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Road tolls one of 16 ideas to pay for transit

Congestion pricing, gas taxes, parking surcharges
could each raise $1 billion annually

By Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

Road tolls, gas taxes and parking surcharges could generate $1 billion each annually toward transit improvements in the Toronto region, according to a report issued by the Toronto Board of Trade on Wednesday.

Aimed at raising the issue in this fall’s municipal election, the report outlines but doesn’t recommend any of 16 potential money-makers.

One or a combination could help pay for the $2 billion annual transit investment Metrolinx has recommended in each of the next 25 years, said board of trade president Carol Wilding. “It’s time we recognize the real debate and start getting realistic about how we are going to pay for it,” she said. “It’s a difficult conversation, it’s not a politically easy one,… (but) the public is ready to have that dialogue.”

The report was issued hours before the board of Metrolinx unanimously approved a scaled down version of Toronto’s Transit City plan, revised after the province delayed $4 billion in funding.

Even before that, the TTC and Metrolinx had discussed delaying building about 23 kilometres of track because the cost estimates were $2.5 billion higher than the $8.15 billion the province had budgeted. The new plan suggests deferring those sections until after Metrolinx introduces an Investment Strategy for raising transit cash, by June 2013.

“There is growing, broad public support for making sure we don’t come in at the last month on that assignment,” said Metrolinx CEO Rob Prichard, acknowledging the board of trade report.

Mayor David Miller again expressed his opposition to the revised plan because the current government may not be in office 10 years from now.

“I think this is a sad loss for Toronto,” he told reporters. “What we heard today is basically they’re going to build Eglinton and Sheppard. And one of the sad things is, Metrolinx won’t take public input… . But this isn’t their decision. It’s the premier’s decision.”

With files from Patty Winsa

Finding cash for transit

Ideas and their potential revenue:

$1 billion:

Road tolls of 10 cents/km on 400-series highways, the QEW, Gardiner and DVP; parking surcharge on non-residential spots; a 1 per cent regional sales tax; gas tax of 10 cents/litre; congestion pricing using a cordon system similar to London, England

$500 million to $1 billion:

National transit strategy by which Ottawa contributes more; predictable long-term government funding; infrastructure bonds tied to specific projects; employer payroll tax; land-value enhancement, to capture the value of land that will be improved by transit investment * $500 million or less*: Tolls on HOV lanes; vehicle registration fee based on emission levels; utility levy

No dollar value yet attached:

Transit fares priced to cover the full cost; tax incremental financing, guaranteeing profits will be reinvested in a development area; tolls on vehicle kilometres travelled

Source: The Move Ahead: Funding “The Big Move,” Toronto Board of Trade