This is why Vancouver literally cannot afford to keep doing what it has been doing

Feb 27 2018, 2:52 am

Here’s the deal: We have too many cars on the roads at certain times of the day.

During rush hour, we’re spending too much of our valuable time stuck in traffic – either on the bus or in our cars. This means we have to get up earlier than we need to just to get to work on time, and we’re getting home later than we’d like. It’s an unpleasant circle.

And since Metro Vancouver is growing rapidly, the infrastructure we have is not built to handle the pace of growth. This means we could literally run out of road space. If it gets to this stage, adding more lanes is not a viable long-term solution. We may not have the resources to add adequate public transportation options into the system.

So, what can be done about it? Well, we do have a fuel tax. It’s $0.17 per litre of fuel purchased to be exact. Unfortunately, this type of mobility pricing doesn’t address congestion during rush hour.

Also, with the increase in fuel-efficient and electric vehicles, revenues from fuel tax are declining. With these declining revenues, it’s going to be even more difficult to fund new and upgraded transportation infrastructure and maintenance. However, there’s a tool that could actually help combat congestion and give you back more time in your life – decongestion charging.

We spoke with Fearghal King of the It’s Time project team to find out more about decongestion charging and what the potential future outcomes could be if it’s not implemented in Vancouver.

What is decongestion charging?

Decongestion charging is a form of mobility pricing where users pay for the roads they drive on during congested times and locations. We’re exploring what this could look like in this region using congestion point charges (like cordons or congested hot spots), as well as distance-based charges, where you would pay per kilometre.

There are already many forms of mobility pricing in Metro Vancouver. These include transit fares, auto insurance, fuel costs including fuel taxes, parking fees, bike sharing (Mobi), car sharing (Car2Go, Evo, Modo, Zipcar), and ride-hailing services (taxis, and could include services like Uber and Lyft in the future).

What is wrong with the current situation in Vancouver?

I wouldn’t say that there’s anything wrong with how we are paying to use the roads now, but the challenge is that none of these methods are designed to combat congestion. This is where decongestion charging could really make a difference. The It’s Time project is exploring how decongestion charging could be part of a package of ways that would allow us to both reduce congestion and fund transportation, and what options there might be for reducing or replacing the fuel tax if decongestion charging is implemented.

What happens if decongestion charging is not implemented?

Without decongestion charging in place, we can expect to see congestion worsening over time. In fact, by 2030 we estimate that time spent in congested traffic could worsen by as much as 33%. This is despite significant investments in transit and road infrastructure.

Also, certain transportation revenue sources that have been traditionally stable over time (like the fuel tax) are likely to be less reliable in the future. A change to more fuel-efficient and electric vehicles on the road is of course great news for the environment, but not necessarily great news for maintaining revenue sources like the fuel tax. This revenue is very important for transit and road investments.

Why should I care?

Decongestion charging can save you time, raise funds to support transportation choices, all the while achieving benefits like reducing greenhouse gases and increasing road safety with fewer cars on the road.

How can I learn more and have my say?

An online engagement survey was launched on February 26, and we encourage everyone to take part. You can also learn more at

Your voice counts!

Check out It’s Time on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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