During a joint meeting between the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council and TransLink on May 24, Surrey’s Mayor Linda Hepner called the commission’s report “marvellous.” Marvellous? The concept is machiavellian, argues the Now-Leader’s Tom Zytaruk. (Now-Leader file photo)

Column

ZYTARUK: Road pricing is reprehensible

Fairness? Hah! It represents an attack on the working poor and all lower-income drivers

So let it be written…

Let’s call “Mobility Road Pricing” by its proper name — Roads for the Rich.

You have likely heard about this heinous scheme to charge drivers up to $8 per day. That’s what, $2,920 per annum, if you drive every day of the year, for the privilege of motoring along already existing roads that were built with your precious tax contributions.

You see, we have a traffic congestion problem in this region, and some people clearly figure the fix is to put a financial squeeze on lower-income drivers to get them off the roads so the wheel-heeled among us — those who’d just as soon toss $8 out into the street as keep it in their pocket — can enjoy clear sailing.

The Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council set up this thing called the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission, whose 378-page report into this abomination of a concept indicates that charging drivers up to $8 dollars a day could reduce congestion by 20-25 per cent and net up to $1.5 billion each year, with the dubious caveat that “revenue should not be the prime aim of mobility pricing.”

Check out this bit of Orwellian doublespeak, contained in the report: “It is easy to characterize a decongestion charge as a ‘money grab’ or ‘just another tax.’ The paradox is that the less you charge, the more it would be just that. The charge needs to be set at a level sufficient to unlock the considerable benefits of reduced congestion and more efficient mobility.”

(That’s five fingers not four, right Winston?)

The real aim, I suggest, is to make it financially prohibitive, if not impossible, for low-income people to be able to afford to drive and therefore get them off the roads and out of the way. We’re already paying crazy money for gas at the pumps, which has many Surrey residents now thinking twice before pulling out of their driveway.

The commission’s report says the aim is to promote “fairness.” Whose fairness? Certainly not the low-income single mom driving her kids to school, the working poor, the college student, the cash-strapped senior who needs to drive to the pharmacy…anyone living on that precarious financial edge.

READ ALSO: Drivers could pay $8 per day to help cut gridlock under new plan

READ ALSO: High gas prices prompt most British Columbians to drive less: poll

During a joint meeting between the mayor’s council and TransLink on May 24, Surrey’s Mayor Linda Hepner called the commission’s report “marvellous.”

Marvellous? The concept is machiavellian. Then again, I’m among the unwashed masses not pulling in a healthy six-figure salary as does our mayor, with her $15,795 yearly car allowance. What do I know about the real world?

What’s marvellous for some people is injurious for others. Remember Aircare, that other punitive, happily abandoned attack on regular people who find it difficult to make ends meet? The working poor, the low-income earner. Back in the day, I personally lost two vehicles to that cynical cash grab — a ‘77 Nova and an ‘89 Escort.

Public Transit will not be an option for many people who will still need to drive to work, or need their vehicle to do their job, regardless if road pricing comes to be or not.

It’s an election year, folks. Find out where your candidates stand on mobility road pricing, and if they’re for it, let them know you are not for them. And when they join the unemployment line, perhaps they will finally appreciate the malevolent effects initiatives like road pricing have on the lives of everyday people who don’t occupy ivory towers.

So let it be done.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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