WATCH ABOVE: John Tory proposes adding tolls to Gardiner Expressway, DVP
If you’re a Toronto commuter, you may soon have to pay up.
Toronto Mayor John Tory has announced his endorsement of a plan to put tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway in order to pay for transit and road projects.
Tory’s announcement signals a shift in stance for the mayor who in the past has said he is not in favour of tolls on Toronto highways.
“On the Gardiner and DVP, these tolls would be paid by those who drive in and out of our city as well as by our local 416 residents, sharing the burden among everyone who uses these City of Toronto owned and financed roads,” Tory said during a lunchtime speech at the Toronto Board of Trade on Thursday.
“The money raised through tolls would be directly invested in unfunded capital projects, starting with the expansion of our transit network.”
Tory said a $2 road toll would raise over $200 million annually.
He called for the money raised to be put in a separate infrastructure fund to be overseen by an independent body and audited every year, rather than into the city’s general revenue fund.
Tory also called for an end to a property tax rebate for vacant commercial and industrial property owners, and to make the present voluntary destination marketing fee a mandatory hotel tax.
He called for the money raised to be put in a separate infrastructure fund to be overseen by an independent body and audited every year.
Tory also called for an end to a property tax rebate for vacant commercial and industrial property owners and making the voluntary destination marketing fee a mandatory hotel tax.
The speech comes as the city released a new report Thursday morning recommending tolling and new taxes on hotel stays as the city grapples with an infrastructure deficit estimated to be at least $33 billion, according to city officials.
WATCH ABOVE: Cindy Pom speaks with Councillor Mary Fragedakis about Mayor John Tory’s proposed toll plan.
“Forty per cent of the people who drive on the DVP and Gardiner are outside of Toronto but 100 per cent of the cost of maintaining those roads, the Toronto residents do,” Toronto budget chief Gary Crawford told Global News on Thursday.
“We’re looking probably at a $2 charge that would bring in approximately $150 to $250 million which will really add to fixing our roads.”
After much speculation, Tory won’t be pushing to sell off Toronto Hydro though.
About 228,000 vehicles travel on the Gardiner east of Highway 427 on a daily basis while about 100,000 drive on the DVP north of the Bayview-Bloor exit.
University of Toronto professor Matti Siemiatycki said that although the initial observation is that this is an expensive endeavour, the tolls will provide much needed cash to meet the city’s infrastructure and transit needs.
“This has been a complete game changer in other regions. It’s seen congestion decline. It’s seen money invested into public transit so people have viable alternatives,” Siemiatycki said during an interview on Global’s The Morning Show on Thursday.
“The car right now is their only choice to get into the city. We need to pay for all the investment, all of the public transit that’s going to allow them to travel from where they are coming from into the city. And this provides some of the money to do it. It also provides an incentive to car pool. We have a lot of capacity in the back seat of people’s cars that they’re not using right now.”
Toronto’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat heralded the toll push as “an idea whose time has come.”
City councillors in Hamilton have also looked at road tolls on the Linc and Red Hill.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) issued a statement on Thursday denouncing the plan and called it another financial burden on commuters.
“The Tory-toll is going to cause gridlock on surrounding streets, and hurt commuters. Commuting to work isn’t a luxury – most people who commute do so because they can’t afford to live in Toronto because of government policies like the double-land transfer tax. This toll takes advantage of people who rely on their cars to make a living,” Christine Van Geyn, CTF Ontario Director, said.
“If you want to commute on the TTC it’s going to cost you more. If you want to drive into the city it’s going to cost you more. If you want to stay overnight in a hotel in the city, it’s going to cost you more. If you want to buy a house in the city, it’s going to cost you double. Toronto might as well hang out a sign that says ‘for rich people only.’ Because that’s the Toronto John Tory is creating.”
In March, the City of Toronto issued a request for proposals to determine how to implement tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway.
A staff report released last fall on tolling options saw drivers pay a flat fee of between $1.25 to $3.25 for either a 10-year or 30-year time frame respectively.
The city would need the province’s approval in order to implement the tolls as well as the tax on hotel rooms.
Back in 2003, when running for mayor for the first time, Tory called the idea of installing tolls on area roads “highway robbery.”
“I don’t think I would treat that as anything I would do as mayor … in my first term… people have paid for these roads. If we want more money for transit it should come from the taxes people are paying today,” Tory said in 2003.
David Miller, whom Tory lost to in the election, advocated in favour of them.
With files from David Shum and Mark McAllister