I usually talk about racing, but this has been on my mind as of late.
Toronto needs more revenue. Toronto also needs work done to the roads. Toronto also needs less cars clogging the already-choking highway system around the area. People also balk at Toronto-only taxes and fees that would “unfairly” penalise Torontonians when those from outside Toronto commute in for free.
My idea is simple, and it is inspired by the Swedes. Stockholm suffered from massive congestion into the old city where only six bridges connected it with the surrounding neighbourhoods. They instituted small tolls (worth roughly a dollar), and that shifted the balance to transit, as suddenly it wasn’t much more expensive to take transit than it was to drive.
I want to do the same with the GTHA. The plan is simole: institute $1 tolls for each city you drive through, during rush-hour, on a highway. Each dollar goes to the city you drove through.
Say you commute from Burlington to Toronto via the QEW and Gardiner. One dollar would go to Burlington, one dollar to Oakville, one dollar to Mississauga and finally one dollar to Toronto. Each city would then earn a dollar on your return trip. $8 to drive downtown during rush-hour from three cities away is completely fair. A similar example would be a commuter driving from Toronto to Brampton would pay a dollar to Toronto, a dollar to Mississauga and a dollar to Brampton when they drive up the 410.
This would shift the balance to transit. A round trip from Burlington to Toronto is around $15. Gas to drive is around $8, so add an $8 toll and suddenly it’s cheaper to take the train. It’s also now a premium worth paying for, since the roads will be far clearer. Since congestion has an exponential relationship to traffic volume, even reducing it 10% could have a dramatic effect on traffic flow. Add to that reduced pollution from cars, and it’s hard to see why there is so much opposition.
Each city can earmark at least part of that dollar for infrastructure, and each city will benefit from those who don’t live there, work there or spend any money there but take advantage of their roads. Those who complain about the vehicle tax will be vindicated as the “out-of-towners” will be paying for what they use instead of Torontonians paying for what they may or may not use.
This would apply to any major highway, at each city’s discretion. For example, Toronto could implement it for 401, Gardiner Expressway, DVP, 404 and 427. It could run from 7am to 10 am, and 3pm to 7pm.
Something needs to be done about our reliance on cars, our avoidance of transit and those taking advantage of a vast but crumbling infrastructure to commute through several cities over many kilometres simply to work for the day and take their money home with them.
Still want to drive your car to work? Not a problem, just pay what is fair and have a quicker, less stressful journey. Don’t mind taking transit? Thanks for helping us all breathe easier and for easing congestion.