Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Is Now the Time to Price Traffic Congestion in Large Canadian Cities?

We Can’t Get There From Here: Why Pricing Traffic Congestion Is Critical To Beating It (59 page pdf, Chris Ragan, Elizabeth Beale, Paul Boothe, Mel Cappe, Bev Dahlby, Don Drummond, Stewart Elgie, Glen Hodgson, Paul Lanoie, Richard Lipsey, Nancy Olewiler, France St-Hilaire, Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, Nov. 1, 2015)

Today we review a comprehensive and up to date look at the state of traffic congestion in Canada and has key recommendations to implement congestion pricing in its four largest cities. The first recommends tailoring the approach to the particular needs of the city- whether it is HOT lanes in the GTA and Calgary or applying variable pricing to the bridges or tunnels that connect Vancouver and Montreal to the mainland. Provincial governments are essential to provide funding for pilot projects to get the public used to and supportive of pricing, as well as providing the legislative authority to implement them in municipal jurisdictions that often overlap responsibility for roads and corridors. The federal government as well must share the costs- what a better time than now for the newly elected government in Ottawa? The drop in oil and gas prices (which may rise again in the next few years) also presents an opportunity to generate revenue from traffic congestion pricing without inflicting undue harm on the economy and the driving public.

 cdn traffic pricing  

Key Quotes:

 “Studies for Greater Toronto, Greater Montreal and Metro Vancouver indicate that congestion imposes direct annual costs of roughly $7 billion, $1.7 billion and $1.4 billion (in 2015 Canadian dollars), respectively” “the direct annual costs of congestion for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area could rise to $15 billion by 2031 without further action.”

“In Ontario, traffic on the tolled Highway 407 consistently moves at free-flow speeds, while peak travel times on parallel unpriced routes are 50% to 200% longer. “

“one-third of the Canadian population live in areas near highways or major urban roads and are exposed to traffic-related air pollution and the consequent health risks. …Air pollution from the transportation sector affects human health, leading to costs across Canada with an estimated economic value of between $5 billion and $9 billion (in 2014 dollars) annually “


“#1: Major Canadian cities should implement congestion pricing pilot projects, customized to their local context - They can be voluntary for drivers, as in Oregon; take place for a limited time, as in Stockholm; and apply to a narrow scope of drivers, as in San Francisco. “

“Metro Vancouver has constrained geography bounded by moun¬tains and ocean, polycentric travel patterns with multiple hubs of activity,.. Ap¬plying variable pricing to each of the region’s bridges and tunnels that cross waterways would be one way to price access to key driving arteries”

 “Calgary has low density, a lack of familiarity with congestion pricing, and more localized congestion problems. .. HOT lanes could be practical to implement” “The Greater Toronto Area has polycentric travel patterns with drivers travelling between multiple hubs in multiple directions …Converting high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to HOT lanes or building new HOT-lane capacity on the provincially owned 400-series of highways”

“Greater Montreal has extensive commuting to and from the central Island of Montreal..; an exist¬ing, time-varying toll on the Autoroute 25 bridge connecting the Island.. a practical opportunity to implement variable pricing on the full array of surrounding bridges and tunnel” “

#2: Provincial governments should initiate, enable, or facilitate congestion pricing pilot projects - not all roads are municipally owned and operated. In some situations, it is provincial governments that should directly implement congestion pricing policies.”

“provincial governments should play a coordinating role. A key governance challenge in many urban areas …is the diverse collection of municipalities with highly linked and overlapping transportation corridors.” “provincial governments should provide municipalities with explicit authority to implement congestion pricing policies.” “

#3: The federal government should help fund pilot projects -Municipalities have very limited revenue sources and could face significant financial challenges in initiating pilot projects.“

“#4: Governments should carefully evaluate the performance of pilot projects, communicate the results broadly, and incorporate lessons learned into future mobility policies - Demonstrating the effectiveness of congestion pricing on a small scale can create a launching pad for creating a transportation system that gets prices right—a transportation system that fosters cleaner air and more liveable cities”

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