News Views: Discounted rate

TransLink has decided to offer 30-per-cent toll discounts on the Golden Ears Bridge during off-peak commuting hours.

The discounts will apply after 7 p.m. and before 5:59 a.m. Monday to Thursday, and all weekend long after 7 p.m. Friday, as well as on holidays for a six-week period beginning April 15.

This trial period is meant to determine if discounted rates will encourage more people to use the Golden Ears Bridge, as some are still driving to Mission, Coquitlam and New Westminster to access toll-free bridges to cross the Fraser River.

While it seems logical to save gas and time by taking the toll bridge, at the end of the day, it’s another bill to pay, and the only people paying it are those using the Golden Ears, so the cost to them is greater than if it was shared by all regional or B.C. taxpayers.

And the bill adds up quickly, even with a transponder.

But TransLink has bills of its own – $71 million this year for debt servicing and contractor payments as part of its private public partnership. TransLink is about $30 million short at the moment.

But if you want more people to use the bridge, doesn’t it make more sense to offer discounts during peak periods, when more vehicles are on the roads – 10 cars at $2 is greater than five at $3.

Not enough of them are using the Golden Ears Bridge now. Average daily use is about 25,000 trips, whereas projections from 2004 called for between 30,000 and 40,000 crossings every day.

Discounted tolls during rush-hour might also help reduce traffic jams on the Port Mann Bridge, not to mention emissions from idling engines.

Discounted tolls are just a temporary solution, though, as TransLink is about to embark on a search for revenue sources to help pay for expanded transit. Those sources could include road pricing, regional tolling or a yearly vehicle levy.

Maybe when all is more equal, more drivers will start using the Golden Ears Bridge.

But what’s going to happen when all the new transit infrastructure is in place? Who’s going to pay all the tolls then?

– The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News