GVRD rules out tolls, for now
Directors, stung by public reaction, say they will keep investigating the 'road pricing' option
William Boei, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, February 24, 2007
GREATER VANCOUVER - The Greater Vancouver Regional District will keep looking into "road pricing" to manage transportation demand, but directors made it clear Friday they won't be slapping new tolls on roads and bridges any time soon.
Several directors were spooked by public reaction to news stories about the district considering region-wide tolling and other measures to control demand for road space.
"I'm starting to get e-mails and phone calls on this," Coquitlam Mayor Maxine Wilson said. "We're upsetting residents needlessly and we're causing them to lose confidence in the board."
"I've had millions of calls," said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, adding that the wording of a motion for the GVRD to "consider" road pricing "made it appear imminent, and that means there has been a big public reaction."
Corrigan said the GVRD should "tell the public and the press we are not making any decisions at this point. We are simply learning about what the options are and how those will affect our sustainability for the next 30 years."
"I trust we don't believe that because we investigate something, it's going to happen," said GVRD chairwoman and Delta Mayor Lois Jackson. "We're looking out 25 and 50 years, I'm assuming."
The motion made it onto the GVRD board's agenda after consulting engineers and other participants in a public forum held in Vancouver last year on the region's future came out strongly in favour of road pricing measures to keep a lid on traffic congestion.
But Langley City Coun. Gayle Martin said the issue would play out very differently in the Fraser Valley.
Martin said south of the Fraser River, tolls are seen as a way to keep people from driving from the suburbs into Vancouver.
"Well, how the heck are we supposed to get in there if we can't use our cars?" she asked.
Vancouver Coun. Suzanne Anton, who is also a TransLink director, responded: "TransLink will be pleased to provide a rapid bus service from Langley to SkyTrain, and then the most excellent, excellent SkyTrain service from Surrey into downtown Vancouver."
Anton acknowledged there is "a big political price to pay" for talking about tolls, but said it is necessary to discuss the options.
"Let's have a good report on it," she said. "Let's see just what we need, what some of the options are, and then let's debate that report. It's not something that's going to happen tomorrow."
TransLink chairman and Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said he didn't understand why tolling had to be on the GVRD agenda at all, since the board went on the record last year saying road pricing should be investigated.
"All we've done, to my mind, is cause a great deal of alarm," Brodie said.
He scoffed at suggestions that there is broad public support for road pricing and asked directors to imagine what the reaction would be if there was a proposal to toll the Lions Gate and Ironworkers Memorial bridges, or the Lougheed Highway, Kingsway and Marine Drive.
In the end, the board approved a motion that asks GVRD staff to provide an analysis of road pricing, rather than to "consider" road pricing.
The board did not debate a suggestion to re-brand the GVRD as "Metro Vancouver," but asked staff to look into that possibility and report back.
© The Vancouver Sun 2007
i agree with the decision. until there is adequate public transit, tolling should not be in place.