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More transit, less gridlock, group says

$1 billion a year will save GTA: environmentalists

By Paul Moloney
Toronto Star City Hall Bureau
May 6, 1999

About $1 billion a year must be invested in transit expansion to avoid crippling gridlock on Greater Toronto roads, environmentalists say.

The most pressing need is for a rapid transit link running down the middle of Highway 401 from Pickering Town Centre to Pearson International Airport, the group says.

The price tag is $4.1 billion.

“There’s no easy way to get across the middle of the GTA except by using the 401,” John Stillich, of Environmentalists Plan Toronto, told a Toronto city hall news conference yesterday.

“If you don’t do something like this, the 401 is going to be a parking lot.”

The group, affiliated with the Toronto Environmental Alliance, is also calling for other major expansion projects, including:

  • A subway line along Eglinton Ave. from Kingston Rd. to Renforth Dr., at a cost of $4.4 billion.

  • A subway line from Sheppard Ave. E. and Don Mills Rd., running south along the Don Valley, across town along King St. and the Queensway to Islington Ave., and north to the airport area. Cost: $6 billion.

Add in improvements to surface transit, GO Transit expansion, moderate expansions to the existing subway system and a transit link along Highway 7, and the package totals $20.6 billion over 20 years.

The group is calling on all levels of government to supply financing over those two decades. They propose:

  • The federal government contribute 25 per cent.

  • The provincial government raise fuel taxes by 5 cents a litre in the GTA, or levy a $100 surcharge on motor vehicle registrations in the GTA.

  • Municipal governments raise property taxes by $100 a household in the region, and the City of Toronto kick in an extra $55 million yearly.

  • Tap other revenue sources, including a $2 per trip toll on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.

“It sounds unaffordable, but the cost of not doing it is less affordable,” said Stillich, whose group estimates GTA traffic congestion costs $1 billion a year through delays, pollution and other impacts.

Councillor Howard Moscoe, chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, welcomed the group’s wish list.

“Where do I sign for this?” Moscoe said. “I’m happy to put my signature on the bottom line.”

Moscoe (North York Spadina) noted no governments are committing money to transit expansion these days, and this week’s provincial budget ignored the issue.

“My heart is with the environmental alliance … but nobody’s got their pocketbooks open.”

Moscoe said he agrees wholeheartedly with environmentalists that transit deserves a stable funding source for expansion, such as fuel taxes.

He said he believes motorists would be willing to shoulder some extra burden for the sake of less-congested roads.

Continuous funding for expansion is superior to the tradition in Toronto of building an expansion project and then turning off the tap for years, Moscoe also said.