Twenty out of 21 mayors in Metro Vancouver have, remarkably, put their names to a regional-transportation proposal that includes not only the dreaded word "tolls," but also the somewhat mysterious phrase "mobility pricing."
In any case, one gets the drift. All these elected politicians are in favour of schemes to relieve congestion and gridlock, which would be partly paid for by drivers in proportion to their actual use of the roads.
Hitherto at least, it would have been very surprising if municipal politicians of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, or those of Greater Montreal, were to advocate market-based payment for roads. But ideas can change. Examples can be set.
London – thanks to a socialist mayor, Ken Livingstone – has had a congestion charge since 2003. Naturally, there was considerable discontent at first, but it is now quite well accepted.
In the mayors' council proposal for transportation in the Lower Mainland (Derek Corrigan of Burnaby is the one dissenter), mobility pricing is one element, not the whole $7.5-billion capital-spending plan. Nonetheless, it is politically courageous.
The Minister of Transportation of British Columbia, Todd Stone, has praised the achievement of consensus, but has put a damper on any thoughts that the provincial carbon tax would be drawn upon. Premier Christy Clark had already stipulated for a regional referendum on funding sources for transportation. And the contribution of the federal government, if any, is unknown.
The mayors' report never quite defines "mobility pricing," but their principles are clear enough. They recognize that more and wider roads are not the solution. They look forward to 2045, when they hope that commuting distances will be reduced by 24 per cent, "fully three-quarters" of that improvement coming from "the introduction of time- and distance-based road tolls."
They are well along on the right track. Let other large Canadian cities follow their lead.