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With few options left on the table to fund essential transportation expansion, is road pricing in Metro Vancouver’s future?

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The Mayors’ Plan laid out four possible funding mechanisms to raise revenue needed to maintain and expand Metro Vancouver’s transportation system in anticipation of 43 per cent projected population growth over the next 30 years: a hike in PST, a portion of carbon tax redirected to transportation, a vehicle registration levy and road pricing. With the BC government effectively ruling out using the carbon tax and Metro Van voters resoundingly rejecting a sales tax increase, road pricing is one of the few remaining options.

When speaking to media in response to the referendum results, mayors, including Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson, said that looking to existing revenue sources, such as raising property taxes or transit fares, was not an option. “There’s work underway by TransLink to look at ways that mobility pricing might work and a tolling system that makes sense,” Robertson said, reiterating that this solution would likely take years to implement.

So what is road pricing?

Road pricing is one type of mobility pricing. Like bridge tolls, parking fees and transit fares, mobility pricing makes the people who use the infrastructure pay for its construction and upkeep. By charging drivers for using the road network, road pricing is also used to manage congestion and efficiency by influencing demand.

The Mayors’ Plan includes very preliminary plans to implement road pricing sometime in the future. While the plan included no details describing what form road pricing would take, it estimated that charging users $0.01 per kilometer driven could generate $100 million in revenue annually.

Although the plans are extremely hypothetical at this point (the whole Mayors’ Plan is on hold in response to the referendum outcome), any road pricing scheme would also scale back the fuel tax as the system shifted towards a mobility pricing model. This would be a more stable revenue source since gas tax is falling in both absolute and per capita numbers, as vehicles become more and more fuel efficient. Road pricing essentially treats all vehicles the same, no matter how much fuel they consume.

Every cent per kilometer charged for using the road network would generate around the same amount of revenue for the system as six cents per litre in gas tax, according to the plan. With that in mind, use the app below to calculate how much you would pay to drive your commute with different levels of gas tax and mobility pricing compared to the status quo of $0.17 per litre in fuel tax.




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Erin Millar

Erin is a journalist and co-founder of Discourse Media. She has worked for publications including the Globe and Mail, Maclean's and Reader's Digest. Her work has been translated into 20 languages and published in 34 countries.

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Ash Kelly

A recent graduate of the journalism program at Langara College, Ash was awarded the Penny Wise Journalism Scholarship and the prestigious Jeani Read-Michael Mercer Scholarship. Ash’s work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Province, CBC and Mountain Bike for Her magazine.

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Colleen Kimmett

Colleen Kimmett co-founded Discourse Media and continues to contribute to projects. Colleen worked as a reporter and editor focused on food policy for the only Canadian news organization—The Tyee—to win two Edward R. Murrow awards for Excellence in Journalism. Her journalism has appeared in publications including The New Republic, Canadian Geographic and Chatelaine.

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Nelly Bouevitch

Nelly is a community engagement specialist and reporter at Discourse Media. Currently finishing her Master's at the school of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University, Nelly researches, writes and reports on sustainability and urban planning.

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Christine McLaren

Christine is an urban development journalist and a co-founder of Discourse Media. She has reported for Canadian and international media outlets, and spent three years spent three years travelling around the world as the resident writer of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile think tank of the Guggenheim Museum.

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Caitlin Millar

Caitlin is a data analyst and interactive programmer with Discourse Media. Her background is in applied biology at the Resource and Environmental Management graduate program at Simon Fraser University, where she researches how to use indices to inform the public and policymakers about complex issues like ocean health.