EDITORIAL: Driving toward the future

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson's idea for a flat $1 bridge toll may be the most palatable solution yet.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson has made an interesting suggestion to help break the current gridlock over transit and highway funding in Metro Vancouver – or at least restore some forward impetus.

Her idea – that users of all Lower Mainland bridges pay a flat $1 toll per use – may be the most palatable solution yet with regard to paying the price for transportation, even though such a measure would still likely stick in the craw of many who rely on these important connections for their daily commute.

Some of those bridges were supposedly bought – and paid for – years ago, and it might be argued that the imposition of any fee for them breaks faith with the electorate, both currently and historically. Others – whatever their practicality in the people-moving game – stand as costly, politicized monuments for which a $1 toll represents substantially less than anything we have been told is mandatory to recoup the expense of the structures.

Yet Jackson’s approach has the simple, populist ring that all canny politicians strive for – and which may have more practical chance of finding resonance with the electorate than the recent failed transit levy referendum.

A single dollar may well be what marketers refer to as a sell-through price, that simple magic number at the point where inclination and cash-on-hand coincide.

How much? A buck? However grudgingly, the answer would probably be OK.

Drivers might even rationalize the expense – they’re getting a break on this new bridge even if they’re getting dinged for that old one. They might even say, we’re all going to pay for all of this, one way or another.

We’re past the stage, really, where we can even argue for fairness in shouldering the costs of supplying an up-to-date transportation network – roads, bridges and transit – for the burgeoning Metro Vancouver area. The fact is that successive balls were dropped many years ago, by politicians more interested in taking expedient paths, rather than pioneering new trails for the future. Years of gasoline taxes and demonstrably bloated and wasteful transit authorities also bear their share of the blame – and responsibility for current public antipathy to funding transit and transportation improvements.

Any forward movement, such as that which Jackson suggests, may ultimately be better than endlessly rehashing past bitterness.

We’re stuck in the past, when we need to be moving – as efficiently and rapidly as roads, rails and bridges will allow – into the future.