News / Calgary

Pay your way out of Calgary traffic congestion: report

High Occupancy Toll lanes could give many a quick way out of traffic for a price, says a released by the Ecofiscal Commission.

A new study suggest that if Calgarians want to avoid messes like this on the Deerfoot, they should be prepared to pay.

The Canadian Press

A new study suggest that if Calgarians want to avoid messes like this on the Deerfoot, they should be prepared to pay.

We've all been in a traffic jam, not going anywhere, resenting those around us for making us late to appointments, work and play. But if an economist told you there's a way out, a way to escape congestion – for a price – would you pay it?

Monday, the Ecofiscal Commission released a report on pricing traffic congestion for Canadian cities, including Calgary. The 60 page report details many models towards putting a price on roads to better deal with congestion. For Calgary, they are recommending a High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane pilot.

HOT lanes are an opt-in toll lane that allow users to use the lanes if they have enough occupants, or pay to use the lane if they don't qualify as carpoolers.

“Other cities have found that giving single drivers the choice to opt-in to the carpool lane for a fee makes those lanes more efficient and gets the entire highway moving faster,” said commission chair Chris Ragan in a release. “Everyone benefits.”

These lanes are high tech and now being implemented with cameras that can count vehicle occupants as well as take your licence plate information to link up to an account with a credit card, which means police don't have to physically enforce their use.
Coun. Shane Keating said he's all for adding HOV lanes to Calgary roads, as long as they aren't straight up tolls.

"What I mean by that is if we had an HOV lane, which of course are high occupancy vehicle lane and those who drove in that lane ended up having to pay a toll if they were under the two passengers then I would be in favour of it," he said.

In the past the Manning Foundation has suggested the city introduce the HOV lanes, but Keating said it's not that simple for Calgary to switch up Deerfoot or even Stoney Trail to include the lanes because they are run by the province and not municipally.

Toll roads also aren't currently allowed in Alberta, according to the report, so the City would have to work with the province to change legislation.

Keating also added the only way to have these lanes on Calgary's major roadways, like Deerfoot, would be to add an extra lane, ensuring it has at least three if not four lanes of traffic, at all times to combat certain pinch points.

These tolls if implemented could help fund future projects, including Transit and infrastructure. According to the report by the Manning Foundation the lanes could result in $76 million in annual municipal revenues and private benefits of over $500 per vehicle.

“Calgarians should have the opportunity to put pricing to the test, experience the results, and decide if it makes sense,” says Ragan. “We need to get Canada’s cities moving and that won’t happen without a serious conversation about congestion pricing.”

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