January 28, 2021

Why Mobility Pricing is So Immobile

The mobility-pricing conversation has been mostly about technology and social engineering.  Mostly speculation, not specifics.

No matter how much sense it makes, few places have done it.  The first cities that implemented a cordon-pricing congestion charge between 1998 and 2013 are still the only ones that have.

Economists agree that pricing a scarce resource is better for pretty much everything*, so why is  there only a handful of green dots on the map?  What’s the impediment?

We all know what the problem is: the closer a proposal gets to a visible tax on the citizen/driver, the more politically toxic it becomes.  There’s not been a good enough return for the political capital that would have to be spent.

Watch what happens every time another report on mobility pricing is released – like, most recently, this one:

Report is released in the morning.  By nightly news, after the media have done the afternoon scare pieces with interviews of incredulous citizens, accountable leaders are in full assurance mode that nothing is going to happen anytime soon.  Or ever.  Next morning, report is toast.

There is unanimous agreement, however, that no matter how often a decision is deferred, we have to keep talking about mobility pricing.

Here is the latest from Moving in a Livable Region – a consortium of organizations in Metro concerned with improved mobility and land-use planning.  They have produced this very accessible graphic to find out what’s happening now – and what needs to happen. Plus an opportunity for feedback.


Why keep the conversation going?  Because it’s just a matter of time before the time for mobility pricing in some form will arrive.

Is there any reason to think this it that time?  Well, possibly – and it’s because of another inescapable pain greater than the one incurred by the prospect of road pricing.  It’s not the imposition of a new tax; it’s the loss of an old one: the gas tax.

On that there is no choice – a decision must be made.  Electrification of the vehicle fleet is inevitable, as a technological reality and now a legislative one.  The fossil-fueled vehicle will be on its way out by the end of the decade.

This literally came in on my news feed as I was typing the previous sentence:

So ends a major source of revenue that funds infrastructure, maintenance and, in our case, transit.

Okay, what should we do now?  Answer in the next post.



*From the San Francisco County Transportation Authority:

  • Get traffic moving so people and goods get where they need to go
  • Increase safety for people walking, biking, and driving
  • Clean the air to support public health and fight climate change
  • Advance equity by improving health and transportation for disadvantaged communities

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  1. Volkswagen is also aggressively switching gears. China is building EVs for under well $10K, albeit with limited range. They have 200,000 electric buses on the road and counting. TransLink will not buy any more diesel buses – and they are not alone. Many countries have set 2035 as the end of ICE sales and the market is likely to beat them to it. EVs are expected to be cheaper than ICE within years and by then they’ll have the same or better range while charging times keep getting faster.

    So why are we still building a big new oil pipeline to the coast?

    1. Because it makes TOTAL SENSE to sell oil at a premium price and not give it away like today where WCS – WTI differentials are very large. Oil will be used for decades to come, likely centuries. peak oil in the 2030s then only slow decline as with 2B vehicles on the road today nothing will happen overnight.

      Canada needs the taxes. It is this simple. Biden and Trudeau are both fools thinking one can switch fast. Green energy will be VERY EXPENSIVE once you see 2M EVs on the road in BC. Maybe 25 to 35 cents per kwh, like in Europe today, ie triple to quadruple today’s prices !

      1. “Maybe 25 to 35 cents per kwh, like in Europe today, ie triple to quadruple today’s prices !”

        Has Province re-submitted Business Case for Site C to B.C. Utilities Commission accounting for massive over-runs already identified? This alone will cause significant increase in rates. How will this impact commitments made to LNG Canada for the Kitimat project that will have huge need for hydro power, which of course if BC Hydro cannot deliver at the desired price point, will mean LNGC just switches to burning NG to create electricity for their process requirements.

        And who will pay if engineering foundation issues cannot be reasonably resolved, which means taxpayers / ratepayers could be on the hook for $6 bil. already STRANDED in the ground. Which engineering firm will now put its professional reputation on the line, and which insurance company will take on the risks? Plus, iif Site C must be scrapped to avoid catastrophic failure risks, where will the electricity come from to enable the switch to EV? Are we then buying hydro on spot North American markets.

        All questions / answers the pandemic is hiding from the public, and so the question of Mobility Pricing becomes fairly academic by comparison.

        ps…when public finds out we are facing massive electricity cost increases, MB becomes dead on arrival, which will make the EV loss of gas tax revenues even more acute.

      2. It does *not* make TOTAL SENSE to build a pipeline that will never recover its costs and that tries to keep us on last century’s filthy technology. That is not going to bring revenue to Canada. The growth in EVs is exponential – not declining as you would erroneously try to have us believe. It’s been +/- 50% growth for over a decade. Once growth reaches critical mass in two or three years it will be the end of the tar sands and the end of TMX as a profitable venture. Put your money there. I dare you.

        Peak demand will be mid 2020’s if not earlier. All the big automotive players have suddenly changed their tune and realized they’re not going to survive if they can’t compete with Tesla and the startups in China and India.

        BTW, I was wrong in my comment above: my figures were a whole year out of date after all. China now has 400,000 electric buses on the road. And counting.

        EVs use 1/3 the energy of ICE. Don’t be fooled into thinking we need to replace oil energy with electrical 1:1. We can meet that increased demand incrementally with renewables.

        1. What renewables in cloudy and rainy BC? For 2-3M EVs. What’s the cheaper alternative to Site C and Site D as both will be required to power 3-4M EVs in a in-migration province with already 5M people? Nuclear? Gas?

          Where’s the study that shows alternatives should Site C be scrapped as allegedly geotechnical risk?

          1. https://thenarwhal.ca/site-c-dam-geotechnical-problems-bc-government-foi-docs/

            Unclear what you mean “allegedly” geotechnical risk? The only question, the answers for which are hidden by gov’ts priority COVID response, is when did Cabinet know Site C might become unsalvageable, or at least whether the cost to correct massive structural deficiencies may be multiple times the projected cost when the NDP government finally approved the project when taking office 3 years ago…of course, this all feeds into future electricity rates which the current government really does NOT want to discuss, do they?

            But this Thread is about Mobility Pricing, and with EV take-up (fast or slow) the gas tax will eventually crater, so where will the money come from to replace the current revenue in both provincial and Metro region coffers? This is NOT a new topic, and was addressed in TransLink funding study I worked on in 2005 – little has been done since because the solutions are too politically painful to even contemplate.

            In my estimation, the political unwillingness of the NDP government in the 90s to TOLL both the Island Highway and the renovated Lion’s Gate Bridge (projects which I worked on) meant decades would be lost to advance road pricing. And what did Horgan do in one of his first act’s as Premier – kill the Tolls on the two bridges in the region – making this promise during the campaign likely was instrumental in getting him in the Premier’s chair in the first place, so in fulfilling that promise would mean breaking TRUST with the electorate NOW should a reversal be attempted…

            If I may say, respectfully, Gordon is being bit disingenuous posting on this topic, without explaining for new readers the REAL-LIFE context of the near 30 year tolling debate (or debacle, if you prefer).

          2. Indeed it’s unclear to me why the Green-NDP alliance didn’t toll both Inland Island Highway and Coquahalla Highways AND all bridges in MetroVan.

            But of course to buy votes they even cancelled the PM Bridge toll, namely those critical Surrey swing ridings. So green, eh ?

            RealPolitik, I guess !

            Since trucks and EVs also use up road space and all of them will be more and more electric it makes total sense to toll by distance, weight or at the very least, at choke points, like key bridges, tunnels, highway stretches or key intersections. Technology exists to charge per km now, and I believe OR and WA do it in trials already. That makes a lot of sense, but of course is politically difficult.

            re geotech risk on Site C dam: any risk can be reduced with more and more concrete and (steel) structures. As such the only question is how big a cheque to write or if cancellation altogether is the right approach. However if Site C is cancelled where do we get our extra electricity from for both LNG and/or 2-4M EVs plus e-buses and e-trucks that will surely arrive here in the next few decades?

            Personally I think Site C is as green as it gets, it’ll last 100+ years with little annual op costs AND money to borrow is very VERY cheap so it makes sense to finish it.

          3. Not that dams aren’t renewable but they may soon play second fiddle:


            So if we’re using them as batteries we don’t need more.

            There is more to renewables than solar but even that is increasingly viable in BC and throughout Canada. Germany is one of the global leaders and they are no more sunny that we are. We can slash our energy needs by building better, commuting less and switching to far more efficient EVs over pathetically inefficient ICEVs.

            Why do your arguments rely on last century’s thinking? Try to keep up Beyer!

          4. Solar King Germany charges 35 Euro cents per kwh to residential customers. Roughly 50 cents Canadian. QUINTUPLE to what BC Hydro charges AND they still have ~ 50% of their power from nuclear and coal. Solar is fine in the summer, but like here it’s grey and cloudy in winter too. And yes they have more wind turbines but those too very controversial and now very few new ones get installed as far too much opposition. Without oil and gas Canada could not survive.

            Where’s the nuclear debate ?

            Hydro is not renewable? Because it uses an evil concrete CO2 emitting dam that has to be built once and then can be used for 100+ years ?

            Green = Gr$$n !! So good for the lower and middle middle class. Let them take transit and freeze in their tiny houses or condos or better yet: rental apartments? That is the solution ?

            Be very aware of melon politics ! Green on the outside and socialist red on the inside !

            1. Respectfully, How does all this electrical source debate affect possible MP policy or implementation?

              Specifics suggestions, counter-arguments would be helpful.

          5. Ummm… Who ever said dams are not renewable?

            However they are very destructive and costly to build. Wind has become cheaper.

            Most of Europe has higher electricity rates than we do so don’t make Germany out to be an outlier. Germany was an early renewable adopter and one usually pays a higher price for that. Their decision to decommission old dangerous nuclear facilities adds to that cost. But it should help position them better too. Germany’s economy remains strong and they’ll be ahead of the pack that needs to play catch up. Canada is so absurdly far behind because we’ve put so much time and resources into a dead end.

            When fossil fuel cheer-leaders think they are being clever with phrases like “melon politics” they show they have been swayed by the scare tactics of the fossil propaganda machine. When they complain about renewable costs they ignore that there are huge costs in maintaining the status quo too. Do you subtract the cost of maintaining and replacing existing facilities? Of course you do not. Do you factor in the near zero operating costs of renewables? Of course you do not. All you see is what the fossils want you to see.

            And it’s working.

          6. Wind power is OK where it is windy AND where no people live. Otherwise MASSIVE opposition now due to noise and optical pollution.

            Hence massive growth in S-Alberta, and pockets of Ontario and Quebec. Even there now heavy resistance. Plus, of course, like sun also intermittent so it needs a reliable cheap backup, such as gas or nuclear (or coal)

            Also not so great if you’re a bird, a bat or an owl. Chop chop chop …

            After much initial enthusiasm it stalled in Germany and much of N-Europe. Now they’re being shifted into the North Sea where there is no neighbors and almost constant wind but at great expense, of course. But of course no price is too high to appease the climate gods ! https://www.dw.com/en/german-wind-energy-stalls-amid-public-resistance-and-regulatory-hurdles/a-50280676

          7. Thomas Climate Realist Beyer. Do you really think you fool anybody with your constant posting under multiple names? Do you think that makes your opinion seem more relevant?

            You believe every myth and bit of misinformation the fossil propaganda machine puts out there.

            “A study published in 2009 looking at the US and Europe estimated that wind farms were responsible for about 0.3 bird deaths for every 1GWh of electricity generated, compared with 5.2 deaths per 1GWh caused by fossil-fuelled power stations.”


            Chop chop, Beyer.

    1. Let’s not forget that people feel overtaxed already. Which taxes are lowered in lieu? Where will we see more gov efficiency? In healthcare? in city admin? in schools?

  2. About 15 years ago I was cycling to school a couple of times a week. On those days I rode the bus part way to avoid getting sweaty as we did not have showers at our elementary school.
    I faced the one way cost of transit on those days, and thought, ‘I don’t use my car, why am I paying for car insurance on those days? It’s about the same as transit fare!’

    With a couple of BCIT students we created a ‘vehicle monitoring device’ to record the times when the engine was running. The idea was to give a rebate on car insurance to reflect the days that the vehicle was not used and therefore not exposed to accident risk. Less risk – more discount!

    Measuring the use more carefully like this is fair, as those who use their cars less, create less risk for ICBC.
    Right now they are subsidizing the high mileage drivers. The advantage is that drivers would apply for any discount to regular insurance rates upon renewal based upon the previous years usage.

    Over time the standard rates would change to more accurately reflect car usage who did not apply for the discount.

    Now days with computerized cars, recording vehicle use times and even mileage or direction, is much easier. These could be bolted on the basic ‘mileage based insurance discount’ system once it is established and accepted.

    The key is that acceptance by the public would be easier..
    There would be a constituency advocating for mileage based discounts.
    Who could refuse a 1 use/week driver from getting a discount that actually corrects an unfair subsidy?

    1. A simple solution that is already in place is to get rid of your car and join car-sharing services. If you don’t drive much you will save a lot of money. If you think the insurance you pay when not driving is a lot, how about the cost of the car your are not driving?

      As it seems increasingly likely that autonomy will be here within ten years the entire ownership dynamic will be turned on its head. I think its going to be difficult to get insurance companies to go through changing their model for what may only be a short time. They aren’t really interested in fairness. And you haven’t factored in the large push-back from big distance drivers that would undoubtedly stall any change.

        1. It didn’t! Get with the program Beyer! Are you reading old newspapers you found in the walls of some old building demolition???

          It left North America because we are so slow to adopt EVs and build out the charging infrastructure required. It wanted to focus solely on this century’s tech and not rely on last century’s. It’s still going in Europe because they aren’t so beholden to old fashioned thinkers and policy makers. Wonder where that comes from…. Huh?… Beyer…

          Modo and Evo are still going strong. I drove (so rare) a Modo today. It was electric. Of course.

          1. Modo model works well electrically as it has to be returned to the same station. Car sharing like Car2Go or Evo (which I used a lot) works poorly with electric cars as it takes far too long to charge them. Many people will never share a car. It works for some (like me and you) but not others. That’s why car ownership will remain very very high. Look no further than the failed Paris e-car share firm. https://www.france24.com/en/20180621-france-paris-end-road-car-sharing-system-autolib

            Mobility pricing makes sense to me but other taxes have to be lowered. Which ones? Gov have failed to build trust and are very wasteful. The poor Covid response is just one example of it. No civil servants have lost their jobs, or received salary decreases, but many small biz or hotel or airline employees have. Where is that wage discussion? Now Canada Line folks threatened a strike amid already very high wages and job security? THAT is THE main reason why folks reject more taxes: inefficient governments not serving the people but themselves first !!

          2. Why is it always all or nothing with you? Just because some people will cling to their car for dear life doesn’t mean the trend isn’t going the other way and will continue to do so. So let’s not make policy around old geezers who will not change but will soon be gone as the world evolves beyond their rapidly out-dating lifestyles. In 20 years few will be buying their own cars.

            It takes equally long to charge a Modo as an Evo. All Evo needs is more charging points and a built in booking delay if the battery is low. All that will come sooner than you think. EVs will be so much cheaper to operate they’ll be able to afford a few sitting idle here and there. Mostly they’ll recharge over night and rarely need a top up during the day. The Modo I used yesterday has a 400 km range. That’s rarely going to be exceeded.

          3. Read the story about Paris.

            Why do people like to OWN their house or their car? Because THEY can decide on color, upgrades, style, leather or comfort level. Vancouver had 4000+ combined Modo, Evo, Car2Go or ZipCar cars. That was a good idea. I used them a fair bit. HOWEVER often in the rain you have to walk several blocks to find one, or depending on time of day at UBC or downtown there were none. Again, yes, we will see more shared cars, but likely never over 50% of folks. Please don;t assume your minimalized urban footprint lifestyle is the model for all.

            Why did Mercedes Benz, who owns SmartCar driven Car2Go decide to not just plop 2000 EVs into Vancouver or other cities? Because the business model wasn’t there. Too manpower intensive to charge cars, either by a truck that charges them or by someone driving them to a charge station, times 2000 cars every night ! That’s why !

            EVs make sense for the affluent with their own house today. Upgrading a city or whole buildings is very very expensive and thus, will take time. Rents will go up therefore, btw. Will renters or condo owners, esp those without a car, tolerate that ? That debate hasn’t even started yet.

            Green ? or Gr$$n ??

            Choices is what we want.

          4. You always think you are describing the future while describing the past.

            That “was” a good idea? It’s just beginning. An EV can charge itself – the technology is already there. Try getting an ICE car to fill its own tank!

            AVs are getting pretty close: 5 to 10 years and you’ll be able to snap your fingers and have a car come to you in minutes or less. No gas stations. No charging stations. No circling the block for parking. No parking costs. No insurance. No maintenance. No up-front costs. No police road blocks. No road rage. No sirens. OMG… finally no GD sirens!!!

            (We’re such monkeys. We can land a remote controlled rover on Mars but we’re still using 5,000 year old technology to warn of emergency vehicles.)

            Who’s going to own their own cars?

            This won’t solve congestion, of course – we’ll still need MP for that. But it will sash the environmental costs of vehicle manufacturing in half or less.

          5. Yes we will have more car sharing. But MANY folks will still want their own.

            AVs will create their own issues once too many circle to create congestion or pick up folks, esp in congested areas. Free curb side pickup? Or just max 30 second wait, then $2 charge?

            We don’t even allow Uber today for the average Joe to make some part-time cash. One must have a class 4 license to protect those Surrey swing voters !

            They told me 35 years ago when I studied computer science that speech recognition will be so advanced “soon” that secretaries, typing or keyboards are all going away. Where are we with that, now 35 years later? Ever tried to speak into a computer, car, telephone system or even Siri? It works for very VERY basic commands but nothing even approaching pidgeon or kids English let alone a basic English language sentence !

            So yes, we will see more and more AVs, or EVs with AV features but the idea of a human-free AV is at least 20 years off, maybe 30. Just wait for the first snow storm, or hockey event or larger accident scene to see how confused the car gets vs a human.

          6. Many folks will want their own… until they don’t. There are going to be too many advantages to not owning a car and young people are increasingly living that trend even without AVs. So you’ll have a generation who don’t want to own growing up alongside a generation who are increasingly losing their licenses to aging. Will they feel connected enough to their car that they can’t drive to bother with all the costs and hassle of ownership? Meanwhile families will like the convenience of sending their kids off on their own. No more chauffer mom. But they’re not likely to want to pay for their car to sit there doing nothing while the kid is playing piano or soccer.

            People who really want to drive will soon find themselves relegated to specialty roads and tracks as sport or entertainment. Insurance companies won’t want them on public roads.

            Why would an AV circle? They’ll appear in the numbers needed and go hide away and charge when not. It’s up to society if there is a pickup charge or not, or how much premium will be charged for use of roads at peak times – or any time.

            AVs won’t need class 4 licenses.

            Humans don’t hear very well either. Huh? Nod and smile! Nor do they drive very well, especially in snow or poor visibility. Unlike humans, AVs will slow down and be safe. They won’t exceed the speed limit at the best of times. They won’t get mad. They won’t honk. They’ll be courteous around pedestrians and cyclists. There will be far fewer, if any, crashes so they won’t have to deal with that. Some think that in a really oddball situation they can be driven remotely by a human. Sounds reasonable. That’ll be common well before 2030.

          7. https://www.google.ca/amp/s/www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8971539/amp/As-Boris-Johnson-aims-new-cars-electric-2030-Congolese-miners-risk-lives-cobalt.html

            Cobalt Key EV Battery Ingredient

            When I teach about sustainability in transportation planning, I insist that all elements of various solutions be rigorously considered, prior to policy formulation, consultation, and adoption. So let’s be clear here, Congolese children are dying so West can drive their virtue-signaling vehicles – doesn’t mean alternatives are better, but let’s show all the cards before policy-makers act.

            So, what are unintended consequences of pricing road use with MB? A reason exists why business community & truckers support the removal of the social good that current non-road pricing offers? And if response is give free road access to the poorest, what will MP actually accomplish that another less intrusive tax collection methods might offer?

            The shallow debate on RP / MP in B.C. that has failed to gain public acceptance cannot be forced down the throats of the electorate if policy is to stick in the longer term, IMHO.

          8. Got a smart phone, Joe? Laptop? Any other gadgets that use LI batteries? Isn’t it a bit much to make such a stand for the rights of kids in the DRotC when until very recently the primary demand for cobalt was portable gadgets?

            Do you drive an ICE vehicle? Any idea how many people die prematurely from air pollution? Any idea how many people have died from the early affects of climate change? Any idea how many will die for centuries to come as a result?

            So who has blood on their hands? We all do. The solution isn’t to stop progress towards something that is better yet imperfect. And, BTW, articles like the one you linked are all part of the persistent and ubiquitous fossil machine. They’ll do anything to keep people arguing against change.

            Meanwhile Tesla is working hard to rid their batteries of cobalt. Many other battery manufacturers are on the same mission. The amount is already in decline in recent batteries.

            1. Respectfully, and I don’t know you, so please remember my point is every action has consequences, and if you read my post carefully, I did say this “doesn’t mean alternatives are better”, which you purposefully chose to ignore, and in fact you attempt to suggest I don’t get the broader circumstances we all face. So when you attack me, someone who has moved the agenda of sustainable transportation planning on a global scale, well, this says more about you than me. Easy for you to post here, but I get out (save COVID) to Asia, Africa, South America, Europe and across the Americas every year to demand better and show how it can be done to satisfy a myriad of constraints is serious challenge that represents my vocation at present.

              But why do you routinely ignore the THREAD topic? Are you able to advance reasonable road pricing proposals that responds to the diversity of B.C. interests, can you explain the broad consequences of such proposals, recognize & have solutions for the implementation hurdles like technical, economic, social, political, and what about the governance decisions that in the case of the federation of Canada may mean real harm to others caused by a local decision. How about you respond to RP / MP issues with clarify and specificity, although given what I see on this Thread, I expect you will continue with attacks that ultimately reflects the weakness of any substantive argument you advance.

              btw….I routinely volunteer my time to teach for a UN development agency in the field of sustainable transportation planning, so the cozy solutions debated here for ultra-luxury Vancouver is light-years from what a large chunk of humanity faces in the many destitute places I support. Just thinking what $2.8 billion could do in Africa to lift millions out of poverty by investing in clean, high-quality local transportation, albeit the Rolls-Royce called the Millennium Line extension to Arbutus will certainly serve the creme-de-la-creme. (and might even get financed by the imaginary MP policy that nobody seems to really know what they want or what implications it will have)

          9. You brought up cobalt. I responded to that because it needed a response. Leaving it hanging is just more ammunition for those who cheerlead for the fossil industries. It is a problem that is well recognized and being addressed, not a worthy excuse.

            Those who understand the basics of climate change, the likely repercussions and the enormity and massive funding of the denial machine have seen every avenue used to ensure we keep burning fossil fuels. Everything is related. But climate change is a much bigger problem than urban congestion or car dependence, the things that MP is attempting to solve.

            The original post mentioned GM’s sudden about face toward electrification so I have not been off topic in the least. Throwing cobalt into the discussion was entirely unnecessary – we all know the downsides. And given its history in gadgets we all use it appeared condescending and petty besides.

            I have few answers about how to convince the public to buy into MP. I am not a psychologist. I do not pretend to know all the nuances of different policies. That isn’t necessarily the point of this blog. Who knows what non-experts can contribute unexpectedly simply because they are non-experts. But I will say is that MPs implementation probably won’t come from the public anyway. It will come from wise and bold leadership. The public responds positively to wise and bold leadership even if they grumble. But they will almost never volunteer to have another cost added to their lives no matter how much you can demonstrate it is in their best interests. There are too many slick, rich and powerful interests who can easily undermine the slightest waffling or a chance to vote on it.

            Having said that, if it is tied to a very specific, well understood and broadly distributed benefit it would have a chance. The moment it is seen as punitive it does not. In Vancouver motorists are in relative decline giving a growing number of people access to a mobility benefit that isn’t about driving. That’s why this is only successful in cities while the biggest problem that it needs to solve is in the suburbs.

            1. Fair enough, and your reasonable response provides opportunity to move forward. Will focus on just one topic for now.

              “Bold progressive mobility pricing type Leadership” simply does NOT apply to current B.C. situation, when one of the current Premier’s first acts was to gut the tolling policy that loudly sent message to key constituents that they were treated unfairly by previous governments. From what I can see, the principle “vested interest” here in B.C. is to get power, and once in power, stay in power. This is a maxim applicable regardless of political stripe, i.e. survival remains paramount ( and I work all over the world, and only the names’ change – the desired political outcome never does, never has, and I expect in my lifetime will likely remain so).

              And while I remain bound by Cabinet confidence, 25 years ago I sat beside Horgan when he was chief communications advisor to Premier Clarke. It would appear the hard political lessons about the political risks of tolling from back then were well learned, and nothing has changed as we fast forward to today’s context.

              “Bold leadership” that is NOT coercive towards constituents can rightly only come out of deep “trust” by those affected by the decision. So how does Horgan do 180 and with a straight-face say to south and east Metro regional residents “trust” me when I go in the opposite direction. This kind of behavior cost Gordon Campbell his job, in part, over the perceived HST flip-flop, And politicians who fail to learn these kinds of lessons, regardless of the quarter they come from, don’t last long – Horgan is smart and has been through many wars so he will be highly cautious to repeat the strategic/tactical failures of others, including political opponents. And please remember in my time in Victoria, I tried to get both the Lion’s Gate Bridge and the Island Highway tolled, but the political forces, NDP at the time, simply could NOT get over the public acceptance hurdles (and these proposals never really got a significant public airing, unlike the Vehicle Levy that cost George Puil his job too).

              And yes, you’re right, possibility may exist for CoV type trial, but reality is CoV population is only 13% of total for B.C. and falling percentage-wise as Fraser Valley and Okanagan are growing faster. The politics of what Victoria might approve for CoV is NOT ignored elsewhere, so Cabinet will be very cautious to the inadvertent signals this may send to flipable ridings, which become easy pickings for opposition when the party in power mis-steps. And when reaching into the pockets of taxpayers, policy is NEVER FAR from naked politics.

              And remember, Horgan is a long-time communications expert so I don’t believe he will miss too many messaging fiascos before they get released. Therefore, in my view, he made the calculated decision that the political gains from gutting the tolling policy far-outweighed the negative policy implications…and this decision was proven right in the last poll.

              IMHO, “Mobility Pricing” was set back big time by the current government, and they must own this failure. The first step will be to re-build trust that structural change necessary, which may very well take NEW leadership at the very top as the current messengers have planted their non-tolling flag in a way hard to come back from..

          10. And yet Campbell suffered no ill from the carbon tax, arguably an even harder tax to own. He had no mandate to do it. But you’re correct that he also didn’t campaign against it like Horgan has done with tolling. Campbell lied on the HST so I don’t expect Horgan to reverse his position either.

            It’s why, for the time being while MP is seemingly off the table, we still need to keep moving aggressively on the climate. There are promising advances politically but far far too slow. Personal choices are moving even slower. I bring up EVs and the advances in AVs because it is somewhat relevant to this post and it appears to me to have far more potential for fast positive change than anything else in the urban context. If the growth rate of transition to EVs of the last decade can be maintained for the next we won’t see many ICE sales in the 30’s and it will be unthinkable well before the 40’s. While we’re patiently working toward utopia I’d prefer that at least a couple of massive problems are being curtailed: urban air pollution and a major contributor to CO2.

            1. As I commit to remain on Thread topic, as plenty of other threads to debate EV/AV roll-out, etc,, Gordon simply points out in this Blog the reality the gas tax will lessen over time, and what will politicos advance to replace it.

              We must start with important reminder that I deal with everyday in my professional world – major transportation infrastructure is NOT disappearing anytime soon – the only question is how to improve sustainability of such systems. While progressive decisions are needed on how to better use scarce road rights-of-way, no escaping EV/AVs still need roads to run on that must be repaired/upgraded from time to time, goods movement (while moving EV too) still need large heavy vehicles to move goods around at reasonable cost, emergency, utility service, garbage trucks and the like are NOT going to get smaller, the technology is moving towards producing less air pollution and fewer crashes. I trust you would agree such activities remain important social goods.

              Yet, often Mobility itself is treated as an enemy which is just plain wrong. Rather, better policy attention is needed to the form of mobility that needs to be balanced against other pressing social goods. And having been responsible for transportation planning across the ENTIRE province, what works for CoV core will NOT work in Prince George (the Minister I reported to was from PG so routinely got first hand this semi-urban/rural perspective ). As you say, NO black & white, just a matter of how we order these concerns, and what we do about them that is viable for those amongst us that must get/remain elected to implement such ideas.

              Therefore, I would proposed, logically speaking, and if communicated correctly, to form public policy and influence public opinion around just switching to MP that replaces the disappearing GT. Great, let’s go…

              However, thanks to Horgan and crew, what I see as perfectly logical approach has already been tanked. Thank you for reminder of the Carbon Tax = here is the political genius that Horgan and the current crew missed about the Carbon Tax, which as you say, everything is connected.

              Campbell and crew LOUDLY SOLD the CT as revenue neutral, and the electorate was regularly reminded that the CT did NOT apply to them (although it did, just indirectly). Now I get the NDP just removed the fig leaf about the indirect nature of the CT. But this fig leaf proved highly effective to get something NOT campaigned on , as you rightly say, to become broadly acceptable.

              In closing, I’ll share my favourite reminder about the political act of taxation.

              “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to procure the largest quantity of feathers with the least possible amount of hissing.”


          11. AV common before 2030? Hardly.

            AVs will work in some cities in a limited trial mode by then, as there are far too few by then AND the legislation in many cities will not allow it. Just like Uber took 15 years from invention to come to Lower Mainland, but in a very limited, almost useless fashion, so will AV legislation. It will be WAY BEHIND what is technologically possible. WAY. Maybe 2040. Maybe.

            Ditto with e-helicoptors. Here today, up to 100km range. When will we see them zooming up top from Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island or Fraser Valley cities to YVR or downtown Vancouver, by passing clogged roads and/or slow buses or trains ? https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56020650

    2. There is – or was – an insurance outfit in the UK based on that same model, complete with GPS monitoring. I don’t know its current status or how/why that couldn’t be replicated here. Lots of paranoid QAnoners would howl at the thought of the gubmin’ tracking their mileage but they’re free to pay more in insurance. I’d happily do it if the numbers made sense.

      ICBC currently also does this very loosely with discounts for confirmed annual mileage under 5,000 kilometers.

    3. “With a couple of BCIT students we created a ‘vehicle monitoring device’ to record the times when the engine was running. The idea was to give a rebate on car insurance to reflect the days that the vehicle was not used and therefore not exposed to accident risk. Less risk – more discount!”

      Unfortunately, this statement, generally-speaking, is NOT true. In late 90s, in my senior role with the Province of B.C., as part of the overall initiative to establish the BC RoadSafety program, we engaged ICBC to assess mileage based insurance, amongst many other efforts including how road capital/maintenance funding worked around safety priorities. The result, counter-intuitive as it may sound, that the highest mileage drivers (i.e. professional truckers) might go millions of kms over an entire career and NOT have an at-fault accident. Why, you might ask?

      The top killers on the roads include substance abuse, speed, and negligence/distraction, which are compounded when drivers have LESS EXPERIENCE on the road (and why young drivers have high incident rates – and admittedly, I had multiple at-fault incidents before I turned 25, and in the past 35 years none – cross-fingers). Moreover, while we hear about the dumpster-fire at ICBC, the vast majority of $$$ claims, coming primarily from the major urban centers are for minor injuries and mostly property damage to vehicles and infrastructure. Traffic jams, while painful in many ways, tend NOT to kill or seriously maim simply because speeds are low, and generally outside of the periods where substance-altered driving is happening.

      What the Cabinet of the day rejected, and I see NO politician today willing to go down the route of requiring professional operator credentials to be on the road. Think about the backlash from the ride-hailing companies on getting something as simple as a Class 4 licence.

      Road safety requires a fundamental mind-shift change, and while I applaud City of Surrey in the article posted on Net Zero, and as long as politicians and civic leaders avoid effective but hard solutions little will change.

      And this will apply to ROAD pricing too, which of course morphed into Mobility Pricing because of how toxic this term became.

      PS…I wrote Province’s first road-tolling policy more than two decades ago and we are NOWHERE near a reasoned debate on how best to allocate scarce resources to optimize use of public rights-of-way.

  3. Price Tags used to be a progressive blog. But like all things that stagnate and live in a silo it has become, dare I say it, conservative.

    The world is changing much faster than the regulars who contribute and comment here. (What is the youngest and average age of those who post – just sayin’.) The human brain is not intuitively wired for exponential change and I see this manifesting here. Some of you don’t like the way I pointedly challenge those who hold dearly to old fashioned ideas. And I seem to have been banished as a result. What kind of progressive is that?

    I could go on but I’ll leave you with an example that should be simple but, in a quickly evolving world, is not for many. If I asked at what stage our society is at in the switch from ICE vehicles to EV I’ll bet most of you will look at the actual global EV fleet and say 0.5%. That leaves no hope on that issue of course. If I said we’re more than half way through a less than 30 year transition to EV you’d think I was crazy and banish me from posting for pointedly challenging those who are stuck in such conservative thinking – the premise of this comment.

    It’s true, EVs are currently only around 3% of global sales with a global fleet of only about 0.5%. But sales growth has consistently been about 50% per year for a decade in which everything EV keeps getting cheaper, more convenient and economically viable. Do the math: 4.5%, 6.8%, 10%, 15, 22, 34, 51, 76, >100%. Less than 10 years to go. This is a Blockbuster moment. Kodak is going down! Buggy whips anyone?

    Of course it will never be quite so simple. But even with hiccups and allowing for delays and constraints this is a disruption of proportions not seen since the Model T. If Price Tags chooses to ignore that because they don’t like the acerbic style of one commenter they do themselves in and will not be prepared to debate reality as it actually is, but rather be complacent in the yarns of yesteryear. Hence: Conservative!

    I said I would not go on and I won’t. But do think of the rapid rise of AV technology as I sign off. It will make the rise of EVs look like a horse and carriage.

    1. yet, you keep posting here. And throwing out offensive labels at other posters, IMHO, this simply represents an ad hominem response, rather than focus on the merits/dis-merits of MP, which is the point of this particular Thread.

      and respectfully, you may wish to understand the lessons from Quantum Mechanics, where current science has irrevocably determined (Bell’s Theorem proven in 2015) that your “reality” is NOT interchangeable with someone else’s “reality” (save the possibility of “super-determinism”, which means the result of this debate is pre-ordained anyway).

      But if I may challenge your arguments about “yesteryear”, you purposefully and repeatedly choose to ignore the history of “Road Pricing” in this Province, which was forced to morph to “Mobility Pricing” given the toxicity of the debate for decision-makers. I have FIRST-HAND leading experience with RP/MP policy in Victoria, and you pass off the political “reality” as something NOT warranting attention as the core of this debate.

      While I too think Gordon can go farther, but I trust with his intellectual capacity that he will soon enough have more to say that is pithy and substantive.

      ps…please answer this question for me? Will current NDP government raise taxes to enable RP/MP in the face of $13 billion deficit, and likely half that again in the coming year? My view is simple, taxes will definitely go up, but NO fiscal room for RP/MP in the current NDP mandate, so nothing will happen on this topic until the next government in 2024, although doubtful as plenty of other fires like dealing with massive fall-out coming from Site C is a much bigger toxic mess that can very much imperil the NDP during the next election cycle. Of course you can ignore this question, but it will tell me at least that you wish to pontificate, rather than provide practical RP/MP solutions that we could advocate for amongst our various circles.

  4. So why does it matter? Vancouver is a NA leader in reducing driving in the city and yet it is at a terribly glacial pace. It is also less than linear: we’ll never reach zero and even 50% of peak VKT would be miraculous. Speeding that pace is politically highly challenging. But as much as car dependence and congestion are problems, they are minuscule compared to climate change. And any reduction in VKT CO2 has largely been offset by larger vehicles. Reducing VKT in Vancouver can’t even begin to be considered a solution to climate change. And other cities are still going in the opposite direction.

    On the other hand, EV adoption in Vancouver (and even BC) has now surpassed VKT reduction as a driver of lower CO2 emissions. But it isn’t just linear, it is aggressively exponential. In the coming year or two EVs will have done more on that front than 20 years of progress in VKT. And it will accelerate all the way to zero. That brings down urban air pollution too.

    Ensuring adequate charging infrastructure is vital to the speed of the switch and that is where civic and senior governments have to step boldly up to the plate with incentives and assistance. Mobility pricing could be a funding mechanism to speed toward that goal. Land based transportation is low hanging fruit and must precede 2050 by a huge margin since aviation and other sectors may not meet that target.

    1. Might we use clear references in this discussion? When you say “Vancouver is NA leader in reducing driving”, please confirm you mean the City of Vancouver?

      Given CoV only represents 24-27% of the population from Squamish to Chilliwack, which is the operational catchment area for any RP/MP policy, then whatever policy Victoria comes up with needs to account for this greater mobility perspective.

      An even bigger issue is the region is dissected by Hwy 1 (east-west) & Hwy 99 (north-south), which means if you live on Vancouver Island, Pemberton/Whistler, or the Rest of the Province/Canada for that matter, then Victoria needs to account for what happens in this greater field of play. This MUST include obtaining approvals with Ottawa on what happens at the land border at Peace Arch, and at Point Roberts. Oh, and let’s NOT forget Metro Port & YVR (my former employer where I was Director of Strategy) sit on federal land, and their operations cannot be interfered with by Provincial / regional fiat.

      And why does CoV NOT get a free-hand here, well, Hwy 99 runs right down Oak Street, through downtown and out across the Lion’s Gate Bridge, so without Victoria’s approval, CoV cannot implement RP/MP that affects a PROVINCIAL HIGHWAY.

      These are “realities” in making provincial tolling policy, so Victoria in consulting with affected communities and respecting the broader impacts will have considerable difficulty in responding to an internally focused Metro Vancouver tolling policy. And the future of RP/MP policy got a lot harder when NDP killed tolls on new Port Mann and Golden Ears (which was actually owned by TransLink)

      So much for “political realities” that you continue to ignore.

      1. I am not clear on the control the province exerts over numbered highways. It used to be much firmer, in my experience. Working with a team on Hwy 7 in Burnaby a while back, MoTI representaves confirmed that the highway was being handed over to the municipalities where possible. For improvements along Hwy 99, MoTI has continually referred to the north end of the Oak St Bridge as being beyond their control, as it is up to the City of Vancouver.

        Checking MoTI documents online, they define Hwy 99 as being under the jurisdiction of the CoV from the north end of the Oak St Bridge, to Georgia and Chilco (but not to the boundary of the City at the Lions Gate bridge). This last part matters because of a City intent to explore road use pricing in the downtown peninsula, which includes a portion of Hwy 99.

        Issues related to the Port with respect to that road use pricing plan will be interesting. I don’t think the CoV can implement road use pricing on lands controlled by the Port, but I think trucks have to go through the CoV to get to the Port.

        1. Thank you for your focus on the point of this Thread.

          As you correctly indicate, for the purpose of routine operations/maintenance, the Province often agree to permitting highway management to the local community, where practical. But the Province did NOT transfer ownership of the highways to CoV, and so the application of new major policies that affect inter-city users will become an interesting political question. Please remember the Golden Ears bridge is OWNED by TransLink (an organization controlled by the Mayor’s Council), but the Province without consultation just decided/forced the Tolls to be removed. Why? to fulfill a crucial political promise that likely was instrumental in getting Horgan elected 3 years ago.

          And the port / airport users are federal constituents, and have serious lobbying capacities in Ottawa that would certainly come into play should the CoV attempt to alter their operations.

          My point is that until we see specific RP/MP policy proposals, the consequent effect on stakeholders, etc…what we see on this Thread is just theoretical postulations. What I’m trying to point out are the “realities” of implementation that are NOT easily put aside, and for example only, the jurisdictional issues don’t magically go away when Ottawa comes knocking in Victoria to halt any negative impacts on Canada’s ports-of-entry.

          This is exactly the same reason why Metro Port / YVR do NOT fall under local jurisdiction, because who would then speak for Prairie farmers, or Territorial tourism agencies, if Metro Vancouver government got to decide how Canada’s international port-of-entries might work or not?

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