Transportation

Transportation Policy for Grownups

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 26, 2010

Are we mature enough to have a grown-up discussion on highway pricing?

That's the question underlying a recent piece by CATCH surveying the political landscape over paying for highways and transit in the GTA.

We have Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, of all people, calling on citizens to "face the music and say how we are going to pay for" our infrastructure. Oakville Mayor Rob Burton suggested that people who still think highways should be free "believe in magic ... I wish I could accommodate them."

It would be a stretch to call highway tolls popular, but acceptance is certainly growing, and a recent poll found over 30% of respondents favoured highway tolls.

Even the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a pro-business lobby opposed to taxes and regulation, is coming around - presumably because market-based pricing is more consistent with their agenda than raising taxes to pay for the infrastructure we need.

However, while road tolls are shaping up to be a significant issue in the upcoming Toronto municipal election, we seem content in Hamilton to cruise along on autopilot.

Two years ago, Hamilton City Council demonstrated its patented Ostrich Manoeuvre and defeated a motion to investigate options for tolling the municipal Red Hill Valley / Lincoln Alexander Parkway.

City Council does seem to be in good company, however, as the Ontario Government also utterly refuses to consider highway pricing options as a means of financing its transformative - and now stalled - regional transit plan.

In the meantime, bereft of truly viable regional transit options, the GTA continues to languish economically under the burden of what may be the worst congestion in North America.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 26, 2010 at 16:23:39

Tell ya what, when the politicians stop having $9000 lunches we can talk about where more of MY money is going to go.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 26, 2010 at 16:37:55

If our politicians want to have all these social get togethers, why do not pay out of their own pockets. Maybe it is the fault of the people that have allowed these practices to go on and on.

All sounds like King Louie of France and we all know what happened to him. He lost his head.

Just voting a certain person or party out may not structurally change these wrongs. The VOICES OF THE people need to get LOUDER!

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2010 at 16:53:34

grassroots,

You've mentioned the ill-fated last Bourbon King of France a couple of times recently. Since you may well do it again, you might want to make note of the spelling - as he was a French king and not a New York taxi driver, it's Louis, not Louie.

Sincerely,

A running dog pedant of the orthographical bourgeoisie.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-04-26 15:54:46

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 26, 2010 at 17:06:21

Moylek: Yes, thanks for the spelling correction, I will remember it for any future posts.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 26, 2010 at 21:08:21

The issue that give me pause about imposing tolls on an intracity expressway like the Linc is the fact that it can drive business outside the city. Our Westdale-area family uses the Linc, on a moderately regular basis (perhaps 3-4 times a month) for particular shopping purposes - to visit Upper James Street, to visit Lime Ridge Mall, or to visit the big Goodness Me! on Upper Gage. Road tolls might well swing that shopping, done in Hamilton and supporting Hamilton businesses, towards Burlington which is just as easily accessed.

Of course, that is not to say that road tolls should not be considered - they definitely should be. But implementation will always be difficult because the first movers are at a significant disadvantage.

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By zookeeper (registered) | Posted April 26, 2010 at 21:31:12

True enough Tybalt, that's why the province should show some leadership and apply it fairly right across the GTA.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted April 27, 2010 at 14:18:43

Tybalt,

Would you still go to Burlington if the 403 had tolls as well? I know that I use the Linc' at least twice a week and would just consider it to be part of the cost of living, much like I will always use the 407 if my business takes me in that direction.

To Ryan: It's all in the framing. If the profits generated by the highways were used to pay for the highways, could not the existing tax funds that currently support them be turned to transportation?

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By anon10 (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2010 at 16:16:25

Problem is that these roads have already been paid for. Tolls should be on new, not existing roads.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted April 27, 2010 at 16:29:02

Problem is that these roads have already been paid for.

No they haven't. They cost money everyday in maintenance and upkeep, eventual replacement cost, smog and greenhouse gas, sprawl waste, etc., and they cost more money the more people use them.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 27, 2010 at 16:31:46

Once they stop wasting our money (if ever) then we need to see the plan.

IF we are going to pay tolls what are they going to pay for in reality?!?! Not some "announcement" for study or promise of future transportation connections. Show me the transportation, show how the tolls will contribute to the cost, put a shovel in the dirt and then I'll pay the toll, otherwise this is likely to be just another form of tax implemented for one purpose and used for others.

Also, for tolls to be truly effective the transportation system needs to extend beyond its current limits. Many people drive from as far away as KW, Brantford and beyond to get to their jobs in TO. If the toll is never going to provide them with transit connections it is an unfair tax and another drain on a society already struggling with pay-cheque to pay-cheque families and high family debt.

But first things first, politicians at all levels need to stop wasting our money and lose the sense of entitlement. There never seems to be a lack of money when their friends in big business need it.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-04-27 15:35:34

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted April 28, 2010 at 13:45:53

But first things first, politicians at all levels need to stop wasting our money and lose the sense of entitlement. There never seems to be a lack of money when their friends in big business need it.

I have long suspected that that alone would free up all the capital we need for some amazing projects to modernize the GTA!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 28, 2010 at 15:11:51

Speaking of grownups talking about pricing transportation, John Tory has recently changed his mind about highway tolls:

Mr. Tory intends to use his platform as chairman of the Toronto City Summit Alliance to ratchet down the public indignation that often greets five ideas for funding public transit: road tolls; a Greater Toronto sales tax; a parking tax; a gas-tax hike and a property-tax increase.

“The notion that it’s none of the above is not on,” Mr. Tory said. “This is a test of leadership because otherwise to say you’re going to build all this transit without saying how you’re going to pay for it is, to me, a meaningless promise.”

The Toronto City Summit Alliance, which Mr. Tory took over after the death of founder David Pecaut, has quietly formed a working group of about 25 top minds to pore over five options for funding transit, along with other issues of transportation and infrastructure in Greater Toronto. Members have been drawn from the Toronto Board of Trade, regional transportation agency Metrolinx, and the prominent planning firms Urban Strategies, Inc., and IBI Group, among other organizations.

The official goal will be to recommend ways to raise the approximately $2-billion a year Metrolinx has said it needs to crisscross the GTA and Hamilton with new rapid-transit projects over the next 25 years.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 28, 2010 at 15:50:08

The official goal will be to recommend ways to raise the approximately $2-billion a year Metrolinx has said it needs to crisscross the GTA and Hamilton with new rapid-transit projects over the next 25 years.

Are you able to clarify this Ryan?

I assume $2 billion a year for the next 25 means they need $50 billion, but what do we actually get for that $50 billion? New routes? More trains on the same routes? Does the Hamilton LRT factor in to that?

Any idea?

I worry about these "we need more money for X" statements from politicians when X remains undefined and unconfirmed. We've been over-promised and under-delivered to in this province for too long.

I will say of the options presented, road tolls for the GTA/Golden Horseshoe make the most sense and is probably the "fairest" approach.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 28, 2010 at 16:32:08

what do we actually get for that $50 billion?

We get the Metrolinx 25-year Regional Transportation Plan.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 03, 2010 at 13:23:38

I absolutely would love to see tolls on the 403/QEW. Then maybe that horrifying stretch of asphalt would be useful instead of being the world's largest parking lot. And Mississauga & Burlington would take a catastrophic kick in the gonads for their abysmal city planning as their roads get snarled into oblivion once their locals start using their city's roads instead of the provinces'.

Why yes, I work in software and 90% of the employers are located in 1-story office parks in the middle of the sprawl for no good reason at all. However did you guess?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 03, 2010 at 13:25:57

As an aside, I don't think you have to worry about Hamilton missing the boat on these tolls. When the 403 gets tolled, the city will naturally find people avoiding the tolls by hopping onto the Linc, which will jam it up with traffic... the city will naturally jump on board with the tolls to alleviate the traffic.

Then the city will have to take a long, hard look at the King/Main corridor, since that will be the next logical target for a miserly driver.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 04, 2010 at 15:33:50

We get the Metrolinx 25-year Regional Transportation Plan. - Ryan

Thanks Ryan, they have so many studies posted on the GO and Metrolinx sites it is hard to determine which one is the "all encompassing" and current one.

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By Donald J. Lester (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2010 at 11:24:51

anon10 wrote:

"Problem is that these roads have already been paid for. Tolls should be on new, not existing roads."

They may not be but they should be...If you consider the amount of taxes that have been collect base on the taxes collect for roads, that is all taxes relates to; auto taxes,fuel federal and provincial our highways could have be paved in gold.

What is rally the boondoggle here is all said taxes flow into the general coffers and governments can claim there is not enough for this or that; at the same time they wast billions on e-health and add another billion the day care, kindergarten when we can't afford it...hand out billions to the automotive sector...while crying they have to increase taxes and add tolls to highways...

With regards to the latter why was the major oil companies at the table for the auto sector bail out; they have made trillions in profits due the the auto sector?
What i find incredulous is that we adhere and submit to the facts that governments have no monies and we are so easily swept into their dragnet and fail to demand accountability.

Moreover a prime example of wasted funds was the building of the 407...including selling it to a foreign country. It seems that governments initiate all things ass backwards; instead od the 407 we already should have a high speed light rail system that by now would have saved billions of tons in pollution including fuel. The facts are the government has all kinds of money...the issue is poor management and our indoctrinated belief that the only means for sustainable change is taxes, and more taxed or tolls and or however you want to label those facts, rather that demanding real financial accountability.

You can vote on this any way you please but if you can leave partisan politics and indoctrination outside of the issue you may see some reality..

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