Toll A-L-L Bridge Crossings etc.?
Bridge crossings will take heavy toll on drivers’ wallets
One of the biggest inside jokes in B.C. politics is the Christy Clark government’s “fairness policy” on new bridge tolls.
The policy states the government won’t slap a toll on a bridge unless drivers have access to a “reasonable untolled alternative.”
In the case of the newly tolled Port Mann Bridge, the government says the free alternatives are the Pattullo Bridge, the South Fraser Perimeter Road and the Alex Fraser Bridge.
All of which are anything but “reasonable,” according to NDP transportation critic Harry Bains.
“The perimeter road is only half-built and the Pattullo Bridge is old, congested and dangerous,” Bains complains. “And TransLink wants to put a toll on the Pattullo, too, so there goes that bright idea.”
As for the Alex Fraser Bridge – well, don’t get him started.
“Are you kidding me? Someone who lives in Guildford and works in Coquitlam is going to drive seven kilometres west to cross a bridge, burn all that gas through all those communities, and then drive another seven kilometres in the other direction to avoid a toll?
“That’s ridiculous, not ‘reasonable.'” Bains is also miffed at the Clark government’s “blatantly political” half-price toll on the Port Mann. (The $1.50 introductory rate doubles to $3 next year.)
“They just want to get beyond the May election before they whack people,” he said. “And they haven’t been upfront and honest about the heavy cost of this toll – just read the fine print.”
So I did. And here’s what I found out:
Drivers who don’t pre-register with the tolling authority – occasional users or visitors, for example – will have just seven days to pay the toll every time they cross the bridge and their licence plate is scanned by an automatic camera.
If you don’t pay up within seven days – online, by phone or at a kiosk – you’ll be mailed a bill that includes a $2.30 “processing fee” for every crossing.
That means a return trip over the new bridge could cost you $10.60! I can hear the howls of outrage already.
And chew on this math: A pre-registered commuter crossing the bridge twice a day for work – five days a week, 45 working weeks a year – will face a whopping annual toll of $1,350.
Don’t forget you’ll pay the toll-man with your after-tax income, meaning the toll will carve close to $2,000 out of a typical working person’s pre-tax salary.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts calls the heavy tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges unfair to people who live south of the Fraser River, not to mention business owners such as truckers who have no option but to pay up.
Her solution: Spread the pain around with a region-wide tolling strategy, under which routes and crossings would be hit with a more modest toll of about 35 cents.
“I know it’s a conversation a lot of people don’t want to have, but it’s one we need to start,” Watts said.
“We need a system that’s fair and equitable. We don’t have that now.”
Just one problem: Very few politicians – certainly not the embattled Christy Clark – want anything to do with any plan that includes tolling the Lions Gate Bridge, the Vancouver Island Highway, the Massey Tunnel, the Sea-to-Sky Highway or any other busy byway travelled by cranky voters.
And that includes the NDP’s Bains. He thinks the Port Mann toll is unfair, too.
But when I ask him if it would be fairer to just toll everything a little, as Watts has suggested, here’s what he told me: “That decision has to be made by TransLink.”
“If we win the election, we will change the governance of TransLink, and let them sit down and come up with the solution for long-term sustainable funding.”
In other words, while Port Mann Bridge users get set to cough up the big bucks, the NDP is getting set to pass the buck on a tolling system that’s expensive, punitive and grossly unfair.
WHAT’S IN WATTS’ FUTURE ?
Why is Dianne Watts one of the few politicians calling for expanded tolling? Because the pricey Port Mann and Golden Ears tolls are not popular with voters in Surrey, naturally.
But what if Watts was to one day seek the leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party, as many have begged her to do? Would she have the courage to stick to her call for region-wide tolls?
She says the question is an academic one, because she has no plan to leave her post in Surrey for a Liberal leadership bid.
“Besides, the job is taken,” she said.
For now, Mayor Watts. For now.
” Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts calls the heavy tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges unfair to people who live south of the Fraser River, not to mention business owners such as truckers who have no option but to pay up.
Her solution: Spread the pain around with a region-wide tolling strategy, under which routes and crossings would be hit with a more modest toll of about 35 cents “.
IMHO…the Golden Ears bridge had dubious merit, and may have been a ” test case ” for tolling. If it had been free..NO Toll….would it have been built…. ?
If it was built and NO tolls, it may have relieved congestion and not put as much pressure on other bridges. Funny how the new Port Mann bridge was forced onto the taxpayer….that’s (2) TOLL bridges within a few years.
Seems the Gov’t strategy is to set up “pissing matches”….set up one side to whine about how unfair it is. The vast majority of people in Metro Vancouver likely do not use these (2) new bridges, yet their taxes contributed.to the construction of these (2) bridges, hence the net beneficiaries are parties in Surrey, Coquitlam etc.
My own guess is that situations will be created that the Gov’ts, which ultimately create these issues, will then parachute in as a peacemaker, and in their infinite wisdom, now want to be seen as dicriminating against a defineable group (Big NO- NO) ie users of the (2) new bridges…but , in the spirit of fairness and equality SCREW EVERYONE E-Q-U-A-L-L-Y and put tolls everywhere….even on bridges etc. that were paid off decades ago.
In fact, in some major Cities, cars are charged a fee for entering the City Centers…
Then they have passed a major hurdle politically….aka no more freebies….and will likely, in perpetuity have another means to tax you, which is what all a toll really is. Then as they need revenue for such things as Translink, simply ratchet up the tolls to cover up their perpetual incompetence. What has changed????….IMHO it is simply Gov’t and bureaucracy growing like a tumour.
Conclusion: The writing is on the wall…expect to be tolled to death..figuratively speaking.