Friday, March 22, 2013

Is it Time for Congestion Pricing in Canada’s Capital?

Ottawa Canada June 2010 — Nepean Point Views  2
Ottawa Canada June 2010 — Nepean Point Views 2 (Photo credit: dugspr — Home for Good)
 EAC Congestion Pricing Discussion Paper(17 page pdf, Environmental Advisory Committee, City of Ottawa, May 10, 2010)

Today we review a discussion paper coauthored by the Chair of the City of Ottawa’s former Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC), Patrick Quealey, and Bill Pugsley, the EAC lead on Air Quality-Health issues. The health cost burden borne by the public from vehicle emissions, combined with the economic cost of delays due to congestion, especially in the urban core, demands an examination of options to reduce these costs. Over the last decade, other cities such as London, Stockholm and Singapore have addressed both economic and environmental impacts by implementing a congestion charge with highly successful results.

The City of Ottawa, as the nation’s capital, has a complex governance structure when it comes to roads with three different levels of government involved, making a cross-city tolling system difficult even if this might be most effective. But this does not rule out application to roads under the City’s mandate, such as the urban core. The paper’s aim was to spark a discussion of options to consider. In 2012, City Council decided to disband many of its Advisory Committees including the EAC, but the congestion issue and its health and economic impacts have not gone away. Indeed the growing need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the major role played by transportation, as a contributor, puts the focus back on this topic.

Key Quotes: 

 "The property tax cannot handle it. Tolls have got to be looked at” – Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion on road user fees. Interview of Thursday April 8th, 2010


  • Cost of congestion for Ottawa ranges from $88 million to $246 million per year 
  •  Poor air quality resulting from congestion and vehicle emissions is linked to the increasing levels of cardio-respiratory diseases. 
  • Ontario Medical Association estimates that the number of premature deaths in Ottawa due to air pollution is 503 (2008 figures) with the greatest health risks within 100m of heavy traffic. 
  • The cost of road building and maintenance in Ottawa at over $300 million per year and increasing, one of the largest items of the municipal budget, contributes significant pressures to the property tax burden. 
  • Every 10% increase in lane mile capacity results in a 9% increase in traffic volume and vehicle emissions, compounding the problem and cost. 
  • Recent experience in mid to large cities with Congestion Pricing has shown it effective at: reducing congestion; improving traffic flow thereby maximizing economic productivity; reducing air pollution and associated health impacts; providing additional revenues for public transportation and infrastructure. 


  • City Councillors and Staff are requested to provide initial thoughts/views on the concept of Congestion Pricing for Ottawa Councillors and Staff are requested to study this concept and work with EAC and other stakeholders to provide options for what options may be viable for Ottawa and include such a study in the staff workplans for next budget year 
  • Local MPPs are requested to provide initial thoughts on the option of creating a Congestion Pricing scheme to provincial highways (417, 416 and 174) within the boundaries of the City of Ottawa for the purpose of providing additional funding to both public transit and infrastructure modernization in the City of Ottawa. 
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