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December 12, 2012

Port Mann Bridge - Toll Stupidity

There has been a lot of road construction over the last couple years here in the Lower Mainland. I'm sure many of you elsewhere can empathize with what drivers here have had to deal with.

One of the major projects was the expansion of the Port Mann bridge spanning the Fraser river, taking Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway) from the Vancouver area all the way across to the Atlantic Ocean. Before it was a 4-lane bridge, but it's been expanded to eight lanes now.

To help pay for the monumental costs of the expansion, they've decided to implement a toll. Until March, it will cost you $1.50 to cross the bridge. If you sign up for the automatic TReO tolling, then that rate will go until December 2013. Otherwise, you'll be charged $3 every time you cross the bridge.

That's going to be hell on commuters who have to cross that bridge every day. Tolls of $6 a day? That's going to put a major crimp in the budget, isn't it?

Not so fast, you must be thinking! Surely they're going to take care of those people who use it every day, aren't they? Make the hit a little easier to take? After all, in Illinois, those who have signed up for the automatic toll withdrawals pay half the price that those who have to stop at the tollbooths do. That's taking care of your regular customers! (On the backs of visitors, I might add)

Yes, Vancouver does have something in place for regular users.

For only $150/month, you can get a monthly pass instead of one that dings you every time you cross the bridge. Wow, what an accommodation. How thoughtful! I've never seen government work so hard for its people.

Hey, wait a minute...

At $3/crossing, that monthly pass will pay for itself after 50 crossings. If you take the bridge both ways on your trip, once a day, that's 25 days. Just to make it pay for itself.

A normal work week is five days a week, typically 4 weeks in a month (give or take)...that's only 20 days.

HOLY SHIT! Unless you use the bridge for more than work (or unless you work a *lot* of overtime), the monthly pass actually screws you!

That can't be right.

But it appears to be.

Just how many people will be getting that monthly pass? The only ones who I can see doing it are those who make multiple trips back and forth over the bridge in a day.

I thought monthly passes were supposed to be more economical?

I guess not!

Am I doing the math wrong or missing something? Because this makes no sense to me.

As a side note, a Vancouver Sun article today shows that over a third of regular bridge users are going to try and find another way across the river rather than pay the tolls. That's not surprising at all. What's even less surprising is that a majority of regular users disapprove of the tolls and a majority of people who don't use the bridge that much support the tolls.

I know I'll be finding another way across the river if I can.

How about you? Any weird toll or road stories in your neck of the woods? I'd love to hear them.


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