« Understanding the 'rules' when buying second hand | Main | Do lower mortgage rates make you flock to buy a home? »

August 04, 2021

Are toll roads the solution to Canada's traffic woes?

A January issue of Maclean’s has been sitting in my apartment for more than half a year.

E4fd799d4759b5a787746df5afa4 On the cover, with a big splashy title, is the reason I haven’t thrown it out: “We now spend the equivalent of 32 working days a year ... STUCK IN TRAFFIC. Our rush hours rank with the world’s worst. Here's how to fix it. By Andrew Coyne.”

Coyne, of course, is the superjournalist from a variety of media outlets, including CBC’s The National. He has my apologies for the delay in reading his piece, but this is the beauty of the Internet. Though it took me nearly eight months to actually sit down and read the feature, we can still discuss it today.

Because this baby deserves to be broken down.

I won’t make an attempt so summarize Coyne’s sprawling feature on the sad state of Canadian traffic – you can check out the entire article here – but it’s key thesis needs a forum to be discussed.

In essence, amid a flurry of graphs and cited studies and empirical real-world evidence, Coyne proves that Canada’s traffic woes have gotten so bad there’s only one way to solve them.

Toll roads.

Certainly, he isn’t the first to suggest such a remedy, though Coyne’s contention is that we’re paying to use our nation’s roads whether we know it or not. Payment by time, payment by taxes, payment by space. Payment by going numb inside the damn car.

*Bing: Which Canadian city has the worst traffic

“The task, then, is to make those ‘external’ costs apparent to each driver,” he writes, er, wrote. “Raise the price of using the road and people will reduce their demand for it, just as they do for most other things. That makes driving more expensive, at least at first. But with less congestion, other costs fall. Not only are travel times reduced, but so are all those other ills of congestion, from accidents to pollution.”

Again, there’s no sense in trying to define Coyne’s stance in this space – the thing goes on for about 70 pages. But what can be addressed, what can be measured, is whether motorists would be willing to pay to avoid traffic.

Would you be willing to pay extra to avoid rush hour congestion if toll roads, like some want to see, were available to you? If so, what is a traffic-free commute worth to you each day? Month? Year?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



Post a comment


Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...