Opinion

Editorial — A step in the right direction

A plan to reduce tolls on the Golden Ears Bridge during off-peak hours has a great deal of merit.

TransLink is instituting a six-week experiment which will shave about 30 per cent off most tolls, evenings and weekends. The full tolls will only be charged from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, starting on April 15.

This is a long-overdue recognition that motorists are getting walloped in the wallet (particularly with high gas prices), and is a worthwhile experiment to see if lower tolls will indeed boost bridge traffic. Traffic levels on the bridge have not met expectations since it opened, which is at least partially due to a less-than-robust economy, but is also due to the fact that many people are being squeezed everywhere they turn.

In the case of the bridge, they have free alternatives — the Port Mann and Mission bridges.

A reduced toll may get some people to attempt using it for their morning and evening commutes, especially if one occurs before or after the peak times. They will then know if the Golden Ears Bridge will be a viable alternative when the new tolled Port Mann Bridge opens.

This temporary reduction in bridge tolls needs to be followed by other initiatives, by all levels of government. The provincial government needs to have BC Hydro cut back on its expenditures, to significantly reduce a planned 50 per cent boost in electricity rates over five years. BC Ferries’ rates also need to be frozen or even rolled back.

The provincial government needs to give serious consideration to reducing the HST rate as soon as possible, and needs to make that commitment in writing before the HST referendum is held. Otherwise, the tax may well be voted down.

The province must also commit not to bring in the next boost to the carbon tax in July, and consider rolling back that unnecessary tax.

Municipal governments are squeezed financially this year because of a four per cent wage boost for their employees. But they must commit to minimal tax increases of no more than two per cent next year, and also commit to working towards a new contract with no wage increases.

Governments need to start realizing how their individual actions accumulate, to collectively make it very tough for many families to get by.

TransLink has taken an important first step.

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