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Think-tank wants toll lanes in Calgary

Think-tank wants toll lanes in CalgaryCar makes their way along a congested highway in Toronto, on April 26, 2007. A Calgary-based think-tank is touting the idea of setting up toll lanes to help generate revenue and reduce the loss of productivity due to excessive travel times. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

CALGARY - A Calgary-based think-tank is touting the idea of setting up toll lanes to help generate revenue and reduce a loss of productivity due to excessive travel times.

Ben Brunnen from the Manning Foundation for Democratic Education says there are three major thoroughfares in Calgary that could easily be changed to include toll lanes as part of a pilot project.

He says they would generate up to $76 million annually, which could be funnelled back into road repair and construction and some form of rebate to users.

"Ultimately you will see a reduction in congestion, increased average traffic speeds, a reduction in emissions and revenue generation over and above what's now being collected," Brunnen said Tuesday.

"The benefits are very tangible. We would see a 29 per cent decrease in commute times. In Calgary the average is 54 (minutes)... that would decrease to 39 minutes per day. We'd see an estimated daily cost per vehicle at $5," he said.

"This is an optional lane that people can choose to buy into when traffic becomes too congested. Free lanes continue to be available along adjacent lanes in the thoroughfare."

There are 21 pieces of road infrastructure, mostly highways and bridges, that have tolls in Canada. Highway 407 in Ontario and Autoroute 25 that connects Laval and the Ile de Montreal have prices that vary by time of day.

Toll lanes are also used in London, Singapore, Sweden and Germany.

"We've seen road pricing implemented in other jurisdictions. At the beginning there's opposition," said Brunnen.

"Once the pilot is initiated and polling occurs what tends to happen is people become a little bit more supportive of it. And then, finally, when it's fully in place and people actually benefit from these investments, there is positive support for road pricing."

Brunnen said the cost of implementing toll lanes would be reasonably low. There is already electronic technology available which enables pricing and collection of fees such as a camera-based system or electronic emitter on the vehicle.

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Brunnen's first name was Bob

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