News Views: Uneven tolls

Tolls won’t be charged on Port Mann Bridge until December, after which they will still be lower than planned, for three months to a year.

Tolls won’t be charged on the Port Mann Bridge until December, after which they will still be lower than planned, for three months to a year, depending on whether residents sign up to be part of the tolling program.

This is good for commuters who plan to use the bridge regularly. The ability to purchase monthly passes is also welcome, as that will save money for frequent bridge users.

But the same offer won’t be made for users of the Golden Ears Bridge.

Pass users on the Port Mann would pay for a maximum of 50 crossings monthly – $75 per month for regular cars in the first year, rising to $150 after the introductory toll goes from $1.50 to $3.

TransLink spokesman Drew Snider said that’s not under consideration for the Golden Ears, nor is there any plan to reduce the tolls on it, despite the lower introductory price that will be charged on the Port Mann.

It wouldn’t make financial sense, he added, even though traffic over the toll bridge between Langley and Maple Ridge is up 12 per cent from last year.

However, the Golden Ears has pulled in less toll revenue than was originally forecast since opening in 2009 and it’s expected to come up $38 million short over the next three years, adding to TransLink’s financial challenges.

It could have other challenges, if what happened Monday is any indication. A delay in stopping overnight work on the Port Mann had westbound traffic reduced to just one lane near the bridge. It took two hours to get between 192 Street and the bridge, and almost every other Fraser River crossing was plugged solid with vehicles seeking to avoid the Port Mann, except the Golden Ears.

Once tolls are no longer discounted on the Port Mann, will that be the norm every day? Will most drivers avoid the new bridge and plug the others?

The Pattullo and Alex Fraser bridges, the two most likely free alternatives, can’t take on much more. If transit service on the Port Mann isn’t sufficient to get a lot of drivers out of their cars, there’s a good chance that those two bridges will be plugged.

And with reduced tolls on the Port Mann, will even more commuters bypass the Golden Ears?

Lower tolls and discounts on the Port Mann is a cheap ploy to win favour with voters on the south side of the river, but only alienates those on the north. Only when tolls for the Port Mann increase, so they are equal around the region, will commuters finally discover the Golden Ears Bridge.

– Black Press