush hour becomes more costly, then buses will become more attractive.

The key, of course, is providing people with alternatives. As those in South Surrey will tell you – bus service in the area has been terrible for years. If they are going to be asked to drive less, or penalized for driving, there’s got to be an alternative.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. imcleod permalink
    March 22, 2012 6:17 pm

    Thanks for putting forward a constructive position. Now the tough part (heh heh): how do you guys propose to mobilize public support for this position? The mayors can’t do it by themselves. In fact, from what I can see, they’re getting clobbered. Cheers.

    • March 22, 2012 6:20 pm

      They are mostly getting clobbered on the vehicle levy, no?

      • imcleod permalink
        March 23, 2012 3:28 pm

        If you surveyed letters to community newspapers across the region, I think you’d see a distinct lack of enthusiasm for adding new bridge tolls, for example at the Pitt River Bridge. A broader road pricing scheme, like the one mooted by TransLink staff, is relatively safe as long as it remains fuzzy. In general, comments around TransLink funding tend to be negative. What’s the process for identifying and making use of public support?

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