Transit funding triggers groan from Rob Ford

Transit funding triggers groan from Rob Ford

li-drivingThe idea of asking taxpayers to dig deeper to pay for transit expansion was met with a groan, literally, from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day Metrolinx, the government body that handles transit planning for the Toronto and Hamilton region, issued its shortlist of possible funding tools to pay for transit expansion.

The options for funding tools (see full list below) include a mix of tolls and taxes. When asked his opinion of the list of funding tools, Ford’s response was a long guttural groan CBC city hall reporter Jamie Strashin described as a vomiting sound.

“We can’t implement these new taxes to pay for transit,” said Ford. “You want to pay for transit? I’ve got a good idea: it’s called a casino.”

The funding tools announced Tuesday are part of an ongoing process looking at ways to cover the cost of transit expansion over the next 25 years.

The suggested funding tools include:

– Development charges.

– Employer payroll tax.

– Fuel tax.

– High occupancy tolls.

– Highway tolls.

– Land value capture.

– Parking space levy, including pay-for-parking transit stations

– Property tax.

– Sales tax.

– Transit fare increase.

– Vehicle kilometres travelled fee.

The tools are needed to generate about $2 billion a year to pay for The Big Move, a regional transit expansion plan expected to cost $50 billion over 25 years.

In making the announcement Tuesday, Metrolinx president Bruce McCuaig said there is growing impatience over finding a solution to the region’s traffic problems.

“At our round-table meetings, we heard that there is wide recognition of the problem of congestion and there is impatience for a solution,” said McCuaig. “Participants want to see more transit and transportation expansion, they understand that this requires significant investment and overall they supported tools to build new transit and transportation.”

Tuesday’s announcement follows the release last month of the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s list of preferred funding tools.

The four measures TRBOT is put forward for “serious consideration” included:

– A regional sales tax.

– A $1 a day parking space levy.

– A 10 cents per litre regional fuel tax.

– High-occupancy toll lanes in which drivers of single occupancy vehicles would play 30 cents a kilometre.

Metrolinx will submit its final investment strategy to the province in June.

“What we’re providing is advice, we’re not the final decision makers,” said McCuaig.

At that point, the conversation will shift to politicians at the provincial or federal level. So far, most have been reluctant to address the difficult, unpopular options for paying for transit expansion. Ford’s response to Tuesday’s news is just one example.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has said she’s open to new ideas to pay for transit, which can’t be paid for by existing revenue streams.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says people can’t trust the Liberal government to spend money from new taxes or road tolls on public transit.

Hudak admits he too would have to consider tolls or taxes to fund public transit, but says he would not agree to put tolls on existing highways.

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton spoke about transit funding on Metro Morning on Tuesday. He said taxpayers are likely to support new funding measures so long as they are applied fairly.

“It’s got to be feasible, accountable and implementable,” Burton told host Matt Galloway. “No free ride for anybody. Unless it’s fair, nobody is going to support it and if it’s fair, I think everybody will.”

Reprinted with permission from