BC Election – Neither Liberals or NDP understand tolls

It’s been a long time since my last post, but recent transportation news is too big to ignore. Both the major political parties have announced their stances on tolls.

On the same day the Liberals announced they would cap tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges at $500 a year starting Jan. 1, 2018 — a move that could cut a motorist’s driving costs by up to $1,000 a year — NDP leader John Horgan stole the Liberals’ thunder by promising to get rid of tolls for both bridges altogether if elected.

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A week of Road Pricing news

I’ve noticed that the Vancouver Sun has been featuring a lot of articles on Road Pricing in Metro Vancouver this week.  There’s been at least 6 articles in the past 4 days.  It’s a big topic with the impending Massey Tunnel replacement and need to replace the Patullo Bridge at the forefront of the Minister of Transportation’s agenda. Also, the features are meant to coincide with SFU’s Centre for Dialogue’s Moving in Metro discussion.

For once, it felt like a mainstream media outlet was allowing for a civilized conversation around transportation issues instead of the sensationalized and over-worn “War on Cars” theme.  All the articles are worth a read.  I’ve listed all of them here below for your reading convenience.

TransLink plans – expand, maintain, or cut services

The Tri-City News – TransLink plan leaves room for province to sign on, charge new tolls.

This is probably the best piece of news that summarizes the current situation that TransLink finds themselves in and the options they are considering.  So instead of reinventing the wheel, I’ll link to the article.  Jeff Nagel does pretty good writing for one of our local papers.

There’s also a video with the article.  The video is of Tom Pendergast, TransLink CEO, explaining their situation.

Local News | Sound Transit to vote on mileage-based light-rail fares | Seattle Times Newspaper

Local News | Sound Transit to vote on mileage-based light-rail fares | Seattle Times Newspaper.

Our friends in Seattle look like they will adopt a mileage-based fare system rather than a zone system.  I know TransLink is looking into possibly implementing a similar system here.  There has been talk at different levels of government about it.  However, nothing has truly come to fruition.

I know that I have found myself on one side of Boundary Road wanting to get to the other side.  A 10-minute ride from East Vancouver to, say, Metrotown or Brentwood, should cost you $3.75.  But a crosstown 1-hour ride to UBC could cost you a cool $2.50.  That’s always been the annoying part of the zone system.  In a tight urban centre like Metro Vancouver, the zone system may not work as it should.  In the days where Boundary Road was the middle of nowhere, it may have made sense.  However, both sides of Boundary Road are built up and people travel freely by car between East Van and Burnaby.  In fact, many people would rather drive 5 minutes across Boundary than pay $3.75 for a 10-15 minute ride into Burnaby.  The same can be said of those living in the Lougheed – North Road areas of Burnaby and Coquitlam.  Most people would rather drive than pay and extra $1.25 just to get to the mall on the other side.

The zones seem to work okay for bridges because there is a sense that you are crossing an actual natural boundary that may seem worth the extra cost.  Those in familiar with travel in Hong Kong know that if you cross the harbour via train or bus, you pay extra.  If you travel by train or bus through one of the many mountain tunnels in Hong Kong’s New Territories, you pay extra.  Cars pay extra for the same crossings.  That seems fair to me.

So it will be interesting to see how the Seattle LRT’s new fare system will perform.  It will be good to have a local example that we can follow.  I would think the same mileage based fares would work well in Vancouver, as well.

Robin Chase on Zipcar and her next big idea | Video on

Robin Chase on Zipcar and her next big idea | Video on

I hadn’t visit for a while, but I’ve had two colleagues talk about two different talks on TED.  So I thought it was time to swing by that part of my bookmark list again and take a gander.

I wish the talks were more recent, but I guess the conference has to have some relevance when it’s held.  So I guess they delay all the videos until well after the conference.

In any case, Robin Chase is the founder of Zipcar.  Zipcar is one of two car sharing businesses in Vancouver.  The Cooperative Auto Network is the other one.

Robin talks about her Zipcar experience and what it’s done.  She also mentions a new venture called, Goloco, which builds on the idea of carsharing and transforms it into ridesharing.  Ridesharing that is arranged through wireless devices where you all arrange one ride for many people.

Her bigger idea in the second half of her talk is to change the country with peer to peer wireless devices that form a mesh network. I’m not familiar with the jargon, so it’s a bit confusing.  The talk is limited to under 15 minutes, so she doesn’t have time to get into what mesh networks really are and how they work. However, the concept looks like it has a lot of potential.  She wants a national system of mesh networks that can be easily set up and built up.  She criticizes existing wireless networks for being closed and proprietary.  I guess it’s how you may use Shell’s EasyPay for gas and MasterCard has PayPass to pay at select stores for food or groceries.  But what if they all worked on one network that everybody used.  If there is one network, then there can be a national interstate mesh network in place so that road pricing and tolls could be collected nationally.

I wish she had more time to talk, though.  The idea sounds exciting, but it needs more fleshing out for the ordinary person to understand better.