12/02/2013 07:04 EST | Updated 02/01/2014 05:59 EST

Toll U.S. crossings to keep gas taxes in B.C., says expert

A local transportation planner thinks the time has come to toll all of our border crossings as a way of keeping more gas tax revenue in B.C.

Eric Doherty, principal of Ecopath Planning, made the suggestion at SFU’s recent Moving in Metro summit on mobility pricing. He suggests that a $5 toll on Highway 99 might be enough to dissuade people from going south, as well as to make up some of the lost revenue from those who continue to make the trek.

“A very logical thing to do is put a toll on the roadways to all the border crossings using the same system as we've now got on the Port Mann bridge and the Golden Ears bridge and have a modest toll that would make up for some of the revenue that's lost when people fill up their gas tanks in the United States," says Doherty.

Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority, Translink, is facing a series of financial pressures these days, one of which is a decline in revenue from the 17-cent-a-litre gas tax it collects from drivers in the Lower Mainland.

But the B.C. government is not keen on border tolls as a means of stemming that decline.

“We know we've got a lot of people from Seattle, from Washington State and Oregon that come through our borders to ski and spend money in British Columbia,” says Naomi Yamamoto, B.C.’s minister of state for small business. “We don't want to send a signal that we're creating a thicker border unnecessarily."

People heading across the border on Monday were generally unsympathetic to Doherty’s argument, arguing that economic necessity was forcing them to buy gas in the U.S.

“I have a family and I’m limited,” said one woman. “I feel bad about it, but I really have no choice.”

Another man said it’s no different from going to Alberta for gas, where prices are 15 to 20 cents cheaper a litre: “We pay enough taxes here in B.C.”