Monday, January 17, 2011

Congestion and Road Pricing in Canada

Stuck in traffic -Our rush hours rank with the world’s worst (Macleans, Jan. 11, 2011)

Also discussed here: The Canadian Case for Congestion Pricing (Pollution Free Cities, Aug. 19, 2010)

And here: Congestion Pricing Discussion Paper (17 page doc, City of Ottawa Environmental Advisory Committee, May 13, 2010)

Today’s review article looks at the state of the congestion in Canada’s larger cities and a solution- congestion pricing-  which has been successfully adopted in cities such as London, Stockholm and Singapore. Improvements in technology (GPS, satellites) have led to more cost-effective tolling applications, to the point where some countries (UK, Netherlands) have considered tolling country wide.

Key Quotes:

“Statistics Canada reports the average time spent commuting to and from work nationwide increased from 54 minutes in 1992 to 63 minutes in 2005.. As bad as the commute is for drivers, it’s much worse for public transit users: 106 minutes, versus 63 minutes by car …commute distances have increased 10 per cent in a decade”

“Not only are there more cars and trucks on the road..but we’re using them for more things: driving the kids to sports, where once they would have walked. Total daily trips in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area rose by 56 per cent between 1986 and 2006.”

“Countless empirical studies have shown: add more road space, and traffic simply expands to fill it”

“Raise the price of using the roads, and people will reduce their demand for it ..with less congestion, other costs fall. Not only are travel times reduced, but so are all those other ills of congestion, from accidents to pollution.”

“Stockholm. Beginning in January 2006 .. charged a fee, varying according to traffic volumes: from $1.50 in off-peak hours, to twice that much at peak. As in London, traffic flow into the city centre was reduced by more than 20 per cent. Transit use soared; there were fewer accidents; vehicle emissions declined”

“Singapore.. took things a step further in 1998. Not only are tolls collected at entry points, but also along major arterial roads. Every vehicle on these roads must carry a card on its dashboard, much like a prepaid phone card”

“any revenues from tolls can and should be used to lower taxes: perhaps even the gas tax. To be persuasive, the offset would have to be guaranteed, immediate, and 100 per cent”

“the very act of tolling roads would, by itself, make public transit more competitive, since the per-person cost of the toll would be much less for buses than for cars (and none at all for subways and surface rail).”

“transit vehicles speed up when tolls are imposed, because there are fewer cars on the road. This attracts more travellers to transit. In response, transit operators improve service by adding routes and increasing frequency. Due to economies of scale in transit operations, the cost per passenger falls, perhaps allowing the operator to lower fares. Ridership increases further, and so on.”

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