I came across a good article this morning about the reality of road pricing in Metro Vancouver. According to author, road pricing is inevitable for Vancouver. I agree, although I think it is a long way out and will be an enormously contentious issue pitting suburban voters against urban voters.
I believe that all the talk about road pricing, referendums, transit and related topics are fundamentally missing what really needs to be done. What needs to be done is changing zoning laws so there is more housing that is close to where people work, shop and play. Simply making it incredibly expensive to commute from Langley to downtown Vancouver simply makes life even worse for long-distance commuters who already have to face the enormous cost of hours wasted commuting every day.
What needs to be done is to create a decade long plan that slowly institutes substantial road pricing along with improved transit and most importantly massive zoning changes. This gives the average family that is currently completely reliant on driving, time to adjust their life in anticipation of road pricing before road pricing starts dramatically reducing their income. It tells everyone looking to move, find work, or employ in Vancouver that they need to consider how far they will be from jobs, shops, or employees when they chose a location. If you are a Vancouver business and most of your employees live in the suburbs, your employees are going to push for you to move closer to them if they foresee the cost of commuting rising.
Under this plan I could see Surrey, with permissive zoning, rapidly becoming a second downtown aimed at employing people in Delta, White Rock, Langley and maybe even Maple Ridge. Without clear long-term guidance on policies however, highways will continue to clog, or a sudden imposition of road pricing will dramatically lower the effective income of most commuting families, without actually creating other opportunities for them. Metro Vancouver can’t continue to move forward when political leaders aren’t talking about their plans for even a year from now. Individuals can’t make rational decisions about where to live and work if they have no idea about future transportation plans.
The various governments, starting with the provincial government, need to demonstrate leadership and a vision.