B.C. business group calls for road tolls

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce — “The voice of B.C. business” — endorses road tolls as a way of making users pay for consuming a public service and, incidentally, keeping traffic from getting any more out of control than it already is.

The proposal is, as I read the Vancouver Sun‘s story, subject to approval by the chamber’s members at an annual general meeting.

“The chamber realizes that while this may be unpopular for many we cannot fool ourselves any longer, there is a need to look to the greater good and that greater good is ensuring that the road network facilitates the movement of goods and people,” John Winter, chamber president, said in a statement.

And it’d help make public and shared transportation more competitive with driving single-occupant vehicles on massively subsidized roads and discourage sprawl by imposing some of the public costs of distant development on the people who choose to live in it.

This actually might be less controversial in British Columbia than elsewhere, for two reasons. One is the abysmal state of traffic in the Lower Mainland, particularly along Highway 1 running up the Fraser Valley (one long road serving essentially all of Vancouver’s suburbs). Trains and HOV lanes help, but not enough.

The second is that B.C., being crisscrossed with rivers and canyons, is already heavily laden with toll bridges and fee-charging ferries. Drivers are accustomed to paying to use expensive public infrastructure, since levying these charges was the only way a lot of it would ever have been built.

Road tolls for major stretches of highway — already charged on the Coquihalla in the mountains — are just applying this thinking to the next level of infrastructure down.


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