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?



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