A long road ahead

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The Mayors’ Council outlines ambitious plans for regional transportation investments in Metro Vancouver

Pricing is the primary tool used to allocate scare resources across the globe. As the number of vehicles using the roads increases, so does congestion, delay, and user dissatisfaction. Next year, residents in the Metro Vancouver area will be asked to vote in a referendum on new transportation investments and funding, including a strong commitment to mobility pricing. The income will support $7.5 billion of improvements in the regional transportation system, which is struggling to respond to the continued pressures of growth and available finance.

“Congestion is a significant regional issue. It is bad at the moment, but will only get worse if not addressed,” says Chris Quigley, senior planner at TransLink.

Like all developed countries, money for the transportation system in Metro Vancouver, including roads, is partly reliant on a fuel tax which is in decline as cars become more fuel efficient and people drive less. At the same time, demand for spending on transport serving growing parts of the region is increasing, reflecting widespread feelings that these areas have seen years of under-investment.

“The regional Mayors have outlined a clear vision on what they think the transportation priorities are for Metro Vancouver,” explains Quigley.

The vision

The Mayors’ Council strategy aims to reduce congestion, increase liveability, and provide residents of Metro Vancouver with greater transportation choices.

“We know we can expect more than a million new residents to arrive in Metro Vancouver over the next 30 years, so we need to take action now by investing in our transportation system. The delivery of this vision is a big step toward solving the problem of congestion”, says Mayor Richard Walton, chair of the Mayors’ Council. The vision further calls for a new near-term funding source and the introduction of comprehensive mobility pricing within approximately five years.


While the specifications and technical provision for any new mobility or road pricing framework are still to be determined, TransLink is keeping track of progress in other parts of the world.

“We’ve been looking closely at developments in Oregon and Washington, but also at areas such as Singapore. As we move forward we may look to expand these discussions into working groups,” says Quigley, suggesting that the open source model being constructed in Oregon may well become utilised elsewhere. “We have to develop a pricing approach that is appropriate to the Metro Vancouver context – both the transportation and land use patterns we have, and the policy objectives that drive the need for solutions.”

Public Attitudes

There will always be resistance to change, no matter what the need or level of urgency. Though at a local level there has been positive feedback from the media and the general public. The existing tolling regime in the region is seen by many as sporadic and unfair to drivers. Many welcome the opportunity to discuss new ways for managing the road network and financing an integrated transport system. Whether this remains the case is yet to be seen.

“We have clear direction from the Mayors’ Council that pricing on the roads and the transit system is a key tool to manage demand and meet other policy objectives. Exactly what this looks like is still unknown and it is important that we work with all partners and stakeholders to determine together what is viable for this region,” adds Quigley. With any luck, TransLink will be able to avoid the kind of push back that has defined other road pricing schemes in recent times.

The Investment Plan Calls For:

•    A new tolled four lane Pattullo bridge
•    Maintaining and upgrading 2,300 km of the major road network
•    New light rail transit lines in Surrey
•    Broadway corridor millennium line extension to Arbutus in Vancouver
•    11 B-Line routes, providing 200 km of new bus services
•    50 per cent more SeaBus services
•    400 new buses to add to the existing fleet of 1,830
•    Investments in new cycling routes

As Metro Vancouver’s Transportation Authority, TransLink works with partners across 23 local governments to provide a regional transportation system that moves people and goods. It is TransLink’s mandate to support the regional growth strategy, environmental objectives, and the economic development of the region.

Article taken from the November 2014 issue of RUC Magazine

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