TransLink is trying to find a fair way to pay for infrastructure and reduce congestion. (THE NEWS/files)

NEWS VIEWS: Levied

We need our roads. We need more transportation infrastructure and transit.

People complain. Politicians get scared. Nothing gets done. Such is the transportation system in Metro Vancouver.

For more than 15 years – since the creation of TransLink and the last time the NDP was in government – this region has been debating how best to pay for much-needed transit and transportation projects in the region, all the while costs keep increasing.

A commission tasked with figuring out how mobility pricing should work in Metro Vancouver has now outlined congestion point or distance-based charges as two possibilities.

The Independent Mobility Pricing Commission, set up by the mayors’ council on regional transportation last June and made up of business, union, academic and community leaders, was charged with determining with how the public should pay for the improvements.

Congestion point charges would hit when a car drives by a specific point. That could mean bridges or tunnels, although no locations have been identified yet. Such charges would likely only be in place at busy times of day.

Distance-based charges would be per kilometre, based on the location and time of day that people were driving.

Maple Ridge council has already declared that, unless viable transit options exist, road pricing won’t work, because outlying communities could end up paying more than their fair share, as Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows commuters did with bridge tolls.

Maple Ridge had highest no vote in the 2015 referendum, which defeated a proposed 0.5-per-cent increase in the provincial sales tax to pay for transit improvements – a clear message that any sort of tax increase better be shared evenly.

The charges have to be fair and affordable or commuters will find a way around them just as they did the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges. Transportation Ministry figures show traffic went up nearly 30 per cent on those two crossings once the tolls came off.

The final report is expected to be released in April. Online public consultation on the two options will run from mid-February to mid-March.

Much flak is expected. We need our roads. We need more transportation infrastructure and transit.

TransLink long ago proposed a levy that would have collected $75 a year per vehicle, but the province reneged. We’re not trying to bring back the levy, but it at least carried a semblance of fairness.

But taxing properties, as is done for education an other services, is as fair and simple as it gets.

Something has to get done.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News

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