Stephen Rees's blog

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

From freeway to feeway: Road congestion and tolls

with 11 comments

Pete Wightman in yesterday’s Vancouver Sun

Pete Wightman is a graduate of the master’s degree program in public policy at Simon Fraser University.

In research on Metro Vancouver’s road congestion, I investigated whether pricing structures could reduce congestion and queuing in our most gridlocked areas.

By applying market mechanisms to the George Massey Tunnel and Alex Fraser, Pattullo and Port Mann bridges, I found that we can all waste less time in traffic and have more efficient roads.

It is well written and well thought out article. I will bet the the research document is worth looking for too, if you have time. I am  sorry that my recent relocation has reduced the amount of time I have available for this blog, so I missed this yesterday.

Of course, most people, including Kevin Falcon and Gordon Campbell know for a certianty that this would not work here, just as they know that barriers on SkyTrain will work. Having really thorough and objective research based on actual facts is not good enough to sway either argument – but nice try and I hope Mr Wightman does not become as cy niccal as the rest of us about public policy making.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 19, 2008 at 11:18 am

Posted in congestion, Economics

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11 Responses

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  1. I’d say Mr. Wightman, as a fresh graduate, has lots of energy to spend before he becomes a cynic. I really like his market-based approach … which almost treats traffic management like a science experiment.

    Would that Gordo et al would have treated Gateway with the market rhetoric they constantly regurgitate. The market approach would not have considered freeways as anything even close to an efficient model.

    It’s a shame that politics has gotten to the state where freeways will “lower emissions” and “improve the economy.” They really do have a bridge to sell us.


    June 19, 2008 at 12:28 pm

  2. Yes it is a very good idea but unfortunately in Vancouver most of these ideas are suggested in advance of the transit infrastructure being put in place. I would go further and include the Burrard, Oak, Granville Street Bridges to mix as well as the Arthur Lange Bridge. Vancouver residents have lots of existing transit options.


    June 19, 2008 at 4:29 pm

  3. I think one needs about 300 km. of ‘rail’ transit to make congestion charging work. The real question is, what form will it take.

    1) SkyTrain at $100 million/km.
    2) LRT at $20 million/km.

    If a proper ‘rail’ alternative is not in place, congestion charging would not last the next election.

    Malcolm J.

    June 19, 2008 at 7:06 pm

  4. I just got home after sitting on Hwy 1 for 2 hours after ONE truck stalled on the bridge backing traffic up to Langley all afternoon. Hours of time and fuel wasted, thousands of people inconvenienced because of ONE person’s inattention.

    Does that sound sane to you?

    Tolls may be a good idea, but the fact remains that there are very few alternative options for getting around the region if you aren’t in a car – no amount of tolling is going to change this fact. How many road river crossings are there? Now compare that to the number of crossings that are independent of road traffic and unaffected by stalls, congestion, etc.

    I can count one, the Skybridge. I would suggest that until this hideous imbalance is corrected, no number of road-based solutions will do the trick.

    We need a better option, preferably one that is not susceptible to fuel costs, congestion, disruption due to accidents, or driver’s whims. To me this means we need trains – their own ROW, one professional driver for many people (as opposed to one amateur for each vehicle), not dependent (so much) on fossil fuels, etc etc…

    Anything else; tolls, widened highways, TDM, anything – is just so much noise along the byway.

    My $0.02 on that.


    June 19, 2008 at 7:15 pm

  5. Amen!


    June 19, 2008 at 7:43 pm

  6. Heh, living in Japan was like taking the red pill for transportation, it’s ruined me for North America! 🙂


    June 19, 2008 at 7:50 pm

  7. Good points Corey—Or should I say Mr. Anderson

    grant g

    June 19, 2008 at 9:04 pm

  8. Corey, I think we’re all ruined. That’s why we’re all avid readers of Stephen’s blog. We’ve either visited or lived in places with much better transportation systems and still can’t fathom why it doesn’t happen here in BC and North America, in general.


    June 20, 2008 at 12:50 pm

  9. Yeah, I think it’s the WHY of it all that really sticks a barb in me.


    June 20, 2008 at 1:14 pm

  10. The problem with finding a solution is the people voicing their opinions often are from Vancouver and don’t represent the situations of those that are stuck in the traffic woes. They all think that traffic goes from Abbotsford to van city. Then they also don’t understand that there is no real transit outside of Van city.

    Go down Granville or Oak and you will follow 3-5 buses stacked in a row. Those poor Vanouverites have to wait all of about 3 mins in rush hour to get on a bus. Heaven forbid they have to miss a couple due to the buses being full!

    Us living outside the Van city must rely on cars for the most part and forget skytrain as you have to deal with missing several trains (at 5-8 min intervals) before finding one that you can remotely fit on.

    Tolling in general won’t work. Offices downtown are having enough trouble finding workers and more you increase costs of getting there the less likely of finding people. As well one has to remember that much of the traffic does not run down #1 to Vancouver city.

    As a worker in Surrey I am the only one I know that commutes downtown. If you follow the Port Mann traffic most goes Surrey side to Coq, Poco, Maple Ridge, New West or Burnaby at the furthest. In other words adding transit to downtown won’t resolve that traffic movement.

    the other thing that scares me is that as transportation costs rise (tolls, gas price etc) the number of people talking about removing their kids from sports increases. This will only increase the crime rate. So isn’t it worth spending a few dollars to double the Port Mann vs raising your insurance rates, building on to prison cells and tieing up the courts further then they already have.

    Paul Sparrow

    June 20, 2008 at 3:25 pm

  11. Agree. Congestion is getting worse all the time. Day trips for us into downtown are getting longer and longer.

    I think that LRT is good solution given the price to extend skytrain, however the cost per person to ride is too high. Clearly someone has to pay for the system to be built and maintained, but transit fares are just too high.

    [Moderator’s note: this comment has been editted to correct some typos and remove a URL promoting a commercial service]

    Vancouver Limousine

    September 2, 2008 at 11:15 pm

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