Canada’s truckers not sold on tolling as a congestion fix

| 5/18/2007

Joanne Ritchie, executive director of the Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada, said truckers in Canada generally oppose toll roads and that there aren’t many toll roads to speak of.

“As a matter of principle, we would certainly not be happy with toll roads replacing comparable free routes,” Ritchie told Land Line.

Ritchie was reacting to a brand new study by a university professor in Canada encouraging provinces to consider toll roads to relieve congestion in and around major cities.

The 36-page report, released by Canadian think tank C.D. Howe Institute on Tuesday, May 15, asserts without question that congestion will only get worse in metro areas unless action is taken. The report is called “Congestion relief: Assessing the case for road tolls in Canada.”

Study author C. Robin Lindsey, an economics professor at the University of Alberta who has authored several reports on congestion, wrote in the study that road pricing – also called congestion pricing – is the answer.

That means tolls – higher tolls during peak times and lower tolls when traffic thins out. It also means high-occupancy lanes and truck-only toll lanes.

“Research in Canada should begin now on road pricing for heavily congested urban highways and/or downtown areas,” Lindsey wrote.

Lindsey stated that governments should consider private builders and operators to build the roads.

Ritchie said truckers won’t easily be convinced tolls are a good idea.

“A toll road is an option, but when commercial traffic is forced to go on a toll road because of routing, we might have some questions,” she said. “You have to weigh the time you’re going to save with the cost.”

City leaders around the country are also reacting to the assertions in the report.

Mayor Peter Kelly of Halifax, Nova Scotia, told The Chronicle Herald that he would like to see more people utilize public transportation than have toll roads.

The C.D. Howe Institute, founded in 1958, is a non-profit, non-partisan group funded by donations with a goal of influencing public policy and government efficiency. It has several research arms throughout Canada.

– By David Tanner, staff writer