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Poll shows many drivers plan to avoid Port Mann tolls

The new Port Mann Bridge. Drivers pay $1.50 while introductory discounts are in effect, rising to $3 by next December for registered TReO users. - Ministry of Transportation
The new Port Mann Bridge. Drivers pay $1.50 while introductory discounts are in effect, rising to $3 by next December for registered TReO users.
— image credit: Ministry of Transportation

A new poll of Lower Mainland drivers who use the Port Mann Bridge shows many plan to shift to untolled routes to avoid the new tolls – especially once a half-price introductory discount ends.

The online survey conducted by Insights West suggests traffic congestion is set to worsen further on free crossings of the Fraser River such as the Alex Fraser and Pattullo bridges.

It shows a third of commuters who normally used the Port Mann Bridge at least weekly intend to actively seek out new routes to avoid the toll.

A third said they will drive over the bridge less often while 45 per cent said they will keep using it and pay the tolls.

The same drivers were also asked what they will do once the half-price introductory discount ends and they're paying $3 tolls to use the new bridge.

More than 55 per cent of weekly Highway 1 users said they'll seek new routes after the toll doubles and just 31 per cent said they'd keep on paying to cross.

(For all Port Mann users, including less frequent ones, 46.4 per cent said they'd seek out new routes, 33 per cent said they'd use the bridge less often and 34.5 per cent said they'd use it as usual and pay the toll. Respondents could give more than one answer so results add up to more than 100 per cent.)

Insights West president Steve Mossop said the findings show residents South of the Fraser like the new bridge but remain "bitterly opposed" to tolling of the Highway 1 crossing.

Only time will tell, he said, whether the Port Mann ends up suffering lower-than-expected traffic volumes because of the toll, as happened with TransLink's Golden Ears Bridge.

"We'll see if people have the patience and tolerance to actually sit on the Pattullo or the Alex Fraser and wait through the backups to avoid that fee," Mossop said.

"It's not people just expressing their anger and frustration. It's a real entrenched mindset."

The poll also found Lower Mainland residents remain split on whether the Port Mann should be tolled – 50.8 per cent support tolls while 45 per cent oppose them.

Among frequent Port Mann users, 60 per cent oppose tolls while 40 per cent support them.

"The issue of tolling seems to have divided Metro Vancouver into two camps," Mossop said. "Those who are in favour since they don't drive over the bridge, with the opposition camp being firmly entrenched among drivers who are impacted."

TReO decal users tend to support the tolls, with 55 per cent in favour to 45 per cent opposed.

Mossop said the opposition to tolls reflects "a lot of disgruntled voters" who may yet have an influence in next spring's provincial election.

"That's a big number to be opposed," he said. "Governments lose elections on numbers like that."

He noted TReO has done an "excellent job" of promoting the bridge and luring drivers to sign up through staged discounts and an offer of 20 free trips.

Nearly 70 per cent of Metro Vancouver drivers polled said they'd signed up, roughly matching statistics reported by the province.

Sixty five per cent said they were satisfied with the new bridge itself.

A majority of drivers who use it at least monthly said they expect it will save them time.

The online survey of nearly 600 people has a four per cent margin of error.

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