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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A road pricing strategy for Greater Vancouver Kamnitzer, David


The traditional response of governments to the problem of traffic congestion has been to increase transport capacity. This policy focus has not been effective. Despite significant investment in highways, roads, and public transit, traffic conditions in most major cities continue to deteriorate. Furthermore, increased public awareness of the environmental effects of the automobile together with the fiscal reality facing all governments in Canada reduces the capacity for future road building projects. A new approach to urban transport policy is therefore required. Road pricing has long been advocated by economists as a means of making more efficient use of the road network. Unlike traditional flat rate tolls, road pricing charges would vary based on prevailing traffic conditions. Charging motorists for road space during congested peak periods would induce some motorists to switch to alternate modes or to make their trips at less congested times. Despite its economic rational, road pricing has yet to be implemented on a wide scale. Previous road pricing schemes have tended to focus on economic and technical issues to the exclusion of political concerns. In virtually all cases where road pricing has been proposed, political opposition has caused road pricing plans to be significantly scaled back or abandoned all together. If road pricing is to be implemented, future plans will have to address political as well as economic and technical issues. This thesis examines the political and economic issues raised by road pricing. Using Greater Vancouver as a case study, the thesis seeks answers to the key design questions involved in implementing a road pricing system. The principle findings of this research are: (1) road pricing should be presented as a means of making better use of the region's transportation system, not as a source of government revenue; (2) road pricing revenues should be used to improve transit, offset existing taxes, and promote high density housing along major transit corridors; (3) road pricing should be implemented on the Lions Gate Bridge as a demonstration project; and (4) road pricing measures should be integrated with transportation and land development policies.

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