Revenue estimates for the Port Mann bridge have been cut by 20 per cent for the next three years, but the $3 toll that took effect Jan. 1 will stay in place.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone released a traffic study Friday showing average weekday vehicle traffic down three per cent this January, compared to January 2013 when tolls were $1.50 and work continued to complete the 10-lane structure.
The study shows the share of truck traffic on the Port Mann is up 3.8 per cent for January, despite the toll increase. Weekday truck traffic on the non-tolled Pattullo and Alex Fraser bridges is up 1.6 per cent, contradicting the popular idea that the tolls have caused an exodus of commercial trucks to other bridges.
Stone said the change in revenue projections is mainly due to a recalculation of the baseline used in previous forecasts. Traffic over the Port Mann declined before the new bridge opened, due to a lingering recession, and recovery has led to truck traffic being up on all bridges, he said.
Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, said the drop in traffic could be a sign that $6 a day is too much for some commuters. Stone said studies in Florida and Texas show commuters react to toll increases by trying other routes, but they come back when they realize the time saving.
Mike Proudfoot, CEO of Transportation Investment Corporation, which operates the Port Mann bridge and highway expansion, said the study shows the time saving for commuters from Langley, Surrey and other communities. The study shows the Port Mann traffic peak is now at 7 a.m., where it was 6 a.m. before as commuters had to start earlier.
Stone said the express bus service across the wider Port Mann bridge has been successful, with 50,000 passengers a month.