Earlier this month, Vancouver City Council approved a plan that will have staff developing a “transport pricing” strategy for the city’s core. (Transport pricing is just another term for road pricing or congestion pricing.) The plan is for staff to go away and work on this and then report back to Council with a pricing strategy sometime in 2022. At that point Council will look to approve the plan and it will all get implemented by 2025. Or at least that’s the plan. I remain somewhat skeptical because Vancouver certainly isn’t the first Canadian city to look at pricing its roads and congestion. Toronto has tried and failed. And so if Vancouver does end up doing this, they’ll likely be the first city in the country.
So why are they doing this, or least trying to do this? Well, if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I’ve been a supporter of road pricing for many years. Lots of old posts over here. But in the case of Vancouver, their stated goals are really as follows: 1) They want to reduce congestion and encourage people to use other forms of mobility; 2) they want to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030; and 3) they want another revenue stream that can be used to fund things like transit and active transport. Put differently, it’s about pricing/taxing the things that we want less of and then using that money to pay for the things we want more of.
Some of you might be wondering whether this is a good idea at a time when the centralizing pull of cities is being called into question. But I think it’s important to keep in mind that Vancouver thinks it needs at least five years to implement its transport pricing. We’ll be living through the roaring twenties by then. I am also a firm believer that cities are going to snap back significantly faster than most people think.
Vancouver shouldn’t do this alone, without the other municipalities that comprise the Metro region. Without a co-ordinated effort regionally, this will just shift the problem elsewhere. As well, the City would effectively be robbing the regional transit authority. CoV does not have their own transit service so it’s really more of a cash grab than anything.