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Editorial: Road tolls could save TransLink

Toll booths in Dover, England - Getty Images
Toll booths in Dover, England
— image credit: Getty Images

Transit riders collectively groaned this week as TransLink announced a 10 percent fare hike for passengers in Metro Vancouver beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

The new fares will see $2.75, $4 and $5.50 for zones one, two, and three, respectively.

That means the return-trip cost of taking the SkyTrain from Surrey to Vancouver just increased by $260 a year (fare saver cards not included).

There are a number of reasons for riders to be frustrated with fare hikes, particularly those on fixed or low incomes.

TransLink has acknowledged part of the problem is lost revenue from fare evasion.

The public company estimates that costs them about $18 million a year, leading to a decision in 2010 to spend $171 million in fare gates at SkyTrain stations.

That means the fare gates will have to be operational for a full decade before the capital investment breaks even.

TransLink receives income from fares, property taxes, gas taxes, bridge tolls, and the province.

Despite a provincial performance audit completed in October that showed $41 million in savings, the latest numbers from the 2013 base plan show a projected funding gap of $472 million from 2013 to 2015.

TransLink analysts came up with a list of 10 possible funding solutions in February, including more fuel taxes, a regional carbon tax, road tolls, and other vehicle levies.

The fairest possible solution has to be road tolls. Anybody who has driven in South Delta during rush hour knows that we've reached a point of traffic capacity, and road tolls would put more people into buses.

Pay-per-use road tolls is something that's made in sense on U.S. highways for years, and works to fund road improvements without hitting up taxpayers.

Road tolls would have to be implemented in tandem with better transit services, however, as it would be senseless to incentivize an unreliable option.

Drivers who make the choice to live in Surrey and commute to Richmond should be paying a toll for their usage of Delta's infrastructure.

The proceeds of those tolls should go to help develop local, affordable transit choices.

—South Delta Leader

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