User fees on roads, sewers and stormwater facilities are necessary to impress on people that they are dealing with scarce resources says Harry Kitchen. The municipal expert sees user fees as a logical response to the infrastructure deficit that is plaguing cities and advises senior levels of government to require them before bailing out cities.
Kitchen is renowned in some quarters and reviled in others for recommending in 2008 that Ontario slap tolls on its major highways and expressways, including the Linc and the Red Hill Valley Parkway. Notably unrepentant, he spoke to the Transport Futures 2011 Mobility Pricing Conference in Toronto last week.
“You need user fees so that the user realizes that the resource in question is scarce,” he argued. “In that way, it’s not overused.”
As recently reported in CATCH, Hamilton has about $15 billion in infrastructure with roads comprising the biggest portion. The cash-strapped city is currently managing to replace only one per cent of its roads each year, generating squabbles between urban and suburban councillors over whose roads should have priority.
Kitchen noted that there was “a growing tendency” for people to at least think about road-tolling, especially the younger crowd. Older people, long habituated to use of cars, are more resistant, he observed. But road tolling is coming, he and other speakers at the conference agreed. It’s a question of when.