What if the candidates all told the truth about transit funding?: James

Item date: 
June 17, 2014
Item context: 

Royson James was the only journalist out of 21 in attendance at the Solving Gridlock Forum that took the time to really acknowledge Transport Futures' role in facilitating the GTHA's congestion and mobility pricing debate -- what he surprisingly calls "pounding away at the propaganda".  Now if he'd only get our name and bi-annual conference correct...! (We've corrected it in our abridged version below).


Delegates to the bi-annual Transport Futures conference Monday heard only one of the four leading candidates for mayor preach their doctrine of road-pricing, tolls and the use of road and parking fees to change driver behaviour.
For good reason. That message doesn’t sell — even in a town where the citizenry claim to be fed up with traffic congestion; especially during a debate in a high-stakes election campaign.

Martin Collier runs the annual conference, pounding away at the propaganda that unless our governments and transit planners implement measures that put a value on road space, price the commodity based on need, charge users according to demand and ration these valuable roads, there will always be gridlock in a desirable region like Toronto.

You could pump $10 billion into GO Transit, and what do you get? A good plan might move some cars off the road and commuters onto transit; this, in turn, signals to the other drivers that they can whip around more freely; this encourages more citizens to move farther out into the country and travel farther to work; and the roads fill up again.

Billions of dollars later, we’ll be no better off.

If something goes wrong in the model or transit planners invest in the wrong projects, you don’t move commuters onto transit at all.

So, price them off the road, or to a time period that encourages only the ones who must use the roads at that particular time, says the road-pricing bible.

Pollsters say voters are not as opposed as they once were to tolls and taxes to finance transportation projects — provided the money is dedicated to the projects and can’t be siphoned off to general revenues. Still, rare is the politician who will suggest new taxes for transit projects. Or road tolls. 

David Soknacki is one such brave soul. Unfortunately, the former city councillor’s voter support is mired in single digits, months away from the municipal vote. He’s not about to ride a wave of momentum to the Toronto mayor’s office. As such, one can only listen to him and wonder “What if . . .? 

What if they were all as bold and clear and realistic in their assessment of how Torontonians will get out of traffic gridlock? What if they all told the truth — that taxes are going to increase to pay for transit improvements? Transit ain’t free... 

So, even though consensus suggests transportation is top of mind; even though voters are beginning to realize that one way or the other the billion-dollar pricetag of LRT or subway or smart trains or SkyTrains and RTs — whatever you call them — will hit their wallet sometime; taxes for transit is still a bugaboo...