By ANGELA GISMONDI
The provincial government has put the brakes on plans to implement tolls on two major Toronto highways and has instead opted to increase gas tax funding to be put towards transit projects.
Several stakeholders in the construction and transportation sectors state they think Premier Kathleen Wynne's decision is a move in the wrong direction.
Wynne was in Richmond Hill, Ont. on Jan. 27 to announce that the province will not approve tolls for the city-owned Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway (DVP), a recommendation put forward by Toronto Mayor John Tory and endorsed by city council in December.
"It's such an easy thing to say I'm against tolls and it's too expensive, but they're not looking at the big picture of congestion management nor the revenue that can be generated," said Martin Collier, founder of Transport Futures.
He said it's an issue of power and governance. Since the province has already implemented road pricing with high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes and the Hwy. 407 East extension, not allowing Toronto to do the same is sending mixed messages, he stated.
"I think this is a great opportunity (for Toronto) to say to the province 'you didn't let us toll it so now you take care of it,'" said Collier, adding the two roadways should be provincial roads since they are not only being used by city of Toronto commuters but those in the 905 as well. "Upload the DVP and the Gardiner to the province and they can take care of it. When they're ready they can toll the whole system including the 400 series highways."
Wynne did announce that starting in 2019, Ontario will be increasing funding for local transit through an enhancement to the existing gas tax program, doubling the municipal share from two cents per litre to four cents by 2021...
Wynne said there are currently not enough reliable transit options for drivers and those are needed before revenue-generating measures such as road tolls are implemented.
However, Collier said the province needs to level the playing field if they want people to consider taking transit and road tolling is one way to do that.
"Tolls can't come in until the transit is built but what they're not saying is when transit is built you're going to have to pay for transit," Collier noted. "A transit fare is basically a toll."...