All you have to do is drive around Metro Vancouver these days, and you will very quickly realize that transportation is a huge issue. Eventually, you will find yourself in a traffic snarl and, if you’re like me, you’ll start thinking about lost time, carbon emissions and how to make this whole system work better. As bad as traffic around here might be, at least you’re not stuck in this.
I saw a picture of a billboard on the internet, which pretty much sums up my thoughts about traffic congestion. Which begs the question: What can we do to reduce the number of cars on the road? I actually think that the question needs a bit of refinement: What can we do to reduce peak period congestion?
Follow me on this:
- For most of the day, we can get where we want on our roads without a whole lot of congestion.
- The road system is overwhelmed twice a day; from (say) 7 – 9 am, and from 3 – 6 pm.
- It’s too expensive to build a road network which can fully accommodate the peaks, so the objective is to reduce (flatten) the peaks.
- When you’re stuck in traffic, look around at the other cars. How many people are in them? In an overwhelming majority of the cases, the answer is ONE.
- Single-occupancy vehicles (SOVs) cause traffic congestion.
- The expenditures we are making as a society to accommodate the twice-daily peaks are made necessary because of the preference of the SOV commute.
Road-pricing is a strategy which has been brought up recently, as a way to generate revenues to pay for transportation infrastructure. Here’s my model for road pricing.
- Tolls on EVERY bridge/tunnel used by commuters.
- Tolls on EVERY major arterial road entering the downtown.
- An HOV lane on EVERY one of the above.
- Buses and HOVs (and certain commercial vehicles) are exempt from the toll – everyone else pays.
- Tolls are only in effect during the morning/afternoon rushes.
What will this policy accomplish?
- It rewards HOV use.
- It makes SOV users pay for the privilege of driving by themselves.
- It encourages minor shifting of working hours, thus reducing the peaks. It doesn’t punish road use by off-peak drivers (who do not contribute to congestion).
- It creates equity by charging users of all facilities, not just the new bridges/tunnels.
- It encourages transit use, thus taking more drivers off the roads, reducing congestion, and providing more value to SOV users who are paying the tolls.
And a final thought: I think I’m with the Metro Van Mayors on their opposition to the Transportation Funding Referendum. Decisions like this are too critical to the future of the region to be left to some vote-swaying by special interest groups. On the other hand, will any politician have the guts to implement an effective road-pricing system (and not some watered down, barely-working one) without some backing from the people?
Please note: Opinions expressed on the blog are those of their respective contributors only. The views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the HAVAN. Please do not hesitate to comment.