Why we need new cash for transit

Minister Eric Hoskins explains the case for dedicated funding streams

Metrolinx has big plans to improve transportation in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area, but it comes with a big price tag.

At an estimated $50 billion over the next 25 years The Big Move doesn’t come cheap.

The money will be used to fund transit projects in Toronto, such as the Yonge Subway extension and the Downtown Relief Line, and in the 905.

“Everybody agrees that we need to do something about the gridlock and about the transportation challenge that we face here in the [Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area],” said Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, Eric Hoskins. “Now it’s the difficult decisions on how we can best fund that.

“We are investing, but for a project or series of projects of this scale it’s unrealistic to think that we can pay for that with existing revenues.”

In order to come up with an additional $2 billion a year, a list of 11 investment tools has been put forth by Metrolinx, including development charges, transit fare increases and various taxes and tolls.

Over the next month Metrolinx will be studying the possible effects of the proposed tools and gauging the public’s interest in each. By June 1, they will likely have narrowed the list of tools down to five or six, according to Hoskins.

Of the 11 tools on the current short list, five of them would seem to directly target motorists, while others would impact transit users, property owners, employers and consumers.

“We have to be really, really careful in how we do this and that’s why this period of time is so important,” Hoskins said, later adding, “We need to make sure that the burden of this is not carried disproportionately by one group of people or the other.”

Hoskins said that no matter what tools are chosen, they would be put into effect solely in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area and that all revenue generated would be dedicated to Big Move projects.

“That’s important, it can’t be funds generated that simply goes into general revenues,” he said. “These are funds that are specifically raised for this specific reason, to pay for the estimated $50 billion, 25 year Big Move transit plan.”

Mayor Rob Ford has voiced his opposition to any new tax hikes to pay for transit and Premier Kathleen Wynne has said she is willing to go ahead without municipal support. Hoskins called negotiation between the province and municipalities “essential”.

“It’s a shared responsibility so there needs to be a very close partnership and close collaboration between, for example, the City of Toronto and the province,” he said. “There might not be agreement on everything but we need to try and work towards that.”

It is possible that money generated in one municipality within the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area could be used towards a transit project in another. However, Hoskins urged people to think of the mutual benefit for the entire area.

“If they are asked to contribute to it financially they will most certainly benefit directly from it as well,” he said. “Whether we’re talking about the actual public transit itself or the fact that moving more people via public transit will also take more cars off the roads.

“If we can get some of those cars off the road they’re going to benefit in terms of an improved environment, economy, mental health as well as physical health. There are a number of indirect benefits for anybody in the region.”


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By: Tristan Carter
Posted: May 15 2013 5:53 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto
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