Which Choice of Road Pricing?
Moving in Metro, A Summit on Mobility Pricing for Roads in Metro Vancouver, 2-13-11-29
Today, I attended a summit on mobility pricing. Not sure why it was called mobility pricing. The discussion was really on road pricing for cars, motorcycles, and trucks. The application of mobility pricing on transit did not come about.
The pre-meeting material provided and discussions at the Summit gave an opportunity to reflect on my thinking on road pricing. Road pricing schemes are normally categorized as corridor schemes; area schemes, also called cordon schemes or congestion charges; and full network pricing.
Reflecting on road pricing schemes and arguments for each option, my preference is for a full network, variable-pricing scheme that;
- penalizes drivers during periods within a day based on each period’s traffic levels in relations to a municipality’s transportation mode share target for cars;
- promotes the use of smaller cars and smaller engines;
- penalizes driving within catchment areas of rapid transit corridors; and
- funds a comprehensive citywide network of rapid and semi-rapid transit.
During the Summit, Richard Walton, Mayor of North Vancouver District made a significant comment that road pricing is not about taxation, it is about “Buying Time” on the road; it is about “Buying Road Space”. A total different focus. No longer is it a taxation issue but a user charge or rent for occupying space issue. After all, is that not what you do when you check into a hotel for a night??? Do you not rent space; space to live; space to sleep?
With Mayor Walton’s words, the dialogue changes completely. Motorists flawed arguments and claims that they pay for the roads through their taxes become irrelevant. Now it is more about time and space renting.
With these words, any arguments that commercial vehicles should get any discounting fall apart. In fact, these words lead to their paying more based on the length of the vehicles compared to cars, usually 1.5 to 4 times larger. So, should the bill be. Maybe this should also apply to car owners, the smaller the car, the lower the usage fee is.
If a city wants to be aggressive in reducing car traffic, then it may adopt a car mode share target achieved by leading greener cities in the 27% to 30% range. If a city wants to be daring but not quiet that daring, then maybe a 35% to 40% level may be more reasonable to its residents.
Usually, cities set their transportstion mode share in a simplified manner for cars, transit, cycling, and walking. Actual usage of these modes may be significantly different. Combined mobility trips are not counted by mode but by the mode used for the longest distance in any trip.
For more accurate tracking of transportation mode usage and for gauging the success of any program to reduce car usage, my preference would be for the targets to be set with targets, such as:
Walking to transit stops >450 metres 3%
Combined Mobility 15%
Transit and Cycling – Personal bicycle 7%
Transit and Cycling – Public Bike Share System 3%
Driving and Cycling – Personal Bicycle 4%
Driving and Cycling – Public Bike Share System 1%
With this set of mode share targets, cycling would be involved in 35%, transit in 30%, and car trips in 32% of all trips.