Port Mann Bridge use dips following toll hike

METRO VANCOUVER — Use of the Port Mann Bridge was down in 2014 after the toll was doubled following a one-year introductory rate.

The rate was raised from $1.50 to $3 in January 2014, which is the same time as the opening of South Fraser Perimeter Road.

According to new traffic figures, there were 34,300 fewer trips in 2014 than the roughly 1.26 million the year previous, following the full tolling rate being brought in.

The only month to see higher traffic numbers was December, with 95,000 in 2013 and 97,500 in 2014.

At the same time, traffic continued to rise on the Pattullo Bridge, according to TransLink numbers for 2014. In December last year, for instance, an average 77,930 crossed the bridge daily, compared with fewer than 70,000 vehicles in December 2012, before the toll was introduced.

Transportation Investment Corp. is responsible for the bridge and spokesman Max Logan said the latest figures show the Port Mann traffic numbers are stabilizing, noting volumes were three per cent higher in December 2014 than the year before, and up almost five per cent to date in January.

He insisted that TI Corp. is on track to pay off the Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project debt by 2050.

Gregory Thomas, a director with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said it’s no surprise to see lower use once the toll was increased.

Thomas said he’d like to see discounts offered for the bridge on weekends or during non-peak hours.

He criticized the government for “politicizing” transportation decisions.

“We’re seeing massive political interference and a traffic system that’s a mess,” he stated.

He pointed infrastructure without tolls, such as the Sea to Sky Highway and South Fraser Perimeter Road.

“If you want to drive from West Van to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway, which was not a cheap project, there’s no toll. It clearly doesn’t make a lot of sense for people having to pay $6 to drive back and forth across the Port Mann Bridge to go to work and there’s no traffic on the Port Mann and down at the Massey Tunnel people are lined up.”

He said while the government is saying they didn’t replace the Massey Tunnel because there was no money to do so, Thomas insisted the project could have been done some time ago if there was a reasonable toll on the infrastructure.

“We could have the Pattullo (Bridge) and the Massey Tunnel… 10 years ago if the province and TransLink had sat down and come up with rational way to pay for it all.”

Thomas said with a sensible tolling strategy, the government wouldn’t need to implement other charges, such as the gas levy, which he referred to as a “double tax.”

Do you avoid the Port Mann Bridge because of the toll? Would you like to see a regional tolling strategy? Click here to send us a letter.

areid@thenownewspaper.com

-With files from the Vancouver Sun

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