Tory makes case for road tolls as he tours subway extension
Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Monday, November 28, 2016 6:44PM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 28, 2016 7:43PM EST
Mayor John Tory reiterated his case for collecting road tolls Monday, making the case that if people want to fix congestion in the city, they will have to pay to do it.
Tory made the comments to reporters before touring the future subway stop at York University that will be part of the long-awaited Line 1 extension, set to open late next year.
“We need to recognize that building transit is the best way to fix traffic and we need to remind ourselves that transit is not free, “Tory said. “One new transit station every fourteen years will not fix traffic, not even begin to fix traffic.
“It will see this vibrant, dynamic city smothered by congestion and I am simply not prepared to let that happen, which is why I want to move ahead with this fair, reasonable proposal to have us stand up for once and say that we’re prepared to pay our share of building transit to fix traffic.”
Last week Tory announced that he is in favour of a $2 toll on both the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway in order to help raise funds to pay for the city’s transit projects and road improvements.
The mayor has said that such a toll would ensure that non-residents who use the major roadways contribute to their upkeep and he has estimated that tolls could bring in around $200 million per year.
The proposal comes as the city seeks to limit spending while pushing ahead with projects that would loosen the stranglehold of congestion on the city.
Plagued by decades of piecemeal funding and indecision by all levels of government, road traffic has swelled in the city while transit infrastructure has grown at a glacial pace.
Tory has vowed to break gridlock in the city by making road and transit improvements, namely his SmartTrack plan, a priority. However financing the improvements remains a challenge.
In a recent report on funding options for SmartTrack, City Manager Peter Wallace said even the most optimistic projections would still leave the city with a sizeable hole to fill in terms of its contribution, a hole that Tory has promised he will not fill by raising property taxes.
Other unfinanced projects include the much-needed downtown relief line to take pressure off the overcrowded Yonge Line (Line 1).
While road tolls could help fund the desperately needed infrastructure, the idea has elicited fierce debate, with some saying they’d be willing to contribute if the end-result is less congestion and others saying drivers are already feeling squeezed.
But speaking with reporters Monday, Tory said further inaction would make the situation even worse.
“For decades our city has failed to invest in expanding our transit network. Toronto has grown – some people say it has grown too fast – but our transit map has not grown,” Tory told reporters. “And so our subway cars are jammed, our streetcars are packed and our overall transit network is insufficient to get people to and from where they want to go, whether it’s to school or to work or to the library or wherever.
“And because transit is not a great option for many, our roads are hopelessly clogged with people using their cars.”
Tolls would still have to be approved by city council and the city would also require permission from the province in order to enact them. According to the city, they would be implemented in 2019 at the earliest if approved.