Wednesday, May 07, 2014

On "Toll Lanes" In Calgary

The Manning Foundation is recommending tolls on some Calgary roads, such as Glenmore Trail, Crowchild Trail and Deerfoot Trail. 
"Folks are spending more time in traffic than being in the office, earning their incomes and contributing to the economy,” said report writer Ben Brunnen. 
He suggests one lane of existing traffic on those major thoroughfares could be transformed into a toll express lane. Drivers would pay $5 a day to use the faster lane. 
“In the event the traffic pattern warrants more people moving to the high occupancy lane, well then, the price would increase," he said. 
Tolls could raise $76 million in profit for the city every year, the report suggests.
What kind of self-absorbed stupidity is this?  Do the wealthy, entitled people living that bubble really believe that Calgarians have an extra $10 a day (and that's assuming they only use one of these toll lanes) per day going to and from work) to throw away?  Of course they don't.  This is a bunch of rich people trying to find a way to buy themselves an express lane so that they aren't afflicted by the horrors of sitting in traffic with their Mercedes idling behind my Kia.  (Oh the horror!)

Trying to retrofit a "toll lane" onto any of Calgary's major roadways is asking for a traffic flow disaster.  First of all, these roads are major arteries hundreds of thousands of cars use them daily.  In fact, you pretty much cannot avoid them if you are moving around in Calgary.  Want to get up to the Airport, that's Deerfoot.  Live in Douglasdale, and want to get up to the University, you're dealing with Deerfoot, Glenmore and Crowchild.

Of course, the Manning Foundation doesn't talk about just how these lanes should be implemented on existing roadways, nor do they talk about the logistical problems of creating such lanes and ensuring safe access to exits from them.

Nor do they account for the social consequences of creating a "privileged lane" that is really only accessible to the wealthy.  If you think Calgary drivers are a bunch of aggressive drivers now, just wait until you choke off traffic flow on a major artery like Glenmore and a driver wants to get from the "rich lane" onto the Crowchild exit.  I guarantee you that people won't be polite about it.

The argument that I see being put forward is that we need a "user pay" model for maintaining this kind of infrastructure.  What's next?  A "user pay" model that charges my sewage a toll when it enters the main sludge lines?  Roadways in this city are common property - we all pay property taxes (either directly as homeowners or indirectly as renters).  We all paid for those roads in the first place, and collectively we pay for their maintenance through taxes and the like.

Whether you call it a "user fee", a "service fee" or anything else, it still boils down to a form of taxation.  In other words griping about property tax increases and then promoting "user fees" on the roads to fund maintaining the roads is just ridiculous.

Frankly, it seems to me that if you want to implement "toll roads", there has to be a valid alternative route through the city first.  More to the point, I shouldn't be obliged to negotiate toll roads if I don't want to pony up.  Since this city's class of wannabe oligarchs wants their own little private road system to play on, I suggest that they pony up for the full cost of the thing, and pay for it with their vaunted tolls as they drive on it every day.  Let's see how incredibly effective that really is.  Oh yes, by pay the full cost, I mean all of it - they can pay for the everything from the land it sits on, to the rights of way, the gravel for the roadbed and the asphalt that sits on top.  Hell, if they want gold plated lights, go for it.  But they can pay every plug nickel of it - not a penny of the costs can come from public coffers.

You don't get to build your little privileged road system on the road system that the all Calgarians pay for through their taxes.


Anonymous said...

HOV High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes. Not lanes for rich people, lanes for people car-pooling and driving groups of people instead of one fat cat.

MgS said...

The Manning Foundation report is talking about HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes, with an additional fee for single occupancy cars to use them.

News flash: It's the TOLL part of things that I object to most strenuously. That pretty makes guarantees that only those with substantial disposable incomes can use them.