Another Look at a Downtown Congestion Charge

Tolls are out says the Premier, so time for another look at a Downtown Congestion Charge.

Now that the province has kiboshed the city’s highway tolling plan, it is a good time to take another look at a ‘Congestion Charge’ for vehicles entering the downtown core zone.

Whereas the planned tolls would have only an incidental effect on downtown traffic volumes, the Congestion Charge is aimed precisely at congestion. Unlike the tolls however, the Congestion Charge is not a fund raiser, instead it would likely cover it’s costs and a bit more, not the billions sought with the tolling plan.

So let’s focus clearly! To reduce Downtown congestion, charge for being downtown. Apply the charge only for those hours congestion relief is needed.

TfL CongestionCharge 640px-London_CC_12_2012_5045[1]

How it works

A Congestion Charge monitors vehicles seen inside a Charging Zone, and charges a daily fee. It uses camera and sensor type equipment, like the 407, but not located at the perimeter, instead at convenient locations throughout the zone. Cars with motor vehicle registered addresses inside the zone pay a much reduced charge or no charge at all. Commercial vehicle charges would seek to encourage overnight and early morning deliveries.

London’s Congestion Charge has been operative for some years and is successful – take a look at London.

CongestonChargeAccidentReduction Guardian 20150307

Some suggestsed charging choices

  • In effect 7am to 5pm Mon – Fri, which means those entering downtown for an evening or weekend baseball game, or a visit to the symphony, will not be charged.
  • Set a zone corresponding to downtown congestion. Bathurst/Davenport/Don for instance?
  • Determine necessary reduction in vehicle volumes to ease congestion and make room for improved transit.
  • Determine by surveys the charge that would deter individual drivers from driving into downtown.
  • Then set the charge accordingly, monitor performance, and if necessary, adjust the charge.

Traffic Management

The number of vehicles the downtown can accommodate will decline steadily in future years, if for no other reason than the huge and growing numbers of pedestrians using our streets. They are already demanding wider sidewalks, removing lanes, longer crossing times, closing roads and more. A congestion charge then is a traffic management tool that can help ‘manage’ congestion, if gridlock is to be avoided.

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