Editor: Tom Zytaruk’s angry rant and questionable reasoning on mobility pricing is not helpful. There are circumstances where road pricing would be a fair and useful tool for reducing congestion and financing ongoing improvements to the system. We need a rational, information based conversation on what those circumstances would be and how we could achieve them.
Mr. Zytaruk’s first piece of faulty thinking is to say that a road pricing scheme is paying for roads already bought and paid for. This is clearly false. As we all know, the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges are not paid for and the NDP decision to scrap the tolls transfers that debt to the government.
The debt servicing costs on the Port Mann Bridge alone is $200 million per year. That comes at the expense of health care, education and other important government priorities. There have been other recent large projects such as the South Fraser Perimeter Road which are still being paid for. And the system always needs upgrading. The Patullo has to be replaced and who knows, maybe the Second Narrows Bridge will need work soon.
Clearly it was unfair that those tolls applied only to the Port Mann and Golden Ears. It was also bad policy because it simply pushed traffic away from the tolled bridges and onto untolled bridges, notably the Patullo. As a consequence, the toll revenues were not even covering the cost of the two bridges in question. A region wide system would be more fair and more sensible.
Mr. Zytaruk tries to make the case that road pricing is directed at the poor. The fact is that lower income people tend to rely on public transit. The poorest people are those who can’t afford to buy and maintain a car. Or what about seniors who are too old to drive and depend on HandyDart. But public transit is not only inadequate for us out here in Langley, it is expensive.
During the debate over the bridge tolls, it was pointed out that a person who has to commute regularly on one of those bridges was paying $1,600 per year. To commute by public transit from Langley to downtown Vancouver costs $2,000 per year. And some drivers have the option of finding a passenger or two to share the expense.
What is not mentioned often is that every person that gets out of their car and onto public transit reduces congestion for the remaining drivers. So drivers benefit from improved and more affordable public transit. That cannot be said in the other direction.
Nevertheless, road pricing will be a hard sell for us out here in Langley under the current circumstances. A history of poor community planning has left a legacy of urban sprawl that makes us car dependent. Households need a car for every adult member of the household just to carry out our daily activities. With our population spread out over such a large area, provision of adequate public transit is very expensive compared with more densely packed areas like Vancouver or Burnaby. Before we can accept road pricing we need reasonable alternatives.
Expensive or not we need a major investment in public transit. Also, with the rapid growth occurring in Langley we have an opportunity to reverse some of the legacy of urban sprawl by planning compact, densely populated neighbourhoods where folks can walk to meet many of their daily needs. With convenient and affordable public transit between neighbourhoods we can access further needs.
So before listening to non-constructive angry rants by people like Mr. Zytaruk, get out and talk about a positive vision for Langley. There is a municipal election going on. Local candidates would be glad to talk to you about these ideas. Find out what is in store for Langley in the Metro Mayors’ 10-year transportation plan. Mayor Jack Froese is our representative on the Mayors’ Council on transportation.
We know that light rail from Surrey is part of the plan but what about more buses. What is in store for us there? Or how much will our HandyDart service be improved? If you don’t think it is enough, get out and lobby for more.
Langley Township is the fastest growing municipality in Metro Vancouver, so a major investment in transportation is warranted in the Mayors’ plan.