To Toll or Not To Toll

Today’s Metro Morning included a discussion of road tolls as a way to fund public transit.  Let’s put this in perspective.

The Gardiner Expressway report talks about a toll equivalent to a transit fare, and it would generate $130-million annually.  What can we get for $130-million?

  • Over 150 new buses per year, or
  • 15 to 20 percent improvement in TTC service, or
  • A 3 year project to build all of the eastern waterfront transit improvements, or
  • A 10 year project to rebuild and expand Scarborough’s transit network, or
  • A 20 year project to build the Spadina Subway to Vaughan

There is an unfortunate tendency to talk about funding sources such as tolls without putting them in context.  We know that the TTC’s own Capital Budget projections require about $1-billion annually for the next 10 years.  This includes about $3-billion worth of subway construction.

We keep talking about better transit, but we need to be honest about the amount of money involved.  $130-million a year is small change beside the Board of Trade’s estimate that congestion costs the GTA $1.8-billion.  Tolls might raise some money, but they are not going to solve all of our funding problems by a long shot, especially if we add major road projects like the Gardiner to our project list.

Any government thinking of funding transit has to face up to one basic fact:  tax revenue (whatever you call it) has to go up.  The only question is which pocket you pick.