With less than a month to go before May’s provincial election, bridge tolls have quickly become a hot topic, with both the B.C. Liberals and the B.C. NDP making promises to either ease tolls or eliminate them altogether.
While these promises may be welcome news to commuters, the mayors of many Metro Vancouver municipalities aren’t as happy with the last-minute commitments.
North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto is one of them – he says both parties’ promises throw municipalities under the proverbial bus.
Mussatto is a member of a mayors’ council that was set to draft up a region-wide policy on tolling and congestion, a job made much harder by the Liberals and NDP.
Steele & Drex spoke to both Mussatto and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan about what the election promises could mean for the future of commuting.
Mussatto says the tolls were part of a larger plan to encourage public transportation use – as tolls made driving more unappealing, more commuters would utilize public transit, reducing both road congestion and the carbon footprint.
Without tolls, Mussatto wonders what Horgan’s plan is regarding transportation going into the future.
“How are you going to help us with the long-term plans of managing congestion? How are we going to be able to build a future that’s more sustainable, using less carbon, and that works for everyone, not just the wealthy?”
According to Horgan, investing in transit will lead to those changes without the need for tolls.
“Let’s make sure that choices are there for the people to make so they can reduce their impact on the environment, and we can have a better functioning transit and transportation system.”
Horgan calls the current tolling system “unfair,” saying that the system punishes people based on their geography.
“The only people who are paying tolls in British Columbia are those who live south of the Fraser and have to use the Port Mann or the Golden Ears to get around.”
He went on to say that the B.C. Liberals’ promise is hypocritical.
“They built the bridges, they put the tolls in place, and at the eleventh hour they’re trying to make it look like a good idea to make them go away.”
The fact that the NDP announced their tolling plan just minutes after the Liberals announced theirs has led some to believe the promise was a reactionary measure.
Horgan, however, says the plan has been in the works for a long time.
“We had it ready to go. It was part of the plan on Sunday.”