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Road tolls - yay or nay?

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  • Road tolls - yay or nay?

    Jaerdo and the rest of you: Rather than derailing every road construction thread into a debate about implementing tolls on every road and highway, please discuss it here, please and thank you.

    My take on tolls is that they are OK as long as there's a non-toll alternative. Putting a toll on Hwy 63 is OK because if you don't wanna pay it then use Hwy 881.

    But the problem is, how much will a toll system cost? If you put in booths, how much will that cost to build and staff? How much would it cost to implement an automated tolling system that's now on the new Port Mann Bridge?
    “You have to dream big. If we want to be a little city, we dream small. If we want to be a big city, we dream big, and this is a big idea.” - Mayor Stephen Mandel, 02/22/2012

  • #2
    Toll roads are NOT ok.

    The proper place for all revenues is in the general taxation. User fees are a crappy idea.

    Why? Because in a very deep way the provision of public services is a lot like insurance payouts -- with certain forms of insurance, such as health and automotive, being mandatory.

    Everyone pays in and the service is then available on a universal basis.

    It has been proven over and over that due to the volume purchase the total costs are actually cheaper than in the per-user, per-service instance model.

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    • #3
      I'm good for toll roads. Users pay. This is done in many other jurisdictions and countries with great effect.

      Wanting everything to come out of general revenue is not realistic. And it's not fair. This assumes that twinning of this highway is a provincial priority, which not all taxpayers may agree with. That we would fund multi-billion dollar project like this over, say, new hospitals, or LRT.

      But I love discussing this kind of thing and think it is worthy of further consideration or debate one way or another.
      www.decl.org

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      • #4
        In the right context, I'm in favour of tolls and even P3 highways. Besides pay-per-use and better proportional taxation, I think it would lead to building better infrastructure and building it faster.

        That said, toll highways are politically unpalateable and a future government would almost certainly reverse it. Once the Canadian electorate gets used to "free" services and infrastructure, it's really hard to take that away from them.

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        • #5
          We just went through the Port Mann Bridge and the cost is $3 if you pay before 7 days from the time of transit after it is $5 I believe.

          They have a bank of cameras on the south side of the bridge and read your plate then. You can then go online and pay it if you wish.

          Personally I believe in tolls for road improvement purposes. In fact QE2 should be tolled as that route needs major improvement.

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          • #6
            Also, I think cities get screwed by public transportation funding. The province and feds spends billions of dollars building infrastructure for communities that total up to be a 1/10 of our size and economic clout, and makes the cities beg for the same funding.

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            • #7
              There are many routes people can take in a city like Edmonton. Toll roads would have limited effectiveness.
              "Talk minus action equals zero." - Joe Keithley, D. O. A.

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              • #8
                I think it is good to have a topic for toll roads. Despite their immediate unpopularity, I think they will grow on people when the actual reasoning behind it is learned, and the huge benefit they offer to solving our financial problems is realized.

                First off a response:

                I do not believe we need to offer free options for roads. We do not offer free options for airplanes. We do not offer free options for trains. We do not offer free alternatives for buying clothes, computers, televisions, or bicycles. If you want to utilize a good or service, you should pay for what you use.

                Secondly, my argument for toll roads:

                1) Political / ethical: I disagree that we should subsidize the use of things that have net negative impacts on society. Perhaps the net negative impact could be argued, but in my mind roads are the source of huge social, environmental, and economic costs on society. This makes subsidization of roads a perverse incentive. I would rather people pay directly for roads such that they are not subsidizing net negative programs they do not personally consume. Pay for what you use, don't pay for what you don't use. Toll roads (and the benefit principle) are more fiscally conservative.

                2) Growth patterns: subsidized roads cause urban sprawl. People choose their location based on an equilibrium point between housing cost/benefit and commute cost/benefit. Housing cost/benefit includes size, amenities, privacy, etc. Commute cost/benefit includes time cost and financial cost (with the indirect costs of social and environmental damage). Some outliers sacrifice one to maximize the other, but consumers by and by large select the equilibrium point. Subsidized roads lower the time and financial cost of commuting, thus shifting the equilibrium point to a distance further from the core.

                I believe this exaplains it best:

                When governments do not price infrastructure to charge households for the marginal costs associated with their commuting, households will be willing to live further away from the core. As shown in Figure 20, this causes housing prices to rise further from the city core, while housing prices fall near the city centre. This leads to urban sprawl as rural areas at the city’s edge are converted into urban residence. Inefficiency is introduced whereby a greater share of the population is more willing to live near the city limits furthest away from a city core, thereby leading to more commuting than would occur if full user-fee pricing were in place.


                http://www.policyschool.ucalgary.ca/...ban-growth.pdf

                3) Financing: Toll roads allow for effective full cost accounting and pricing. We can build infrastructure projects as fully self-sustaining entities. We base pricing off of the volume of traffic as a function of the cost of financing. General tax revenues are indirect and very difficult to adjust for local projects, making full cost accounting and pricing quite difficult. Toll roads are a great solution to funding our infrastructure deficit.

                4) Ending the free rider problem: This is especially relevant at the municipal level, which pays for a large proportion of our roads. Those who do not pay taxes to the jurisdiction responsible for road financing still consume roads. At a municipal level, this is over half the population, given that only those who own property pay taxes and municipalities cannot charge (and do not proportionally receive) gas taxes. At a provincial and federal level, non ratepayers can cross jurisdictional boundaries and consume the infrastructure as well.

                5) A point on gas taxes: Gas taxes are less direct and thus less efficient. They are less flexible in rate changes, making full cost accounting more difficult. While there is a relationship between gas consumption and road consumption, it is not a 1:1 relationship. Some vehicles are more fuel efficient. Some vehicles do not use conventional fuel. Some vehicles travel off-road. Gas taxes are also less effective in reducing congestion on key roads, which is something that toll roads can do. Tolls are more targeted and offer local capacity to influence road use. Gas taxes do not.

                A point on automated toll roads:

                Automated toll roads have been proven as cost effective in examples around the world. Here is one cost benefit analysis of automated vs traditional toll roads: http://www.piarc.org/ressources/docu...affarzadeh.pdf. They are used successfully in Canada as well, for instance in Ontario.

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                • #9
                  Definitely a nay to this one. It's another form of taxation. The government(s) don't have a revenue problem, they have a spending problem. We pay for are roads through many levels of taxation. Enough is enough.
                  Gone............................and very quickly forgotten may I add.

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                  • #10
                    ^That is actually not true in most cases. I think we look (public) at some bad examples of what we perceive as waste, but in most cases there isn't just extra revenue floating around when were talking about infrastructure projects in the billions of dollars.
                    www.decl.org

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'd love to see road tolls, and I think that P3s like the Henday are the perfect place to start. The government has a significant expense every year to pay for the P3 contract.

                      I do NOT think that a free roadway alternative is at all necessary. Travelling by car has a significant entry fee (car ownership and insurance) that already act as a barrier to the less wealthy segment of the population.
                      It's a legitimate idea that there should be a low cost way to get places, but the freeway isn't it: we need safe sidewalks and bike routes to everywhere, and usable public transit. Providing freeway access free to the user is actually counterproductive to the goal of equitable access. Encouraging more freeway use via subsidy not only makes transit less viable by poaching riders, it makes self-powered travel less safe by inducing vehicle traffic, and in the long term it encourages sprawl and lower-density development which make trips longer and therefore more expensive and more difficult to take using actual low-cost modes.

                      Add in the fact that freeways, like railroads and rivers, tend to create barriers to travel by their very existence without creating any quality of life value other than for users (yes, including the stuff that we buy that gets delivered via freeway) and it's pretty clear that freeways and expressways should be paid for by the user and not by the public at large.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by GreenSPACE View Post
                        ^That is actually not true in most cases. I think we look (public) at some bad examples of what we perceive as waste, but in most cases there isn't just extra revenue floating around when were talking about infrastructure projects in the billions of dollars.
                        When will it stop though. Will it end up like the airlines charging you for extra weight, then for extra bags, then for overhead luggage etc. Toll roads can go from charging a flat rate per vehicle to then going to the size of the vehicles, the number of passengers etc. That's not a stretch. The government will dream up all kinds of ways to relieve us of our cash.
                        Gone............................and very quickly forgotten may I add.

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                        • #13
                          ^ Toll roads should be regulated to full cost pricing. They should charge the rate they require to recover investment. How this is done (size, occupants etc) is irrelevant.

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                          • #14
                            I think they make sense for major projects. For example, the ring road should have a toll on it, like you see in other cities (like Houston, Texas).

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gemini View Post
                              Originally posted by GreenSPACE View Post
                              ^That is actually not true in most cases. I think we look (public) at some bad examples of what we perceive as waste, but in most cases there isn't just extra revenue floating around when were talking about infrastructure projects in the billions of dollars.
                              When will it stop though. Will it end up like the airlines charging you for extra weight, then for extra bags, then for overhead luggage etc. Toll roads can go from charging a flat rate per vehicle to then going to the size of the vehicles, the number of passengers etc. That's not a stretch. The government will dream up all kinds of ways to relieve us of our cash.
                              Airlines are not related to this discussion. If we want to pay for large infrastructure projects like highways through general tax revenue, it just means then we have to be prepared not to be able to pay for other things like hospitals or LRT. I guess my preference is the latter, but it doesn't have to be an either or. Through the last few years it has become clear that the provincial gov't has a serious revenue problem. There are certainly inefficiencies that can be addressed, but they don't add up to billions of dollars. They won't be enough to build what needs to be built.
                              www.decl.org

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