Monday, Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission released a report that promoted the use of tolls in big cities, saying that “we can’t simply build our way out of congestion, we also need to consider incentives.”
Building roads and transit is just the first step towards alleviating traffic congestion, the report explains. The only way to truly reduce time spent on morning and afternoon commutes is to implement a tolling system.
“Congestion on our roads and freeways leads to wasted time for commuters and delayed goods movement,” said commission chair Chris Ragan, an associate professor of economics at McGill University and former Special Advisor to the Governor of the Bank of Canada, in a statement. “This translates into a less efficient economy and makes almost everything Canadians buy more expensive.”
For Toronto and the GTHA specifically, the commission recommends turning High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes into High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, where single-occupant vehicles will be charged for its use. The report goes further and suggests putting tolls on some of the 400-series highways, the Gardiner, and the Don Valley Parkway (DVP). The idea is that this would utilize all lanes and help move traffic at a faster rate.
To be clear, public transportation and carpools can still use the HOT lanes, without the charge. Only single-occupant vehicles will be asked to pay a toll.
The report does not suggest a one-price-fits-all interpretation of tolling. Geography and traffic patterns must be taken into consideration in each metropolis. The commission suggests a fee that would adjust based on traffic demand—the higher the traffic, the more expensive the toll. The revenue collected from these tolled-roads would be used to fill transit and infrastructure funding gaps.
But, what do Toronto residents think? Back in September, the Transit Alliance commissioned Mainstreet Research to poll Toronto residents to gauge approval for road tolls on the DVP and Gardiner Expressway. The results showed a 54 per cent approval rating.
See below for the total approval breakdown:
Downtown at 72.9%
North York at 56.1%
Etobicoke 48.6 %
Scarborough at 56.9%
The Ontario government says they are exploring the idea of tolled lanes and will outline more details in December. The expansion of the 401 series already includes the creation of new HOV lanes that could be used for tolls.
The commission hopes that provinces and municipalities take the opportunity to test tolls and analyze the results. “We need to get Canada’s cities moving and that won’t happen without a serious conversation about congestion pricing,” said Regan.
To read the report, click the following: We can’t get there from here: Why pricing congestion is critical to beating it.
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