Saturday, October 22, 2011

Who pays and how?

The Champlain Bridge in Montreal, opened in 1962, is on its last legs and isn't expected to last 10 more years before it collapses. The federal government has promised to replace it (these bridges fall under federal jurisdiction). But the feds still have to decide how to pay for it. Tolls are not out of the question, which should be no surprise to any Montrealer. The bridge was a toll bridge from its opening until 1990. Canadians were polled recently as to whether they support tolls and generally, the country was split 50/50.

I'm not surprised that we've run out of money to maintain our road infrastructure. We have a very high ratio of roads per capita (*), maybe the highest, partly due to how spread out we are in Canada and partly due to the bias toward accommodating vehicle traffic versus public transit. We can't maintain the level of roads we have now without spending a lot more money. To make matters worse, we are spoiled by low fuel prices and low insurance rates. Don't believe me? Call someone in Europe and check out what they pay for gas and vehicle insurance. You might be shocked.

The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning toward the idea of forcing our car-biased society to start footing the bill for the type of roadway network we have insisted upon. People without cars should not be paying to support the massive roadway projects, bridges and overpasses we need to build and eventually rebuild. So the only option I see is either tolls, or bring gas prices up to where they should be to generate the tax base necessary to fund the road network. Owning a car is a luxury, not a right. This is something we tend to forget. An extremely unpopular opinion, I agree, but there you have it.

Now, having said all that, we really need to get cracking on fixing public transit. You can't tell people that using a car is only a luxury option when our transit (especially in Calgary) is as slow, inefficient and unreliable as it currently is.

(*) Canada has about 900,000km of roads.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

and did you know that 21% of the roads in Canada are in Saskatchewan