Winning the Battle with Traffic Congestion: The benefits of accurate transport pricing

Instead of increasing road capacity, Canada’s government agencies should implement accurate transport pricing.
Published on August 10, 2010

Executive Summary

Most of us have experienced the frustration of being stuck in traffic when you need to be somewhere else. As Canada’s cities have grown in size (and become increasingly motorized) congestion and all its associated economic, social, and environmental impacts have become all the more common. In 2008, for example, Toronto was ranked the fourth most-congested region in North America (behind only Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago), with the direct cost of congestion estimated to be in excess of $2-billion per year. Canada’s government agencies have responded to ever-growing congestion by trying to increase the capacity of the transport system. They hope that building wider roads and providing public transit will reduce congestion, at least to tolerable levels. This investment, however, ignores other ways to manage congestion.
Instead of increasing the capacity of the transport system, Canada’s government agencies should implement accurate transport pricing that charges people more to travel in peak times. Travelling during peak times incurs substantially higher costs (in terms of both infrastructure and external costs, such as congestion) than does travelling during off-peak periods.
Accurate transport pricing not only reduces congestion, it also generates additional revenue to fund investment in additional capacity when and where it is justified by demand. Most importantly, accurate transport pricing is mode-neutral in that it neither discriminates against nor favours any transport mode, although it does favour high-value vehicles, such as buses and emergency vehicles. Accurate transport pricing also allows people the freedom to manage their travel needs in the way that best suits them. Some workplaces, for example, may allow their employees to work flexible hours in order to reduce their transport costs.
This paper suggests that accurate transport pricing is an essential part of Canada’s transport investment. There is no need to reinvent the wheel: Canadian cities and towns can emulate cities overseas that have invested in and benefitted from accurate transport pricing.

View as PDF (15 pages)

Featured News

MORE NEWS

Building a 21st Century Transit System for Calgary

Building a 21st Century Transit System for Calgary

Calgary Transit is mired in the past, building an obsolete transit system designed for an archaic view of a city. Before the pandemic, transit carried 45 percent of downtown Calgary employees to work, but less than 10 percent of workers in the rest of the Calgary...

Invest in Roads Not Transit

Invest in Roads Not Transit

The jury is still out in Winnipeg: should governments be spending money on roads or more public transit? Well, a new policy brief from the Frontier Centre show that the sooner governments abandon their bias against cars the better. A recent University of Toronto paper...

Multiple More Jobs Accessible by Automobile than By Transit

Multiple More Jobs Accessible by Automobile than By Transit

• A recent University of Toronto paper by Jeff Allen and Steven Farber examines work access as measured in travel time to get to work. The “30-minute job access” is a rounded-up average in all heavily populated regions in Canada. • The 2021 census revealed that...