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In an op-ed for the Globe and Mail, Associate Professor Werner Antweiler says that the B.C. Liberals and NDP are missing the point by promising to slash bridge tolls in their election platforms.

Commuters traveling to and from work daily over the Port Mann or Golden Ears bridges pay an estimated $1,512 in annual tolls. The B.C. Liberals have promised to cap tolls at $500 per year, while the NDP is promising to eliminate them altogether. However, Antweiler urges politicians to consider a different strategy for tolling.

"The current system in the Lower Mainland, where only two bridges are tolled in order to recover construction costs, is flawed," wrote Antweiler. "Tolling is never popular…but without mobility pricing, traffic will get worse with population growth.”

According to the 2016 TomTom Traffic Index, Vancouver is Canada’s most congested city; on average, commuters face an extra 38 minutes of daily travel time. Antweiler says that tolls applied on major bottlenecks can mitigate congestion issues by letting drivers trade a higher price for a faster trip.

“Effective mobility pricing does not need to amount to a cash grab for the government,” he explains. “It’s possible to make mobility pricing revenue-neutral by taxing congested routes and subsidizing more efficient choices, including public transit and more fuel-efficient or electric vehicles. Toll revenue could even be returned through lower ICBC premiums.”

Antweiler also points to the success of cities like London, Stockholm, Milan and Singapore – all of which have improved traffic by implementing fees to enter the city core.

Werner Antweiler is UBC Sauder’s Chair in International Trade Policy, as well as Chair of the Strategy and Business Economics Division. He regularly writes about economic issues on his blog.

Read the full op-ed here.