Toronto: Roads, Transportation, and Taxes

Fair warning: this post is a bit of a rant.

Roads first. Every day buses, trucks, cars, and large vans enter Metropolitan Toronto. Many of these come from Mississauga to the west, and a similar volume enters from the East beyond Scarborough. This traffic enjoys the roadways in Metro, contributing to congestion and to wear and tear.

Metro residents pay for this through property taxes. (The fact that businesses, whose tenants are the employers causing much of the traffic, get tax breaks, is a separate concern, eh?) We are told that we have better tax rates than the outlying areas, such as Mississauga.

I submit that comparing residential property taxes is misleading. Property taxes are charged based on assessment, not on services provided. You are penalized for having a house with a higher valuation than your neighbour. Mississauga valuations are lower, for the same house, than in Metro. So they actually get a tax break on cost of services delivered. The rate may be higher, but the assessment is lower.

I submit that using property taxes to facilitate transport is, in effect, misappropriating funds. The outlying areas should pay for their share of congestion, and road repairs. They should pay their share of the subsidy of public transport, both GO and TTC.

Subway next.

The Toronto Subway is the subject of amazing statements about cost, subsidies, et cetera. Compared to major subways elsewhere, the Toronto subway has these differences:

  • The actual, real cost of a ride is the lowest.
  • The actual, real fare is I think also the lowest.
  • The subsidy is the lowest.

Sadly, the level of planning is pretty close to the lowest as well. Having two major routes parallel to each other 500 metres apart does look dumb, especially if you compare to the London tube.

In this subway (England), there are always two or more subway routes between moderately distant places. There are circles/loops as well as straight lines. The subways are run by independent companies and do not inter-operate: they merely arrive at platforms in the same station. Short turn trains are announced in advance, and the times to the next long-turn train are posted in real time. There are passes of many kinds, including four-day passes for tourists. Oh yes, and the entire route is underground so snow does not cause problems.

None of the above applies to the Toronto subway. Streetcars are more reliable on heavy snow days.

London, England has a congestion tax. You need a permit, $, to drive downtown. That’s one way of putting the cost on the correct consumer. It is in effect a road toll.

I live in what was once Etobicoke. I avoid driving downtown as the traffic is both heavy and aggressive. Parking is expensive. Two of us can go to point A via TTC, walk to point B, and get the TTC near there; no going back to the car or parking it twice. The TTC cost is less than parking once. The travel time is comparable. I’d rather be in a subway that might be stalled, than trapped on an expressway that might be stalled for several hours.

So, you now ask, what’s my point? Here are a few:

  • Toronto needs better transit. More available, better service. Maybe we should even help pay for this.
  • Toronto needs road repairs and some expansion. Those who drive on those roads should help pay for them.
  • Toronto businesses (downtown) have exported their cost of travel time to their employees. It is time they ponied up some support money for the transit and travel they make necessary.

That means taxes. But this time, let’s tax those who create the need for the service. Tax the drivers who enter Metro, including (for example) Mississauga buses. Tax the office towers who employ, to their advantage, the best – even if the best have to commute from Oshawa.

Stop taxing homeowners who don’t travel downtown. This is, imho, a form of theft.

Comments, anyone?



On Size and Amalgamation: Monopoly, anyone?

The European Union is experiencing difficulties.

The G20 are trying to convince themselves that competitive currency devaluation is not going to be a strategy going forward.

The Soviet Union apparently collapsed.

The United States is in trouble with many governments, at various levels, in debt, and being down-rated by such as Standard & Poors.

The amalgamated city of Toronto is worse off, and its politicians less represent its citizens, than before amalgamation.

In the case of Toronto, there was the famous “Golden Report” by Anne Golden, which promised wonderful savings from amalgamation. Essentially none of these came to fruition, and there were problems due to conflicting street names, zoning regulations, police forces, garbage services, et cetera. The amalgamation did allow developers to exploit uncertainty of zoning laws, imho. But in terms of efficiency and representative government, the experiment is both a failure, and impossible to undo.

The EU is likely ‘too big to succeed’ in the same sense: amalgamation with mobility of key components (money, capital equipment, workers) generates a ‘race to the bottom’ in some areas and exacerbates regional disparities. Having a common currency guarantees that inequalities in ‘terms of trade’ will increase automatically, since profit can be made from this. Sadly, the trade itself is financed by countries and their companies who cannot really afford the borrowing it takes.

It is conceivable that both the USA and the USSR are ‘too big to succeed’ in a similar fashion. With modern speed of transport, funds movement, profit shifting, the expected result is, them that get ahead, get farther ahead.

I submit that any economic system today works like a Monopoly™ game, with some added extras. Like Monopoly, after a while one player at each table is collecting rent from all the others, who struggle to ‘pass go’ or get into jail.

Amalgamation is like connecting a series of monopoly games, in various stages of development, together. A few winners will now be able to take over nearby tables’ winners, and the concentration of wealth will accelerate. The middle class will disappear, and the 99.9% will end up with very little.

Real systems (economies, for example) have an additional extra. The winners get to change the rules of the game, of course in their own favour. Lobbying is one way. Influence gets rid of legal obstacles while protecting the largest players, generally large international corporations and specific foreign countries. The citizen majority does not have this power, and cannot withstand it either.

Meanwhile, our government is making free-trade agreements with many countries. We have one with Columbia, for example. For a list of recent trade agreements, including one being negotiated with India, click here.

If you look at the above link, you’ll see marvellous benefits are promised from these agreements. Profit will come out of thin air. This is like buying your etch-a-sketch from China: the company that puts it in your store will make more money. Your neighbour will lose his job. Your country’s credit rating will start to erode.

It is, again, like monopoly. We are connecting our ‘game’ to others’ games. Any ‘extra money’ in the system will go to those who already have most of the wealth, and are busy making up these new trade ‘rules.’

Monopoly, anyone?

Banned versus Otherwise, et cetera

Banned: North Korean long range missiles, satellite launches, atomic weapons; Iranian uranium enrichment.

Not Banned: Israeli settlements, blockades, invasion of Gaza, invasion of Lebanon, satellites, atomic weapons.

Strange: South Korean satellite to collect climate date (aided by Russia), successful; US Climate / Warming satellite, launch failed.

Criticized: Argentina cooperates with Iran in investigating a 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires.

Not Criticized: Israel bombs inside Syria.

Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Praise of Israel isn’t Semitism either, eh?

So, now for the dumb questions.

Is this premise true: If the West or an ally does it, it is OK; otherwise not?

and this one: If we chose to deny climate change, do we criticize attempts to measure it? even sabotage them?