Mayor Ford’s sacred cars become his cash cow

Item date: 
February 13, 2012
Item context: 

A KPMG report investigates how the Sheppard subway could be built using a variety of revenue tools. They state that VKT charges generate the most funds when compared to the “other revenue tools” – see p. 22.

By MARCUS GEE

On his very first day in office, Mayor Rob Ford declared that “the war on the car is over.” Can you imagine him bringing in a new gasoline tax to pay for transit? How about a parking levy? Expressway road tolls?

Hard to get your mind around, isn’t it? Yet a report presented to city council’s executive committee on Monday makes it clear that the mayor will have to consider these measures and more if he is to have a chance of building his favourite transit project: a Sheppard subway...

Critics doubt that Sheppard would draw nearly enough new development to produce such a funding bonanza, but let’s give project boosters the benefit of the doubt and assume that the city reaps the whole $900-million plus the $983-million from governments. This still leaves the project about $900-million short under the traditional funding models (and about $700-million short under newer models, according to KPMG).

That means turning to what the consultants call “other revenue tools.” By another of those ironies that seem to blossom in Mr. Ford’s footprints, nearly all of them involve sticking it to his friend the beleaguered driver.

Congestion charges like they have in Stockholm or London could bring in up to $136-million a year. Expressway tolls could bring in up to $556-million.

Toronto could follow the example of San Diego and Minneapolis and charge solo drivers for using high-occupancy vehicle, or HOV, lanes. Or it could tax parking. San Francisco levies a 25 per cent tax on all commercial off-street parking and puts 40 per cent of the take into a transportation fund. A gasoline tax on British Columbia’s south coast goes to funding transit as well...

Mr. Ford has always refused even to think about taxing drivers. So the Chong report presents him with a dilemma. He is eager to deliver on his promise of a Sheppard subway, but, to get it, he might have to open his mind to measures that run against his grain. Welcome to the real world, Your Worship.