Delta mayor calls road use fees unfair

Lois Jackson prefers bridge tolls or car levy to mobility pricing, which would hit South of Fraser drivers harder

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson has concerns about the fairness of a possible road pricing scheme

Charging a per kilometre fee to drive on Metro Vancouver roads would be unfair to residents South of the Fraser who typically drive longer distances.

That’s the concern raised by Delta Mayor Lois Jackson over the proposed use of mobility pricing to help pay for the transit expansion plan adopted by Metro mayors.

“We on our side of the river have a lot longer distances to go,” Jackson said.

“We’re going to be penalized to get to Vancouver or Richmond where most things take place. We’re going to pay more because we have to travel further.”

Jackson said she’d rather see all bridges tolled at a low rate instead, but conceded it’s difficult to design a system fair to everyone.

“I would even rather see a vehicle levy than charging by the number of miles you drive.”

Jackson was absent from the June 12 mayors’ council vote on adopting the plan because a family member was in hospital.

But she said she supports the plan, even though it offers Delta little beyond an eventual B-Line express bus route on Scott Road.

“We have to do something,” Jackson said, adding she is taking a regional view of the benefits from the proposed $7.5-billion expansion, which would bring a light rail network to Surrey, in addition to region-wide bus upgrades and a SkyTrain extension on Broadway.

“If good things happen along King George Boulevard or Fraser Highway or in White Rock or Langley, it’s going to be good for Delta and good for everybody south of the river.”

Most other mayors strongly support the use of mobility pricing to fund TransLink over the longer term.

They say time-of-day road use fees are the only payment mechanism that can also reduce congestion by shifting some demand away from peak times.

But it’s unclear whether a 2015 referendum ‘Yes’ vote would give authority to implement such a system as it would still be undefined.

Port Coquitlam Mayor and Metro board chair Greg Moore argues one successful referendum should be enough – mobility pricing shouldn’t have to pass a second one later on.

But mayors council chair Richard Walton doubts that would fly with the province, because voters wouldn’t know exactly what they’d get.

It’s expected to take several years to flesh out how a comprehensive road pricing system would technically work and what rates would be charged.

An appendix to the mayors’ plan suggests a two cent per kilometre mobility pricing rate might be applied to generate $250 million annually. It also suggests road pricing be paired with a reduction in the gas tax, which has waned as a useful source of revenue due to more efficient vehicles and some drivers buying gas outside of Metro.

The concept depends on the province agreeing to reform its current tolling policy and allow such a major policy shift.

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