Metro Vancouver residents narrowly favour tolling all bridges: poll

Should all bridges in the region be tolled, or only new ones? According to a new Mustel Group poll, the answer depends where you live

Some people think that all bridges should be tolled to reduce congestion and help pay for replacement or upgrades to old bridges. Others believe that only new bridges should be tolled. If you had to select one tolling option, which one would you choose?


  Toll all bridges   Toll only new bridges   Undecided
 Metro Vancouver  Vancouver/North Shore Burnaby/Tri-cities/South of Fraser



When the new Port Mann Bridge opened for traffic in 2012, with a fee for crossing, many cost-conscious drivers detoured to the toll-free Pattullo or Alex Fraser bridges. Now that the B.C. government is planning to replace the aging Massey Tunnel with a new tolled 10-lane bridge, many have raised the concern that even more traffic will clog up the Alex Fraser Bridge.

The question facing Metro Vancouver has also been raised in municipalities across North America: how to make road users pay. Is tolling all bridges the answer to persistent congestion?

In a recent poll, the Mustel Group put two questions about tolling to Lower Mainland residents. “We knew that there was going to be a significant portion of people that just object to tolling completely,” says Evi Mustel, principal of the Mustel Group. “I think that no matter what governments we have, it’s unlikely that we’d ever go back to a system of no tolling, but we thought we’d just ask that question at the beginning so they could get their say in. Then we followed up with the second question: If you had to select one tolling option, which one would you choose?”

She was right, in that 41 per cent of 350 people polled responded that they do not support tolling on any bridges in Metro Vancouver. To the second question, residents leaned towards tolling all bridges, with 47 per cent in favour of that option, 38 per cent in favour of tolling only new bridges, and 15 per cent undecided. The difference between those numbers, Mustel adds, is “barely significant” considering the margin of error.

Looking further into the numbers, what emerges is a geographical divide. Residents of the city of Vancouver and the North Shore tend to favour tolling only new bridges, with 48 and 54 per cent respectively choosing that option. Respondents living in municipalities to the east and south of Vancouver, however, favour tolling all bridges. The numbers were highest in Burnaby and New Westminster (59 per cent) and in Coquitlam, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge (also 59 per cent).

“My theory behind that is that Vancouver and the North Shore are probably the biggest users of the Lions Gate Bridge and the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge,” says Mustel. “So they don’t pay for those bridges and they would prefer not to.”

Residents of eastern and municipalities, however, must pay for the Port Mann and the Golden Ears, and those in the south are facing a toll for the new Massey Bridge, causing feelings of “inequity,” says Mustel. “So the public is leaning toward tolling all bridges but what we have is a real geographic divide.”