Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Why London-style congestion fees won’t work downtown

with one comment

Derek Moscato: The Province

Should Vancouver toll drivers who enter the downtown core or a wider swathe of the city centre? Some would say yes.

Who exactly? Anyone at all? On the record?

Ah, the silly season. The month of August, when everyone else is on holiday and the newsroom is unnaturally quiet. It gets hard to fill up a newspaper with real news (over at the Sun I think they have given up altogether) let alone find things for the columnists to fulminate over. Pete McMartin was reduced to doing a piece on not exactly naked shop assistants at Lush last week. Now Moscato is getting into a froth over something that no-one, so far as I know, has ever seriously suggested. Yes, London has it (and other cities have had it for a while now) and it looks like New York might get it. But Vancouver is not in the same league. In fact, as a commuting destination, downtown Vancouver has been steadily declining. First the industry was pushed out, then the offices. In fact more people now leave the downtown core to work in the burbs than the other way round (That is definitely true for Richmond – and was five years ago: I suspect the others are catching up but I haven’t actually looked up the data.) So the need for a downtown Vancouver cordon fee is just not there. The number of cars entering the downtown in the morning peak has been in decline for some time now.

That does not mean that we do not need road pricing. Just not a flat fee to enter downtown. We do need a more effective way to regulate road use rather than relying on queueing. As we have run out of places to store the queues, and anyway allowing people with time to waste to delay everyone else is pretty stupid. But so far the only discussion has been about the ability that road pricing would give to authorities to monitor an individual’s movements.

Moscato could have dealt with the growing problems of transportation. How rising gasoline prices have not done very much to deter drivers or reduce the demand for huge trucks to move around single occupants. How increasing spending on roads does not bring about any relief to congestion apart from a brief respite after opening day that lasts only a short while. How we have known that we should have been building rapid transit since the eighties, but we still persist in choosing overly expensive systems to serve only a small part of the region. About how reducing the amount of road space allowed for single occupant vehicles is not even on the agenda (most civilized places have been getting busy in that direction for a while).

Still it may help to fill up the letters page for the rest of the week. Because I doubt that today’s flurry of “The Valley needs Rail” letters will last much longer.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 20, 2007 at 11:22 am

One Response

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  1. Whenever I’ve heard “congestion charge” in relation to the GVRD, it has come from GVRD news releases and the like – and the reference is always to movements to and from “the Burrard Peninsula”.

    The Burrard Peninsula is not the downtown Vancouver peninsula (which is the area that would seem to make sense as the target for a congestion charge in any other metropolitan area) – but in the GVRD’s dispersed realm of commuting patterns, it is in fact the peninsula lying north of the Fraser River occupied by several the municipalities (Vancouver, Burnaby, etc.) that seem to oppose anything proposed by the municipalities south of the Fraser River.

    A congestion charge leading to the Burrard Peninsula seems designed to further fuel the fire between Vancouver/Burnaby and the south of Fraser municipalities.

    ron c.

    August 20, 2007 at 5:35 pm


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