Picture of highway with cars

Are road tolls effective for decreasing congestion?

Canada is home to a few of the most congested cities in North America. Road tolls are commonly proposed as the solution. A recent study on this subject matter questions this notion and has attracted some critics with opposing viewpoints.

The study released by the Conference Board of Canada and the Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario cautions that road tolls should not be the first choice as a tool for controlling congestion. Proponents of road tolls often point to the additional revenue generated as a benefit. However, the report argues that strategies for reducing congestion must be separate from those aimed at increasing government revenue. The study points to alternative methods such as promoting and investing in other forms of transportation as well as infrastructure and rules to control traffic. Read the full report here.

Researchers at the C.D. Howe Institute, on the other hand, support the use of road tolls but with a different system. Metered high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes are currently being used in some major US cities with success. Pricing for individual drivers varies depending on travel time saved. Drivers are billed via an app or windshield pass.

There is very limited data in Canada for effectiveness of road tolls and both sides agree that the government should be using a multi-prong approach towards reducing congestion and more research and data is required.


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Source: “Road tolls: Will they actually reduce congestion?” by Jordan Chittley, The Globe and Mail (November 22, 2016).


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