For anyone who commutes daily, it is evident that the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) faces incredible traffic congestion. What many do not realize, however, is that this gridlock situation is not only inconvenient, but is costing the economy $6-billion each year, according to Ontario.ca. For this reason, Glen Murrary, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, announced yesterday that the guiding principles of the Metrolinx Investment Strategy have been accepted under a few conditions: expected revenue must be used appropriately; transportation benefits and investments must be equally distributed; and all future decisions must be transparent as well as publicly accountable.
The next step for the Metrolinx Investment Strategy, which consists of 24 recommendations as a part of a four-part design to ameliorate the GTHA’s transit system, will be determined by the Ministry of Transportation‘s analysis of the proposed revenue tools for transit expansion. Already, the Metrolinx Investment Strategy has earned the support of many supporters of CivicAction, an organization that believes responsible investment in transportation infrastructure is long overdue and necessary for the GTHA to grow prosperously. Currently, more than 16,000 residents and 55 officials from 16 municipalities in the GTHA have stepped forward to accelerate the course of action for improving transit. Due to the large-scale pressure for action, the Metrolinx Investment Strategy may be exactly what people have been waiting for.
Proposed Revenue Tools
The Metrolinx Investment Strategy, as a part of the Big Move’s Next Wave — a $34-billion program designed to optimize the GTHA transportation system by expanding the network and implementing additional resources for maximum efficiency — outlines the following revenue tools to generate $2-billion annually:
- Sales tax increase of 1% on all goods and services subject to HST ($1.3 billion a year)
- Gas tax of $0.05 a litre ($330 million a year)
- A 15% development charge increase ($100 million a year)
- Parking levy for all non-residential off-street parking ($350 million a year from an average charge of $0.25)
The hypothetical revenue from these tools would channel directly into the Transportation Trust Fund, 75% of which to cover the operating costs of new projects and 25% for local road programs.
Metrolinx outlined three additional recommendations for the board to consider:
- High Occupancy Toll Lanes (estimated $100-million in potentional revenue)
- Pay for Parking at Transit Stations (designated to reduce the burden of infrastructure maintainance and improvements)
- Land Value Capture
As mentioned above, the Government will assay the proposed revenue tools from the Metrolinx Investment Strategy and will come to a decision as to whether or not this plan should be adopted. An advisory panel has been assembled to assist with the decision, comprised of residents, municipal governments, stakeholders, and community committees, ensuring a well-rounded, all-inclusive platform for decision making. In up-coming weeks further updates will be made as to the fate of the proposal.