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Sarah Thomson grabs road tolls by the horns: Editorial

Say this for Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson.

It took courage for the Women’s Post publisher to propose a $5 road toll for the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway to help pay for a major expansion of Toronto’s subway system.

Thomson has now put the issue of road tolls squarely into the mayoral race, where it belongs.

While the other major candidates took swipes at her idea, any serious mayoral contender knows road tolls are coming.

The problem is no one has talked about them honestly because it’s considered a political death trap.

We admire Thomson’s forthrightness, as well as for acknowledging subways — she wants to build 58 km of new track at a cost of $13 billion — are expensive and the money has to come from somewhere.

Thomson said tolls could raise $500 million a year toward subway construction for the next decade, after which they’d be discontinued, and that private/public partnerships and reassigning funds from the city’s $10-billion Transit City plan would help pay for the rest.

The problem with Thomson’s proposal — aside from making drivers pay twice for roads their taxes already built — is it disproportionately hits some motorists while letting others off the hook.

Road tolls have to be done regionally, across the Greater Toronto Area, not just imposed by city council in Toronto.

Toll the Gardiner and DVP and you disproportionately tax Toronto motorists and those coming into the city daily from, say Mississauga or Hamilton, to help pay for public transit.

Yet drivers commuting to Toronto daily from Barrie and beyond would continue to do so for free on Hwy. 400.

Everyone loves subways, but they’re the most expensive form of public transit and take the longest to build.

Transit City, with its focus on above-ground, light rail transit, sets Toronto up for some quick commuter victories it desperately needs.

We agree the prototype St. Clair streetcar right-of-way project has been a fiasco, but rather than scrapping Transit City we need to get it right.

And everyone needs to see real improvements to public transit before road tolls will be politically feasible.

Give Thomson an “A” for effort, a “C-” for implementation.