Special Report

The GTHA Should Embrace Congestion Pricing

Congestion pricing can raise most of the money we need to pay for The Big Move while providing immediate benefits to drivers and the regional economy.

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 04, 2013

this article has been updated

This week, Metrolinx released a short list of proposed investment tools to pay for The Big Move, the 25-year regional transportation plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).

Metrolinx will present its final investment strategy to the Ontario Government in June to pay for the remaining $35 billion in projects, which includes Hamilton's east-west B-Line LRT as one of the top priorities.

Whatever other tools the Ontario Government decides to adopt to pay for The Big Move, congestion pricing on GTHA highways should definitely be a core component.

Highway congestion pricing can singlehandedly raise most of the money the Province needs to pay for The Big Move. Even better, congestion pricing confers immediate and significant benefits to drivers and the economy as a whole, even before the new transit infrastructure is built.

Even better for politicians, congestion pricing is a safe political gamble to the government that puts it in place, because it tends to become more popular over time as people experience it.

What is Congestion Pricing?

Congestion pricing imposes a monetary surcharge on drivers to drive on congested highways.

The idea behind congestion pricing is simple and comes from economics: raising the price of something reduces the demand (just as lowering the price increases demand). Since the demand for a "free" good like a highway will always outstrip the supply, the most effective way to reduce demand is to impose a price.

And before irate drivers interject to argue that they pay for highways through gas taxes, permits and so on, we must note that the numbers do not support this claim. Even if every conceivable charge to drivers is taken into account, Canadian roads and highways are still subsidized out of general tax revenues to the tune of billions of dollars a year.

At the same time, traffic congestion is a negative externality - an action undertaken by individuals that imposes costs on society as a whole. Those costs include the local environmental costs of air pollution and the global environmental costs of climate change.

They also include the economic cost of lost efficiency in the movement of people and goods through the region. Sitting in traffic is expensive, which is why the Toronto Board of Trade is recommending tax and toll measures to fund The Big Move.

Congestion pricing acts to internalize these external costs of congestion by applying it directly to the people producing it. The goal is to reduce the peak demand, i.e. morning and afternoon rush hour, by enough vehicles so that traffic can flow freely.

It's important to remember that congestion is a non-linear phenomenon, so small increases in traffic beyond the highway's capacity lead to disproportionate increases in congestion. The inverse is also true: small reductions in peak traffic can lead to large reductions in congestion.

As such, the highway toll should be variable based on time of day. Commuters should be rewarded for driving at off-peak times by paying much lower charges than if they drive during rush hour.

Why Congestion Pricing?

Before we go any farther, please take a few minutes and watch this TED talk by Jonas Eliasson, the director of the Centre for Transport Studies at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology. Thanks to the manner in which Stockholm adopted congestion pricing, we have a delightfully scientific case study in how drivers respond to price signals.

Stockholm was able to eliminate traffic congestion literally overnight by implementing congestion pricing that reduced traffic volumes by 20% during peak times.

Eliasson also notes that people are remarkably adaptable and respond immediately to incentives - or "nudges" as he calls them. When the congestion charge was eliminated after the trial period ended, the congestion came back, again literally overnight. He explains:

Travel patterns are much less stable than you think. Each day people make new decisions, and people change and the world changes around them, and each day, all of these decisions are sort of nudged ever so slightly away from rush hour car driving.

It's important to remember that highway traffic at any given time is an agglomeration of different people doing different things for different reasons. You, personally, might not feel that you have any alternative to driving on the highway at rush hour, but the evidence from cities that have established congestion pricing demonstrates that around 20% of drivers are able to choose alternatives.

In any case, when the money raised by congestion pricing is invested in coordinated regional transit, it serves to increase the number of people who can choose alternatives over time.

More broadly, as new investment and development is anchored around transit nodes rather than highways, the mix of living and employment opportunities starts to shift toward clusters in which more people are able to take advantage of transit to commute.

Predictably Irrational

People respond to price signals, but we are predictably irrational about it, making common weighting mistakes in how we evaluate costs and benefits and weigh risks.

We are a lot more sensitive to costs than to savings. For example, when grocery stores offered a 5-cent discount for every bag you brought in, almost no one took advantage of it. As soon as stores changed the 5-cent discount into a 5-cent cost, bag reuse increased dramatically - by as much as three-quarters.

This is irrational, since a 5-cent saving is economically identical to a 5-cent cost - yet we mostly ignore the former and respond to the latter.

Our blind spot about costs includes weighing money over time. The financial opportunity cost - not to mention the impacts on health and well-being - of sitting in stop-and-go traffic is enormous, but that cost in time is not enough to deter most people from commuting in traffic.

Researchers have actually documented the 'weighting mistake' that leads people to buy "cheap" houses a long distance from jobs and other amenities. People both over-estimate how much happiness they will get from a bigger suburban house and under-estimate how much misery they will get from long commutes.

In fact, a full accounting often finds that the overall transportation costs offset the savings from lower housing prices - and that those costs are actually getting worse, not better.

Congestion pricing works because it imposes a direct price on driving during rush hour that commuters cognitively can neither ignore nor fail to calculate. It works because it interacts with human psychology to make people conscious of the cost of driving.

Pay for Convenience

It also works because it means that people who are willing to pay can drive on the highway at full speed, even during rush hour. That in itself, helps to shift public sentiment in favour of congestion pricing.

In Eliasson's presentation on Stockholm's experiment in congestion pricing, he he noted that public opinion about the congestion pricing went from strongly opposed before the charge was implemented to strongly in favour afterwards.

Even more remarkable was the fact that people did not know they had changed their minds. In surveys following the congestion pricing system, the people who supported it said they had always supported it, even though a majority of people had previously opposed it.

That's yet another example of the ways in which people are predictably irrational, but it is also an example that even risk-averse politicians can take advantage of.

Congestion pricing comes with strong evidence of effectiveness to support it, and also strong evidence that people who experience it come to agree with it.

Update: thanks to the alert reader who noticed that one paragraph had an incomplete sentence. You can jump to the changed paragraph.

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. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Para 10 (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2013 at 21:24:17

Sitting in traffic is expensive, which is why the Toronto Board of Trade

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By Roundabout (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2013 at 22:20:24

Has the congestion charge made a lot of money for London?

The media has reported £1.2 billion of revenue since it was introduced (with gross revenue of £2.6 billion). This suggests costs of 54% of revenue. The 2012 annual report noted £226.7 million in gross revenue from the congestion charge, with £81.2 million in "toll facilities and traffic management" costs and another £8.7 million in "administration, support services and depreciation", leaving net revenues of £136.8 million.  A cost factor of around 40%.   This suggests that had London wanted a new source of revenue, this wasn't an efficient way of delivering it.  


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By Roundabout (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2013 at 22:27:57 in reply to Comment 87672

The congestion charge has “sucked” about £2.6 billion from drivers in its first decade while failing to cut congestion, the AA claimed today.
It said 57 per cent of the cash paid by motorists had been eaten up in administration charges, but speeds had failed to rise above those of a “horse and cart”. Transport for London hit back, saying it had raised £1.2 billion to improve public transport, including £960 million on a better bus service.


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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 05, 2013 at 15:25:35 in reply to Comment 87673

The congestion charge immediately reduced congestion, which then crept up again.

This suggests the pricing is wrong (too low), and needs to be increased regularly to maintain the desired traffic flows. Of course, politically, it is difficult to raise charges and this political interferences reduces the efficiency of this market based solution (charge as much as the market will bear).

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-04-05 15:27:08

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By gary buttrum (anonymous) | Posted April 05, 2013 at 05:05:38

i used to think it was criminal that the ontario government sold the 407 toll expressway to a foreign company, at a significant loss i believe, seemingly moments after all the hard work of getting the damn thing built. but i came to a profoundly different conclusion the other day while driving at rush hour from the 400 to the 403 at burlington at the speed limit the whole way. the realization was that selling the 407 to a private company was probably the smartest thing the government could have done.

if the intent was to create a road that is resistant to congestion there MUST be a steadily increasing tolls. i rarely drive in that direction, and rarer still can i justify the cost of the 407, but i had to admit it was working. careful pricing had created a fast, efficient, probably safer alternative to the clogged "free" 400 series highways.
it suddenly dawned on me that it would have probably been nearly impossible for the government to resist the temptation and political pressure to at some point in the last 20 years drastically reduce 407 tolls and effectively ruin the whole thing. why do i feel this way? because i see the same mechanisms at work in transit fares, sprawl development charges, electricity rates, etc, etc, etc.
i believe that the 407 is proof, in our own backyard, of the effectiveness of congestion pricing on roads. if there is no direct cost associated with use of a public service there is no incentive to control consumption of that service.
now we just need politicians with enough balls to do something about the horrible state of our transportation system, for our own good

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 06, 2013 at 15:43:30 in reply to Comment 87678

I completely disagree. Politicians, even Conservatives rarely lower taxes/service charges and even when they do it tends to be by very small margins (save for big business but that's another debate).

The reason for this is removing money from the budget can and does result in service disruptions which can be just as politically dangerous. There's only so much fat to trim in government.

The 407 generated $40 million in profit (not revenue) a year. That is a huge revenue stream and raising it's toll caries far less political risk then raising/creating taxes because it's an optional route. It's the same reason liquor/beer tax is so high, because it's not politically dangerous to raise it slowly because it's a sin tax. Besides, congestion taxes are much easily implemented by simply raising the gas tax, raise it until the numbers do support it. You can't drive without gas, unless you have an electric car an that's a whole other issue.

We can all agree though, selling it was one of either the most incompetent or corrupt moves the Conservatives ever made. Thankfully whoever the Federal Cons have in charge of the CPP is smart, as the CPP bought a 10% stake in the road in 2010.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-06 15:49:49

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 05, 2013 at 19:57:39 in reply to Comment 87678

i believe that the 407 is proof, in our own backyard, of the effectiveness of congestion pricing on roads.

And we should have kept it and used it as an income generator for the people who paid to build it rather than selling it for one time gain to help cook the books to fool people into thinking the Ontario PCs were balancing the budget.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2013-04-05 19:58:05

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 05, 2013 at 21:59:17 in reply to Comment 87698

Frustrating, because if we'd built a good infrastructure that was government-owned or otherwise reusable for managing the 407, it would be easy to expand the 407's programme to the 401 and QEW. Instead we'll have to start from square one, and when it's complete we'll be stuck with two completely different infrastructures handling our tolls. All because Harris decided to sell away a massive taxpayer asset with a 99 year contract, one of many reasons that I will never vote ONPC.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2013-04-05 22:01:10

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted April 06, 2013 at 07:16:44 in reply to Comment 87705

I agree the sale was a mistake. But there are ways to make the system interoperable (though the pricing may not be the same)

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By rprouse (registered) | Posted April 05, 2013 at 15:05:29

While I agree that we should implement congestion charges, I do have one concern. I commute a short distance to work in Burlington from Hamilton Beach. Whenever there is a slowdown on the highway, every east/west road in Burlington becomes gridlocked. If there was a financial disincentive to use the 403 and QEW, would it not then cause people to use alternate routes to avoid the tolls? If this happens, doesn't it unfairly punish people who make the responsible choice of living as close as possible to work? Could it also make commuting by bike more dangerous and divert traffic to residential areas?

Wouldn't it be better to figure out a way to charge drivers for the length of their commute no matter what route they take instead of targeting certain roads? I am not sure how we do this though. That is why I like London's scheme where there is a fee for entering the core. Maybe we could set up a similar system for each of the cities in the GTA, but vary the cost of entering each core either based on the distance to the home address of the owner of the plate, or based on the number of zones you pass through on route to your destination zone?

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By JMorse (registered) | Posted April 05, 2013 at 18:59:31 in reply to Comment 87682

The answer is GPS based road pricing. Already in widespread use for the transport industry in the EU, it measures more than just controlled access highways. No expensive gantries are required at on/off ramps. Road segments can be added to the billing system if local roads are overused by through traffic, or removed if local users are unfairly punished.

Adoption of such a system for personal vehicles is another story. The Dutch perhaps have come the closest so far. One look at the level the discussion must reach before even coming close, shows we have a long way to go:


Comment edited by JMorse on 2013-04-05 19:04:17

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By Winston Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 05, 2013 at 15:11:56 in reply to Comment 87682

Transit thinking seems to be shifting to distance-based fares as well, so perhaps we'll see subcutaneous transponders for everyone.

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By Roundabout (anonymous) | Posted April 05, 2013 at 16:49:42

The Cat only grinned when it saw Alice. It looked good-natured, she thought: still it had very long claws and a great many teeth, so she felt that it ought to be treated with respect.

`Cheshire Puss,' she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. `Come, it's pleased so far,' thought Alice, and she went on. `Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'

`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.

`I don't much care where--' said Alice.

`Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.

`--so long as I get somewhere,' Alice added as an explanation.

`Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.'

Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. `What sort of people live about here?'

`In that direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, `lives a Hatter: and in that direction,' waving the other paw, `lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.'

`But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.

`Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'

`How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.

`You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'


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By Roundabout (anonymous) | Posted April 05, 2013 at 17:25:39 in reply to Comment 87692

Pasted as a reminder of the importance of careful and thoroughly considered planning, not as a comment on the Hatter quota on RTH (or a Tea Party allusion, for that matter).

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2013 at 01:03:24

I do not know about this pricing, if it is a good idea or a bad idea. I think about those workers who must commute, yet are barely making enough money to maintain a vehicle to get to work.

To take tGO transit is expensive, if you are not amking enough money.

I believe that public transit should be at the fore front, however, that concept has been under attaack for over a 100 years.

You also may work in a area, where the GO bus does not travel.

They killed all the rail routes especailly travelling south of Hamilton. The car is the master, how do we change people's attitude and mindframe. I find that is the greater issue.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 06, 2013 at 01:42:13

This is simply code for prepare to be bent over the table and reemed again John Q Taxpayer.

" Revenue Tools" really? Is that what they're calling shake downs now?

If anyone thinks this money is going to end up anywhere but general revenues to fund the government of the day's pet projects and entitlement programs you're dreaming/

We currently have in Ontario:

  1. a tire disposal fee built into the cost of new tires. They range anywhere from $5 to over $300 per tire depending on what you're buying tires for. Rates went up April 1 2013. This money was/is supposed to be put towards highway maintenance and infrastructure. It isn't

  2. annual vehicle licensing fees to the tune of over $3 billion dollars a year

  3. A gasoline tax, and a federal fuel excise tax and HST on both of those

  4. Provincial Income tax

  5. Municipal Property tax

  6. If you're a business owner, business licensing and HST on those licenses

  7. The Employer Health tax

  8. Corporate Income tax

  9. Hydro Debt retirement charge

  10. Ontario Health Premium

  11. If you're a business owner WSIB premiums at up to and sometimes over %14 of your revenue

  12. Federal Income Tax

  13. HST on almost everything you buy, rent, or consume.

And Metrolinx is suggesting up to 11 MORE " Revenue Tools" to fund their new empire? And make no mistake that is what it is going to be.

No thank you.

The government doesn't have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. When we start electing people who can find better things to do with oh...... around a billion dollars of our money to cancel gas plants where their constituents don't want them, I think you'll find there is plenty of money to fund transit at a workable level.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2013 at 04:27:30

There is now way that the automobile and highway industries are a net loss for the governments of this country. You only take into account the direct costs and taxes to claim the subsidies on our roads. Take into account the taxes collected at every stage of getting the raw resources and converting them to parts and them assembling them into a car and the net result has to be a gain for the governments. The large amount of money spent on building and maintaining our roads is labour costs. These are typically well paying jobs which means the workers surrender a sizable percentage back to the government coffers. And on and on it goes. That is why all governments fall over themselves to attract and keep automobile manufacturers and all the ancillary parts. Cars are a major driving force in our economy. I know that you all prefer bicycles but they just don't cut it. The other big caveat is that the highway system that we have is what allows us to have the highest standard of living we have ever enjoyed.

The taxpayers in Ontario just cannot afford another $2 billion a year out of their pockets. That will cripple our already struggling economy. From reading the nonsense coming out of metrolinx and the provincial government I am not convinced that even includes the A or B line in Hamilton. That is more likely to be used for the improvements in metro Toronto and to the various Go lines running into Toronto. They are talking about all day Go Trains to and from Milton. With a major multi year build of tracks to accommodate that.

All these rail and LRT projects are just to expensive, we simply cannot afford them. I see that Go just received new twin deck buses that can carry almost twice as many passengers compared to conventional buses. These are the kind of projects that we need to explore and utilize.

Let the downvoting begin.

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By math iz fun (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2013 at 20:25:42 in reply to Comment 87710

"the net result has to be a gain for the governments"

No it doesn't have to be. The proof of this is that IT ISN'T

You wanna count all of the externalities of the auto industries? You have to count the negatives too. I'd like to see you come up with a list of negative economic externalities of the automobile culture.

This will be a good exercise for you to demonstrate that you are capable of seeing the big picture, and that you're joining this discussion in good faith, and may curb your downvotes at least temporarily.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 09, 2013 at 04:43:47 in reply to Comment 87727

Neither one of you are producing any numbers just engaging in an online peeing contest. If "the proof of this is that IT ISN'T" you need to show your proof.

If you look at the jobs and subsequent income taxes, the sales taxes, and all revenues for the government generated by the car it is significant. But there are also costs for having roads, and car infrastructure but you have to keep in mind at least some of that infrastructure is required for things like fire trucks and ambulances and garbage pickup etc...

So "math iz fun" put up your numbers or you're just as guilty of "bad faith" as LOL.

I actually think it would an interesting analysis and if environmental cost is not considered and we are just counting the money I think the results may indeed show the government has been raking it in on cars and car-culture for years and that's why they don't really want that to change.

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By math (anonymous) | Posted April 09, 2013 at 07:28:02 in reply to Comment 87750

Kiely, what are you, the next mystoneycreek? You're quite good at telling people how to post properly, how to do the right research, how they aren't arguing right, or aren't going about effecting change in the best possible way. But what do you do? What do you bring to the table? Then you come out with this gem: "I think the results may indeed show the government has been raking it in on cars and car-culture for years" - which is equally worthless as LOL's initial comment. At least MSC used his real name so we knew who we were tuning out.

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By Duke of Earl (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2013 at 13:36:19

Here's a novel approach,it's called user pays.Drivers of private cars should be made to pay additional taxes for fuel,insurance,maintenance,repairs and parking. Oh wait,they already are!These drivers paying for the system should then have their way snarled by curb bumpouts,two way streets,empty bicycle lanes uncoordinated stoplights and any other ideas we can think up to hamper the efficient movement of goods and services and people around town.Then it will get so bad in downtown we will have to offer tax breaks and outright handouts to try to attract even more pretensions of success.What if the handouts dry up?

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2013 at 05:43:20 in reply to Comment 87713

But that's the whole idea. Make the traffic so horrible in the city so that LRT can be justified. Why live with an efficient one way road system when the whole thing can be screwed up so bad that the taxpayer has to pay a billion dollars to build an LRT in town to relieve the traffic.

Let the downvoting begin.

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By i smell wood birning (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2013 at 20:22:34 in reply to Comment 87721

it's only "efficient" for leeches who drive through the city and who don't live with the one ways or pay taxes here. The one way streets are causing high taxes. You can "not buy it" all you want, but wishing otherwise doesn't make it false.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2013 at 20:41:45 in reply to Comment 87726

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By i'm the taxman (anonymous) | Posted April 09, 2013 at 07:40:08 in reply to Comment 87729

Nobody said that taxes are higher on one way streets. They make the taxes higher citywide. Just because you don't understand why, doesn't mean it's not true. I don't have the time to explain it to you, not that it matters because its been explained over and over again and yet you fail to comprehend.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2013 at 01:29:47 in reply to Comment 87755

after you explain it to yourself I would love to see how you did it.

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By Trollfood (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2013 at 15:11:17 in reply to Comment 87721

I think most people downvote for unwarranted personal attacks, name calling, etc. If you got downvoted every time you constructed a strawman argument, falsely attributed it to others, refused to engage reasoned positions in good faith, ignored facts and data, and contributed windy garbage posts that add no value, your Comment Scores would be, like, -200, all the time.

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By Random Thoughts (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2013 at 16:09:33

Regardless of how it's done, more costs of driving should be based on usage as opposed to flat fees. For instance, I can get significantly cheaper car insurance choosing a 50 km commute to work than I can living 2 km away and walking. There's something wrong with that.
Finally, while I agree that we, the taxpayer, got hosed with the sale of the 407, I fear that if the government had held on to it it's fee structure would look like the tax code now. Exemptions for soccer moms going to practice? Good idea. Reduced rates for veterans willing to have a poppy on their plate? Sounds only reasonable. No charge for cars built in Ontario? The unions and automakers would like that one. I think I've made my point.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 09, 2013 at 04:47:06 in reply to Comment 87717

The unions


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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2013 at 20:45:22 in reply to Comment 87717

You cannot expect anyone to believe you can you? How in the world can you get a better insurance rate by driving more and further? If it were true, then there would be something wrong with it, but it's not true.

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By sigh (anonymous) | Posted April 09, 2013 at 07:32:41 in reply to Comment 87730

If you live in, say, Grimsby and commute daily to work in Hamilton, your insurance is lower than if you live in Hamilton, walk to work, and only use your car to go camping a few times a year. This is a fact. You are the prince of being so blinded by your own opinions that rality just can't get through.

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By TB (registered) - website | Posted April 08, 2013 at 12:17:39 in reply to Comment 87730

LOL - go here: http://www.kanetix.ca/auto-insurance Get a quote. Change the postal code. Get a quote. Repeat until you know whereof you speak.

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By colin (registered) | Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:33:07 in reply to Comment 87736

For a quick at-a-glance look at the cost of car insurance across the country go here: https://www.kanetix.ca/insuramap

Type in a postal code, and you can compare insurance rates in different places interactively on a map.

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By Random Thoughts (Again) (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2013 at 07:06:32 in reply to Comment 87730

This is probably way too much text to waste on a troll, but...
Please don't call me a liar. You should get the quotes and do some research yourself before you comment --- I have.
Our car insurance almost doubled when we moved from a smaller Ontario centre to Hamilton and chose to buy a house that we could walk to a downtown workplace from --- despite the fact that we’d be significantly cutting the amount of driving we'd done previously.
Surprised at this, I had my broker run a number of scenarios for me just see what the spreads for living in different areas would be. Sadly, at the time at least, we would've seen huge discounts on our car insurance rates if we'd chosen Burlington, Grimsby, or even the farm country beyond Ancaster, as a place to live --- and then commuted to the same workplace in the heart of Hamilton (we were/are in a position where the vehicle still has to be insured as used for employment).
I received all sorts of reasons for this --- rates are based on claims made in particular areas, etc., etc. --- but none of them had anything to do with how much the vehicle was actually going to be used (it often collected dust in driveway).
This was my point a few days ago --- that the km’s that get driven is too often poorly reflected in the costs of car ownership and yet the costs of providing infrastructure are usually in direct correlation to how much people drive. If costs that don't reflect how much a vehicle is used, like insurance rates or, for instance, license plate renewals, were based more on km travelled, I believe that infrastructure costs and their associated tax burden could be significantly reduced if the rewards for driving less were better captured in people's day to day costs.
Finally, I feel I have to note that we don’t regret for a second choosing to live where walking is an option even if we do pay more for car insurance --- it’s just a irritant that we have to. The $50.00 to $100.00 a month we might have saved on car insurance elsewhere is quickly erased by what our gas, depreciation and maintenance (not to mention time) costs would have been living somewhere far away.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2013 at 01:43:05 in reply to Comment 87735

I can see where you came to your conclusion, in a long convoluted way. You are not paying more for insurance because you walk to work you are paying more because you chose to live in Hamilton. Hamilton has higher insurance premiums because of higher claims. Grimsby being the suburban place that it is has a much lower rate of claims, ergo lower insurance. If at some point you decide to commute 60kms from where you live now I have no doubt that your premiums will rise. The savings in buying a house in Hamilton compared to Grimsby will at least in part cover the costs of your insurance. Hamilton does have the lowest house prices around. Again as is so typical for this site make the facts sound as best you cans to support your cause, the truth be damned.

Let the downvoting begin.

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By Rational Optimist (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2013 at 17:08:03 in reply to Comment 87735

I am in this precise situation. I moved to Hamilton from KW a year ago, and my insurance increased, despite the fact that I walk to my job and my wife takes transit. My insurer only made vague comments about claim levels in the GTA, or specifically in Hamilton. We use the car a couple of times a week at most (like you, I do need to insure it for a side business that occasionally requires it), but I know for a fact that I pay more to insure my vehicle in my driveway than some of my colleagues do to insure theirs for sixty kilometre daily round trips.

The reason for this is the same reason you give above for thinking that the 407 sale was a positive (with which I agree). You are absolutely right that, were the provincial government still in control of the 407 (directly or through a crown corp), the fee structure would have become very complicated. Driving insurance is highly-regulated in Ontario, and the provincial government is interested in keeping premiums relatively low for its largest constituencies. To wit: Andrew Howarth wants the province to reduce insurance premiums by 15%, and I've heard no one point out about how contrary that is to a lot of the other ideas her party promotes.

Take the government out of things as much as possible, and people will be given a much greater ability to see the true costs of goods and services.

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By More Random Thoughts (anonymous) | Posted April 09, 2013 at 03:56:51 in reply to Comment 87740

I didn't actually mean to suggest that government involvement was the problem here. In fact, I think a public insurer might be more amenable to basing fees on use than private firms. That's because the costs of infrastructure (building or maintaining it) are not borne by the private insurance industry whereas they are by the government.
For all its flaws, I would take a public option like ICBC here over what's available now anyday. Sadly, covenants of the FTA have probably ruled any chance of that out forever.
Regarding the 407, I would have much preferred it remained in public hands with an arms-length decision making structure devised to limit the sorts of exceptions I suggested above. It was sold for a dime on the dollar to "balance" a budget before an election when much better options were on the table.
Finally, I agree with you on Andrea/Andrew. Her quest for popular appeal is getting in the way of sound coherent policy decisions. Such is the bane of having to please all of the people all of the time (something that private industry doesn't have to do --- making a profit is oh so simple in comparison).

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2013 at 16:10:12

@LOL: 74 % of Hamiltonian adults are overweight or obese. I know you like cars, as do I, but in terms of calorie burning and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, they don't cut it. According to our own associate medical officer of Health, only 7% of young people, and 15 % of adults in Canada get the recommended amount of daily physical exercise.

As for whether or not we can afford to make the kinds of transit improvements proposed, you may be right. The oil era paid for much our standard of living, but whether or not we can maintain growth levels necessary to continue on the same course is the question. As more unconventional oils come on line, we won't be able to afford to burn as much as we used to, and we will have painted ourselves into a corner with increased car dependence. Then we truly won't be able to afford any public expenditures, as we are more susceptible to oil price shocks.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 09, 2013 at 04:54:19 in reply to Comment 87718

Please, people aren't fat because of cars they're fat because they eat too much and move too little.

Let's keep the discussion real.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2013 at 00:45:14

what was the point of that list?

Here's what you get from your government:
1. policing
2. roads
3. schools
4. hospitals
5. universities
6. prisons

and so on.

Also: most people believe they are only contributing and getting nothing in return. It's called attribution bias. It's an error. If the best we can do is put metres on everything to get people past this error, then so be it.

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted April 07, 2013 at 01:21:34

My concern is the tools being put forward are insufficient and are doomed to failure.

We have this situation whereby cities are creatures of the province and they are asked to deliver services that are costly, subject to inflationary pressures, and are consumers of energy, and they are asked to do this on the basis, primarily, of property tax revenues. That, in turn, gives way to the vicious circle of "assessment growth" which is building subdivisions to produce property taxpayers to pay for the infrastructure and services of the last round of "assessment growth".

If we want cars off the road and people using transit then we need a series of disincentives and incentives and we need transit to be fast, reliable, and comfortable. In Toronto, for example, nothing makes a transit user want to buy a car and sit in gridlock more so than being crammed into a subway car at rush hour and then having it stop and wait for an interminable period and for no apparent reason.

If each municipality is to use different funding tools the results will be mixed and the funding will remain problematic. First and foremost, the province should introduce and administer a carbon tax with revenues earmarked exclusively for the purpose of the Big Move. The emphasis ought to be not only on routes and efficiency but also on deploying enough vehicles to ensure a reasonable level of convenience and comfort while traveling.

New funding tools should still be made available to municipalities to assist in breaking the cycle of assessment growth and allowing municipalities to mature as political entities and economic engines.

Comment edited by ViennaCafe on 2013-04-07 01:23:05

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 07, 2013 at 20:08:24

Lets examine some of the facts around Metrolinx, the TTC, et al and decide if the taxpayers of this province should trust these agencies with MORE of our money.

  1. Metrolinx's Presto fare system .... the regional one card distance based swipe card fare system was projected to cost $250 million dollars. The current cost is $750 million, the meter is still running and it STILL does not work right.

  2. The TTC's St Clair streetcar right of way project (which is the template for many current proposed LRT projects was delivered at over %100 over budget and two years late. This past week the TTC divulged that it will need to spend an ESTIMATED $58 million dollars more to tear up and retro fit many of the platforms to fit the new ground level loading streetcars that were ordered when this project started. The TTC has already spent an undisclosed amount to correct the same problem on the Spadina streetcar right of way.

  3. The TTC Streetcar fleet and infrastructure mainenance budget is $700 million per year. These on ground on street tracks are constantly being ripped up, replaced causing grid lock, congestion, dirt, noise, pollution and economic loss for businesses along their routes every year. If even half of this budget was put towards subway construction which is what is really needed in North America's 4th largest city, how much more efficient would public transit be in the short, medium and long term?

  4. There have been recent articles on RTH recently promoting safe streets and investment in public transit. Who doesn't want this? No brainer. But examples of such that have been put forward are in fact miserable failures. I work in Toronto on Lansdowne Ave. The narrowing of this street has made being a cyclist and a pedestrian more dangerous not less. Emergency vehicles (of which I am in at work) frequently cannot navigate the traffic because there is now only 1 lane each way. Roncessvalles Ave is an even bigger sad joke and waste of taxpayer money. These were both streets that worked and have worked for most of the 23 years I have worked there. Lansdowne even had electric buses. Now because of some unqualified elected politicians pet project (Adam Giambrone) and the backing of an even more dysfunctional city council and politically and ideologically motivated activitsts these streets are less safe, less efficient, more congested and have been done over budget, and late. Thank You taxpayers. If we are to ask the people who pay taxes to invest even more money in ideas like safe streets, public transit and congestion easing, we better bloodywell make sure that what is implemented works. Unfortunately the recent history of these projects in Ontario contrary to what their proponents are saying are not really successes.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted April 09, 2013 at 14:50:12 in reply to Comment 87725

Lots of subjective opinions masquerading as facts there, Greg.

We should definitely be vigilant about budget and schedule overruns for major public infrastructure projects. But they don't erase the value of the projects themselves.

Local vendors feel the pain and complain, but then they enjoy the results. Ask members of the Roncesvalles BIA if they think the upgrade was a sad joke and waste of taxpayer money that made the street less safe, less efficient, and more congested.

Or at least, provide some data to back up your claims. Have there actually been more accidents on the street since construction was completed in 2011? Is it really less efficient overall (not just, you know, for cars trying to cut through the neighborhood)?

And the politically and ideologically motivated activists you mention? I think those are just the people who live there.

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By viennacafe (registered) | Posted April 07, 2013 at 20:41:34 in reply to Comment 87725

Did you cycle on that street you say is now less safe for cyclists?

I suspect your examples are not quite the full truth and anything but the truth. For example, "There is $58 million that has been put aside for these modifications to the islands. And that was what we knew we had to do ...," Byford said. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/st...

And there is this: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toro...

And that is just one item with two examples I already knew about.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 07, 2013 at 21:29:47 in reply to Comment 87728

they have narrowed the streets, painted picto graphs of bicycles on them as if this somehow mystically grants cyclists safety from the vehicles they must now share this narrowed space with. And no I haven't cycled on them, I wouldn't think of it. I do frequently pic up the peices of what's left of people who do try to cycle on them, or the pedestrians that cyclists hit on the sidewalk because they've figured out that using the road is like playing real life frogger.

Byford wasn't chairman of the TTC when these projects were approved and and initiated. There was no way he could have initially known they would have to do this. And if they did, it is simply further indictment of gross incompetence at TTC. The project is still 100% over budget and two years late.

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By viennacafe (registered) | Posted April 08, 2013 at 04:13:28 in reply to Comment 87732

You know what's great about the Internet? You can find anything. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toro...

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 08, 2013 at 15:34:34 in reply to Comment 87734

Pretty dots on a map. Not the same as blood and bone on a roadway or sidewalk. But hey the internet is a great thing right?

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2013 at 22:06:51

On page 10 of today’s National Post, there's a tidbit entitled “City manager backs taxes for Metrolinx”. Here's an excerpt:

“City manager Joe Pennachetti’s newly released report endorses two waves of potential ‘revenue tools’ for the provincial agency. The first consists of a regional sales tax, a gas tax, a parking levy and development charges. The second wave, for use once most of the first $16-billion worth of projects are complete, include high-occupancy toll lanes, highway tolls or other road pricing and a vehicle registration tax.

Mr. Pennachetti says all taxes or user fees should be imposed equally across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. He also says municipalities should receive one quarter of the revenue generated by Metrolinx to use as they see fit on local infrastructure.”

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