Surrey explores road pricing to fund transit

SURREY – The city is exploring the idea of implementing road pricing to raise money for TransLink to help fund future transportation projects.

On Monday, Paul Lee, rapid transit and strategic projects manager for the City of Surrey, presented the transportation committee with his research on road pricing and how a model could be best implemented to help bridge TransLink’s $600-million gap between its revenues ($1.44 billion) and expenditures ($1.5 billion).

Road pricing collects funds from drivers through tolls, fuel and carbon taxes, vehicle levies or other methods in a way that “reflects the full economic, social and environmental costs of driving a car.”

“One of the goals is to generate revenue so that it provides the opportunity to recover the costs of building, operating and maintenance of the system of infrastructure,” said Lee, who said a joint technical review in 2012 determined road pricing was the most accepted form of funding.

Lee discussed a handful of ways to implement road pricing, including a system of high-tech cameras – similar to how tolls are collected on the Port Mann Bridge – or by embedding a GPS in every vehicle to measure how far people are driving and when they travel.

“By using technology to track people by how far they travel or how much they travel… we can charge accordingly to generate revenue,” he said.

Lee noted that Oregon recently adopted a road pricing network, charging drivers 1.5 cents per mile and offering a refund on the state’s gas tax.

While Surrey’s 17-cents-per-litre fuel tax falls under road pricing, transportation manager Jaime Boan said electric cars and border shoppers who purchase gas in the United States are making it challenging for the city to collect funds that way.

“If we went to a method like this… the idea would be it would replace that fuel tax with road pricing,” said Boan. “As the vehicles advance as well, odds are it would already be built into the vehicles.”

Lee noted that road pricing could charge users more for using their vehicles during heavier traffic times and offer discounts during off-peak hours, with the intent of easing congestion during rush hour.

Coun. Barinder Rasode asked how much it would cost to collect the money, like how Treo gathers funds for users of the Port Mann. Lee estimated that 30 cents of every dollar from the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges go to administrative costs, but noted that Oregon’s system costs less than 10 cents per dollar.