Get on the bus, Gus

19Apr10

Today’s Toronto Star editorial argues that people in the Greater Toronto Area need to be more open to the idea of paying road tolls in order to fund public transit expansion.

In a recent Star poll,  51 per cent of respondents were strongly opposed to the idea of using a $5 toll on the Gardiner Expressway or Don Valley Parkway to fund further public transit building. A further 17 per cent were moderately opposed, bringing the total to 68 per cent against.

The Star says there is a sound blueprint in place right now to drastically expand transit throughout the Golden Horseshoe as part of Ontario’s “Big Move” plan. The problem, the Star says, is that the plan has a cost of $50 billion, and only “a fraction” of that money has been committed thus far.

GTA residents are “out of step” with the growing view in political circles that tolls deserve consideration as part of the fundraising initiatives for further transit expansion, the Star says.

I find myself torn on the issue of road tolls. It’s an idea that has never gained much traction in Ontario — note how much many GTA residents loathe the idea of using the 407 — and reminds me of the Mario Cuomo era in New York State. I recall traveling in New York during Cuomo’s tenure as governor. It was my first exposure to paying to use roadways and left a bad taste in my mouth.

“Roads are a right, not a privilege,” I thought to myself.

And in many respects, I still feel that way.

But, there is a complex problem in the  GTA. Residents seem to want to have their cake and eat it too. They want better transit, but they don’t want to pay for it.

Further, it was recently reported that the GTA has the worst traffic congestion problem in North America. Too many residents are driving to work and the roadways simply can’t handle the volume.

There has to be a solution. Perhaps making people pay to use one of the major express routes to work will make them seriously consider leaving the SUV at home and taking the GO instead. Less traffic, less pollution.

And those that insist on jumping in their gas-guzzler for the morning commute? Let them fund the transit expansion.

It’s a win-win.

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