Royson James, Toronto Star
Jun 17, 2008
That may be the easiest of the arguments Metrolinx has to make to GTA residents long starved of top-notch transit.
Metrolinx is the 11-member provincial agency (most members are municipal politicians) charged with the task of developing a 25-year transportation plan for the region. There is no shortage of ideas and projects as each city and town has dusted off favourite projects. What’s been missing is the money — not good when the price tag is in the neighbourhood of $17 billion.
The province will pick up a hefty portion. And we can always pray for a change in Ottawa. But municipalities will have to chip in between $2.8 billion and $6.2 billion a year of their own share. And municipalities mean you.
Metrolinx is to present a draft report on the financing options next month and decide by October. And last Friday board members received an update, a kind of preview of what to expect. That’s where the road toll, or road pricing option, came up.
Once upon a time, promoting that option would have been fatal to anyone’s political fortunes. Now, just about everyone realizes that road tolls are a given as the region attempts to grapple with millions of trips in one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation.
In case you are still skeptical about the need for road tolls, consider the options and alternatives for the GTA and Hamilton, each one netting $1 billion per year:
Add a 20-cent tax to each litre of gas;
Raise transit fares, especially in the 905 region, so that the fare box covers half the operating cost. The TTC is already there;
Add a 1 per cent retail sales tax;
Lobby governments to pay half the capital costs;
Slap a $1 per weekday tax on non-residential parking spaces;
Impose a 10-cent per kilometre toll on the Gardiner, Don Valley Parkway and 400 series highways.
If you managed to get all those through — all six — then you would have netted about $6 billion and have begun to address the GTA region’s transportation needs. That explains why a sure thing like road tolls can’t be omitted as a funding option.
Metrolinx has some advantages over the politicians who proposed road tolls in the past. The mayors and regional chairs that sit on this agency don’t have to seek re-election based on their actions and voting record at Metrolinx.
For example, Mayor David Miller’s re-election platform doesn’t include his imposing road tolls on Toronto residents to maintain or expand the TTC. Rather, Miller pushes the idea at Metrolinx where the politicians are better insulated from public backlash.
Whether or not that flies in the face of responsible governance is a matter for pundits and the guardians of democracy. But it is efficacious. We’ve known that it will cost bundles of money to address our transit deficit across the region. And we know property taxes alone can’t pick up the tab. That part isn’t new. What is new is we have an agency that is positioned and prepared to dispense the medicine so needed to fix the region’s ailing transportation infrastructure.
Which would you rather pay to get the subways and streetcars and high occupancy vehicle lanes and rapid transit and road improvements needed to move this region daily? More gas tax on top of already outrageous gasoline prices? How about a 1 per cent sales tax? None of them is painless. And we need them all.
Just remind us of the benefits.
Source | See Also:Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â World has enough oil reserves, says BP boss |Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Is it time for toll roads? | Toronto part of ‘transnational mega-region’ | Vancouver to import road tolls from UK | UK proposes national road tolls to cut congestion | Motorists to pay London toll