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Road pricing can help with increasing congestion: report

METRO VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – You think your commute is bad now? Imagine another 700,000 vehicles crowding onto our roads in the coming decades.

A 2013 Business Council of BC report looking at trends in congestion suggests the population of Metro Vancouver grow by 1.4 million people by 2041, dramatically increasing pressure on the region’s transportation infrastructure as governments struggle with a lack of financial resources to meet demands.

As it is now, the report suggests Metro roads are under-priced and over-used, which has made driving “artificially cheap in terms of money, and artificially expensive in terms of time.”

The provincial government’s extensive and hugely expensive Gateway Project — including the Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 expansion along with the South Fraser Perimeter Road — is meant to decrease traffic congestion. But some experts argue you can’t simply pave your way out of congestion; if you build more capacity, more drivers will fill it up.

“The Gateway, the widening of the Highway 1 corridor, the Massey Tunnel improvements that will facilitate the development further south, spreading away from existing centres is not consistent with the regional growth strategy,” says Lawrence Frank, a professor of urban planning and public health at UBC.

“This region has become known, globally, as a place where good planning has happened. A lot of good decisions were made — and tough ones — and it led to a very livable region, one that became lauded and rose to the very top globally. We stand threatened to lose that,” he tells News1130.

The report suggests road pricing — as in, charging drivers for distance or frequency used — is one way to encourage a change in driving habits and ease gridlock, as well as help properly fund infrastructure.