For WhomThe Road Toll, Tolls

Yup, road tolls will spell political suicide for any politician who wants to take up the crusade for road pricing.

But Price and Harcourt are , in part, the architects of the TransLink fiasco, simply because they pretend to be transit experts, but in reality know very little about Public Transport, pontificating on hugely expensive and poorly planned LRT lines in Vancouver and Surrey, that will do little to ease congestion, but will greatly increase taxes.

When Harcourt was Premier, he cared little for public transit, but later glad handed the capacity constipated and very expensive Canada Line.

Price, a former Vancouver Councillor, loves the now obsolete, yet expensive SkyTrain system, especially when it is in an even more expensive subway in Vancouver.

Sorry, plebiscite failed because the public has lost faith in those running it and the tax and spend dreams of parochial regional politicians.

It seems both Price and Harcourt still have not learned the lesson and whine on and on about a subject they know little of.

Now, if the public were to be given an affordable transportation plan, serving the region, including maybe 200+ km of rail transit (The Leewood Richmond/Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain would account 130 km, yet would cost less than half of either the proposed Surrey LRT and the Vancouver SkyTrain subway) in the next decade, maybe, just maybe, the public will approve of road pricing. Under the current regime that operates TransLink like a fiefdom, building R/T lines strictly for political vanity, no, nada, never to road tolls.


Road tolls called too risky after referendum

SFU City Program director Gordon Price and former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt spoke Wednesday at a Surrey Board of Trade leadership dialogue on the future of transportation.  - Jeff Nagel / Black Press

SFU City Program director Gordon Price and former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt spoke Wednesday at a Surrey Board of Trade leadership dialogue on the future of transportation.

ai??i??Ai??image credit: Jeff Nagel / Black Press

Metro Vancouver mayors are foolish to even consider pushing ahead with road pricing as long as Premier Christy Clark insists any new tax for transit in the region must survive another referendum.

That was the advice from SFU City Program director Gordon Price at a Surrey Board of Trade panel discussion Wednesday on the future of transportation.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, who was also speaking on the panel, listed some form of mobility pricing as the likely method to deliver the regional share of funding for Surrey’s $2.1-billion light rail network.

Metro mayors and Transportation Minister Todd Stone have said they intend to study road pricing as an option.

But Price predicts disaster if mayors persist with that revenue strategy in light of the July referendum defeat of a 0.5 per cent sales tax for transit.

“It’s a tax on something we’ve previously taken for granted to be free,” he said of a pricing scheme that could toll not just bridges but major roadways as well.

“The emotions on that are going to require extraordinary leadership and maturity. Don’t even start unless you’re prepared to engage with that.”

If road pricing were to be pursued, Price said, it would make sense to test it with tolls on Highway 99, coupled with much-improved transit, that he said could together solve the problem of congestion through the Massey Tunnel without the multi-billion-dollar cost of a new bridge.

“We saw what happened when we put a toll on the Port Mann Bridge ai??i??Ai??it didn’t get the traffic,” Price said. “If your issue is congestion, there’s a dramatically cheaper way to do it that won’t have all the negative impacts on the delta.”

The province has committed to building the 10-lane Massey bridge and has begun preliminary design work but there’s no price estimate or confirmation yet it will be tolled.

Both Price and former NDP premier Mike Harcourt denounced the referendum as a mistake.

“I think you’re elected to lead and make decisions,” Harcourt told the business audience in Surrey. “You don’t have referendums or plebiscites to decide on transportation infrastructure.”

He said TransLink must either be given an integrated place in a restructured Metro regional district or be shut down.

Price said the provincial government must reconsider its insistence on referendum approval for any new tax apart from property taxes, which mayors rule out.

Otherwise, he suggested, the region will remain mired in a funding standoff, while congestion and transit service worsens, and development continues without a coherent plan that meshes land use with transportation.

“If the premier doesn’t clarify there will not be another referendum, folks, that’s the end of regional planning for the foreseeable future,” Price said.

While Hepner plans to finance Surrey’s light rail lines pending a regional source, Price said the reality is the light rail operating costs will end up higher as a result and force transit service cuts elsewhere in the region.

Harcourt said he supports Surrey’s light rail plan but cautioned it needs to be integrated with good bus service feeding into it.

“You’ve got to add a few hundred buses too.”

The former premier from 1991 to 1996 urged decision makers to “be bold” and not underbuild future transit lines as happened with the Canada Line, where some stations are too small to handle four-car trains.

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