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Sarah Thomson wants $5 tolls to build subways

By Peter Kuitenbrouwer

In order for Toronto to claim its place among the world’s top cities, mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson said it needs a better subway system. At her press conference today, she proposed that the city achieve this by implementing a $5 toll on its two highways during peak business hours.

With a $5 toll on the Gardiner and the DVP, Ms. Thomson estimated highway users could generate as much as $500 million per year, based on 2006 traffic counts.

Evoking both former Mayor Robert Saunders who fought for the Yonge subway line and writer-activist Jane Jacobs who said cities should be for everybody and created by everybody, Ms. Thomson (standing in front of the Wellesley subway station) said a complete subway system extending west to the airport, east to Scarborough and north to Steeles would make Toronto a better city.

“The subway system is the key to solving our growing problems with gridlock and traffic management.

“A true city-wide subway system will provide those who work and live in Toronto with an environmentally-friendly alternative to their cars.

“A completed subway system will relieve the demands from our already overburdened surface routes.

“A true city-wide subway system will enhance Toronto’s appeal and encourage business to invest in our city.

“A complete subway system will open up neighbourhoods in need of economic development and greater access to public transit.

“It will allow riders from every area to conveniently travel to all of the city’s cultural festivals, our airport and artistic hotspots around the city.

“This is a significant commitment. It will require significant funding.”

Her first subway issue of business: changing the proposed Eglinton LRT plan to a proper subway line, which should run about $6.6 billion. With $4.6 billion already coming in from the province, Torontonians would only need to find that last $2 billion.

Not missing an opportunity to take a shot at Mayor Miller, she said her top priority would be to bring fiscal order and responsibility to the city.

“I believe a great city depends on a complete subway system — it is our key to a strong and dynamic future, but it has fallen prey to budgetary impotence and political trepidation…

I’m talking about true fiscal responsibility, not the so-called responsibility where the Mayor seems to find a hundred million dollars in an old suit one day.

Infrastructure funding for expanding our subway system can’t all come from the provincial, federal, or even the municipal governments.

We must, as a city and as citizens, decide that we want to move Toronto.”

As part of the highway toll proposal, Ms. Thomson said she would include a sunset clause wherein the tolls will cease collection after 10 years, or after they have paid for their share of subway construction costs, whichever comes first.