Mobility pricing and parking efficiencies: Getting Toronto moving again

Economist Kurt Van Dender, Parking 
Professional Dennis Burns
and Psychologist Jens Schade advised the 

Transport Futures forum. 
That would be courageous Minister !

In Ontario most politicians oppose tolls and gas taxes. A Toronto gathering looking at ways to make our transportation system work better was advised:

- propose no Taj Mahals
- sprawl is as contentious as intensification
- don't let technology dictate choices
- carrots, not sticks, choice, choice, choice
- plan with the economy not against it
- flush-out hidden subsidies
- transparency, is not necessarily a friend, consider a refinery gate tax on fuel
- get what you pay for
- tie payments directly to transit benefits
- equity issues are better addressed through other mechanisms
- all politics is local
- don't sell the flight, sell the beach

The  Nov. 22, 2011 Transport Futures “Mobility Pricing Stakeholder Forum” was the sixth in a series of learning events staged by Healthy Transport Consulting.

Spearheaded by HTC Director Martin Collier the event was supported  by partners, including 407 ETR, the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario, CAA South Central Ontario, HDR Decision Economics, Siemens Canada and Sustainable Prosperity.

The Mobility Pricing Stakeholder Forum featured discussions on
- gas taxes, parking fees and road tolls
- how Metrolinx will finance the $50 billion Big Move transportation plan
- how to explain mobility pricing costs and benefits

Guests included:

•  Kurt Van Dender, Chief Economist, International Transport Forum at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Van Dender is the co-author of  What sustainable road transportation future? Trends and Policy Options.
• Michael Fenn, President, Fenn Advisory Services, Senior Advisor, StrategyCorp and founding Metrolinx CEO
• Richard Joy, Toronto Board of Trade
• Jens Schade, Associate Professor, Dresden University of Technology, Germany
• Teresa Di Felice, Director of Government & Community Relations, Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) – South Central Ontario
• Gregory Thomas, Federal and Ontario Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Royson James from the Toronto Star reported on the event

"What do the terms cordon pricing, congestion charges, mobility pricing and traffic demand management have in common? They are the modern euphemisms for road tolls and car taxes —part of a carefully constructed range of terms being designed to take the edge off toxic ideas to fund transportation improvements in the face of government deficits," Toronto Star city columnist, Royson James wrote on Nov. 23.

James reported: “Traffic psychologist — yes, there is such a field of study — Jens Schade from Germany told attendees that it’s a fool’s errand to expect citizens to embrace tolls, fees and other road charges. But experience shows that opposition decreases once the measures are in."

The Toronto Star columnist wrote: “We already pay for the road in gas taxes and licence fees,” you say. Wait.  A 2008 Transport Canada study, “Estimates of the Full Cost of Transportation in Canada,” says the country’s annual capital cost for roads is $28.7 billion, with a further $4.9 billion in operating costs and $6.8 billion for land. Total, $40.4 billion. This does not include social and health costs such as accidents and pollution. All the gas taxes, fuel fees, licence fees and vehicle charges cover barely one-third of the $40.4 billion."

CBC News reported on the Mobility Pricing Stakeholder Forum

On Nov. 21 Andre Mayer, CBC News posted: “‘Tolls’ is kind of a catchphrase for road pricing, which has lots of different options,” says Cherise Burda, director of Ontario transportation policy at the Pembina Institute. That can include everything from traditional tolls, to congestion charges, to more progressive strategies like vehicle miles traveled (VMT).Whether it's an approach like TransLink, or a greater reliance on tolls, Burda says that improving the country’s transportation system is going to require a significant mental shift."

“We are used to paying for gas to run our cars and for parking,” says Burda, but “Canadians are just used to not paying for driving. It’s in our psyche.” “The way I see it, it’s going to happen eventually. So we can either have bold champions like in Vancouver doing it now to help reduce gridlock and pay for a transit vision, or later when things are much worse.”Andre Mayer posted for CBC News.

CBC News on TransLink funding

The same CBC post said "One group dealing with this issue head-on is TransLink, Vancouver’s regional transportation authority. TransLink operates everything from Vancouver bus service to the SkyTrain to the Golden Ears Bridge, an electronic toll bridge that connects Langley and Pitt Meadows, B.C. TransLink funds its operations through transit fares, part of the provincial gas tax, as well as a share of property taxes collected in each of the region’s 21 municipalities. TransLink has the power to raise money not only for road infrastructure but for transit, which enables it to look at the bigger transportation picture.

Chatham House Rule 

The Mobility Pricing Stakeholder Forum was held under the Chatham House Rule: "When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed."

Mobility pricing considerations

Every city is different. What does good, efficient or affordable mean? It depends.  What is the objective? Revenue, speed, accessibility, easing congestion or equity?

Environmentally sustainable? How fares environmental sustainability in these tough economic times?

Framing tolls, taxes and the longer-term   

- an innate"status-quo bias" makes any change difficult
- "loss aversion" we are more afraid of losing something than eager to make a gain
- a loss is much more deeply felt than a gain
- a hidden tax creates less "hedonic pain"
- penalties hurt more the bonuses please
- the more inevitable a change seems the less pain it causes
- after tolls were introduced in the London and Stockholm attitudes towards them became more positive
- front-end costs of tolling systems dropping dramatically
- familiarity breeds acceptance
- dissonance elimination
- fairness points to user-pay
- tolls and fees to finance needed infrastructure like the new Champlain bridge in Montreal and the Port Mann Highway 1 bridge east of Vancouver are supported by the public

European model: Short run marginal cost pricing

Short run marginal cost pricing is embedded in the European Union Green Book of 1995, White Paper 1998 and 1999 Eurovignette.

International Transport Forum reports on page 72: "The principle is rather simple: SRMC enables the running of all vehicles for which the additional costs borne by society are inferior to the utility of the vehicle for society, supposedly represented by the willingness to pay. Even if the principle is simple, the question of what kind of costs have to be included in the SRMC is rather tricky. In particular, environmental and congestion costs lead to specific problems. But SRMC may provide no incentive to invest, as congestion is a source of revenue. To remove this disincentive to invest, one might be tempted to charge according to other principles, among them, long-run marginal costs (hereafter LRMC)."

In Europe tolling has proved successful in London and Stockholm. A Dutch plan for a GPS-based vehicle miles traveled system went down with a change in government. In 2013 France and Belgium will join Germany as nations with a satellite-based tolling system.

The Stockholm toll was designed as a congestion fighting measure. When the tolls began so did a tax credit for anyone who paid the toll when it was part of a commute. The government did not want to raise labour costs in the city. The target of the plan was not the 40% of commuter-based traffic or the 15% professional but the 45% other. 

Parking facts

- Cars are parked 95% of the time
- 30% of traffic is made up of people looking for parking spaces
- Parking is 40% of the cost of urban transit in Europe
- Metrolinx has 60,000 unpriced parking spots

Free parking is expensive

Donald C. Shoup. The High Cost of Free Parking
Department of Urban Planning, University of California,  Los Angeles
Journal  of  Planning  Education  and  Research vol.  17,  pp. 3-20 (1997)

High Cost of Free Parking, Donald Shoup, Published by APA Planners Press, 2005, Hardcover, ISBN 978-1-884829-98-7
List Price: $69.95

Victoria Transport Policy Institute
Todd Litman
Parking Management: Strategies for More Efficient Use of Parking Resources
Updated 10 June 2011

Performance Parking Pricing

Performance Parking Pricing is designed to charge enough for parking to ensure that there's always going to be a couple of  parking spaces available (85% utilization rate). Parking is a $30 billion dollar industry in the US.

The talk included:
- parking apps
- paying the meter remotely with your smart phone
- abuse of disability permits
- unbundled parking (condos)
- parking and the electrical grid
- parking lots with solar power generators
- Van Park 2011, Washington D dot, Portland, Pittsburgh
- 340,000 cars a day come into Toronto
- municipally-owned Parking Authorities are valuable

Business sees value in road charges

Toronto Board of Trade Ontario election guide.
Royson James reported:  "If there is a need for more funds to ease us out of congestion, drivers, like everyone else, may have to shoulder some of the costs. It's a message that's being repeated in many quarters, some of them unexpected champions.

"For example, the Toronto Board of Trade, the Canadian Automobile Association and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (though they have a nuanced view) see value in road charges," the Toronto Star reported. 

In a June report the Board of Trade laid bare "the fact, that with current revenue streams, neither municipalities nor the province can afford the $50-billion regional transportation plan. With approximately 100,000 people a year moving into the Toronto region, the time and cost of our commute is accelerating.  Our 80 minute daily commute is approaching two hours. Our economy is losing $6 Billion annually and headed towards a $15 Billion annual loss.

"Our elected leaders must work together to get the financing needed to build the regional transportation plan," Carol Wilding, President and CEO said on June 28 on the release of the report "Reaching Top Speed".

In a September report the business group outlined principles for adopting mobility pricing in Toronto: Page 17
- Inclusivity - all levels of government
- Longevity - 25-year sustainable financial plan
- A durable plan, subject to amendments every five years
- Dedication, funds collected earmarked for the plan
- Accountability, annual reports
- Regionalism, revenue tools applied equally
- Staging, tolls and taxes introduced in stages
- Equality, everyone benefits, everyone pays

Transport Futures to take the process out into the community

Next year Transport Futures will hold a series of community events to build more support for new ways to finance our transportation system. To get involved please contact Transport Futures.

Further readings

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
Funding transit with road pricing – The Elephant in the Room, Nov. 17

Toronto Star, Gridlock series

Can higher taxes cure gridlock?
Toronto Star - ‎Nov 6, 2011‎

There's no free ride in easing gridlock
Toronto Star - ‎Nov 7, 2011‎

'Pay now or pay later' for transit
Toronto Star - ‎Nov 7, 2011‎

Poll shows support for congestion fees
Toronto Star - ‎Nov 5, 2011‎