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Jun 17, 2008, 6:14 PM
Commute could take a steep toll
Road plan ideas include toll, taxes
June 17, 2008
The Hamilton Spectator
Got an extra $268 a month?
That's what it could cost Hamilton-to-Toronto commuters to take the highway to work if the province implements a road toll of 10 cents per kilometre.
The idea is one of many being batted around by Metrolinx, a provincial body developing a regional transportation plan.
Chair Rob MacIsaac said another $3 billion to $6 billion needs to be spent on transit and roads each year to ensure systems from Hamilton to just east of Oshawa can grow.
The cash would also help keep existing infrastructure in good repair.
"My view is that it's not a wise decision for us environmentally, economically (and) socially to simply say, 'We can't afford to do anything about this,' and to allow our transportation system to seize up," he said.
Metrolinx will hand a draft transportation plan to the province at the end of July. It will be accompanied by a draft investment strategy to suggest how to pay for the proposed changes.
Tolls, a gas tax and a parking tax are all being considered as ways to raise cash, MacIsaac said.
"To think that the government ... has between $3 and $6 billion a year that it's not currently using is not realistic," he said.
"We need to spend more money on transportation and we have to make some hard decisions on how it is that we are going to raise that money."
The final report is expected to be completed in the fall, after public consultations. The province will then decide whether to adopt the Metrolinx recommendations.
In January, the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario released a report calling for tolls on major highways. A recent blue-ribbon panel on Toronto's finances also recommended tolling highways and expressways in and around the city.
Provincial Transportation Minister Jim Bradley has said the province has no intention of tolling existing 400-series highways. His office reiterated the sentiment yesterday.
Kevin Gaudet, Ontario director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, rejected the idea of a new gas tax, saying existing gas tax revenue is not used as it should be.
In its 2006-07 annual report, the federation said Ontario motorists shelled out $4.1 billion in gas taxes, licensing fees and vehicle registration. Less than half of that -- $1.9 billion -- was spent on fixing and constructing roads.
"It strikes me as wrong-headed to be asking for new taxes when they're not even using the current taxes they have in place for those things which they were designed in the first place," Gaudet said.
Shane Claidge, 32, takes the highway from St. Catharines to Hamilton every day for work.
He wasn't impressed with the idea of road tolls, suggesting money already collected in taxes should be used more efficiently.
But others say they wouldn't mind digging a little deeper for a toll.
Eric Lock, 49, routinely takes Highway 407 from Hamilton to Barrie and pays $28 for a round trip. He says that road is always smooth and traffic-free.
"I don't mind (paying) if (it) goes to what they're supposed to do," he said.
Here are some ideas from Metrolinx about where to raise the extra billions and what it'll mean:
10 cents (or more) per kilometre: toll on all provincial and municipal expressways.
$3,216: annual toll costs for a Hamilton-to-downtown-Toronto commuter.
7,000: number of daily commuters who drive from Hamilton to Toronto.
$1: charge per weekday for every non-residential parking spot in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The cost would be levied as a tax on commercial property owners.
20 cents (or more) per litre: new gas tax.
$76.90: cost to fill the tank of a 2009 Toyota Corolla with a 20-cent tax on top of today's average price.
$150.72: cost to fill a 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Regular Cab pickup truck with a 20-cent tax.
Today, the only tolls in Ontario are on the privately owned Highway 407. It's 18 to 19.75 cents per kilometre for cars and light vehicles.
Jun 17, 2008, 6:16 PM
For me I support the gas tax and a parking tax. A toll perhaps a few years from now, wait until the Lakeshore line is electricified.
Jun 17, 2008, 6:39 PM
Toll and Parking Lot tax yes please.
Gas Tax: Come back to me when the whole thing current Gas Tax is spent on transport. All Gas Tax gathered in Metrolinx's area should be given straight to metrolinx by the Provincial Government.
Jun 17, 2008, 7:06 PM
I'd be for a toll if it's done responsibly and geared to peak, non-peak hours. And by geared I mean a little different than the 407's, "We'll charge you a whole 1 cent less per km for non-peak travel........"
Also, all tolls collected must go into transportation with a large set percentage being directed to long distance (inter-city) public transit. If it just goes into general revenue forget it, I'm against the toll.
My only other concern is the province will most likely outsource the administration of the toll and that means the 407 guy's will be nicely positioned to win that job. Meaning they'll be screwing up on our 'public' highways as well as their own leased highway.
Jun 17, 2008, 9:24 PM
it's about friggin time.
Every other mode of transport pays a user-fee: bus, train, plane, boat etc.....
Jun 23, 2008, 5:28 PM
I agree that taxes should be higher, and better used. It's heartening to see that people understand tax-cuts do not work.
Jun 25, 2008, 3:37 AM
I can't say I have ever read something that I am so completely and utterly opposed to. What frightens me the most is that our political leaders sudden believe this "nonsense" is in vogue--and just may go along with it in the hopes of retaining power. Support for these measures shows an incredible lack of understanding of basic economics--where exactly do you believe these extra $1000s of dollars will come from? A 20 cent/liter gas tax (OR MORE!)...absolutely unbelievable. Again, since I the only "taxes" I pay on gas go to the State of Michigan--I suppose I shouldn't be that upset...but in all seriousness--where is this $ going to come from? Those of you supporting tax increases and railing against tax cuts must be either insanely wealthy or in some magical tax bracket that I'm not part of--because I bust my hump and am lucky if I can buy a six-pack and the National Post at the end of the week...
Jun 25, 2008, 5:07 AM
Aren't most highways in the US tolled? It's certainly been my experience every time I've driven through there.
I believe these measures need to be introduced but gradually so as to allow the market to adjust. It's only subjecting road transport to the laws of supply and demand like everything else is. If road users must pay for the privelage, indiscretionary trips will be reduced thus freeing capacity for those who need it. If this happens gradually changes in demographics will take place according to the demand for less energy intensive transport and localized living. For example, more industrial parks will be developed around rail stations rather than highway interchanges, communities will form in proximity to employment clusters and employer recruitment will focus more on the local workforce.
If the ability to transport oneself by single occupancy vehicle to any destination is a basic right in our society, why not make oil free and increase taxes accordingly?
Jun 25, 2008, 5:26 AM
Sorry to jump in on this one but why should anybody have to pay to use those highways exactly ?
Isn't this basically double-dipping ?
Think about it : You pay taxes on gas that are supposed to be dedicated towards transportation infrastructure. The previous governments just threw the cash into general revenue and as a result, the nation's highways are in a pretty bad state. So now, while you're still going to be paying gas taxes that are supposed to be going towards infrastructure but won't be, you're supposed to cough up three grand a year to support further expansion of a system you can't afford right now. Yeah, you'll get benefits from tolls...nice, flowing freeways paved yearly I'm sure. And the other roads that the poorer people are now stuck on are gridlocked, in a terrible state of disrepair, and just sucking up all that new revenue anyway. You don't really win.
Your local planning authority is who should be planning to not make the same mistakes again, not coming up with a new and exciting way to make you pay for their past mistakes.
Jun 25, 2008, 4:29 PM
I can't say I agree with the tolling approach. If they are going to get this money somehow, just raising the gas tax is a more efficient way of getting it. The infrastructure for collecting the tax is already in place. Adding tolls to every highway and expressway in the province would probably end up being hideously expensive, with a sizeable proportion of the revenue being pissed away to the computer vision industry (which I'm a part of) a la the 407.
Plus, a gas tax rewards someone making the choice of a Smart car versus a Hummer, whereas a toll often treats them the same.
Jun 25, 2008, 7:32 PM
No--"most" highways in the U.S. are not tolled--some states--primarily in the northeast have tolled sections--NY, MASS, PA, OH, etc. The "user pay" argument is "interesting"--true--the "user" pays in other means of transportation--but of course they don't own or finance the conveyance and aren't responsible for the fuel. The already high taxes on gasoline are indeed a "user fee"--and while tax money finances highway construction, it also subsidizes (props up, if you will) VIA Rail and for years massive federal spending created our aviation infrastructure.
Jan 9, 2010, 10:26 PM
Rush-hour blues reach Hamilton
QEW, 403 are both slowing drivers down
January 09, 2010
The Hamilton Spectator
As congestion continues to trudge outward from Toronto, Hamilton is now the western front.
Morning rush hour drivers cruising into Hamilton, either on the QEW from Niagara or the 403 from Brantford, find their speeds dropping 15 to 20 kilometres an hour upon hitting the city limits.
When commuters hit Burlington, it gets much worse, with speed dropping another 30 km/h.
Traffic on the Toronto-bound QEW slows to 57 km/h on the QEW, from Fairview Street in Burlington to Royal Windsor Drive in Oakville, and then to 52 km/h from Erin Mills Parkway to Hwy. 427 in Mississauga.
The drive home is worse.
Speeds drop to 43 km/h from Royal Windsor to Fairview, before picking up again past Hwy. 20.
Drivers on the 403 heading east from Brant County are moving at an average of 105 km/h in the morning until they hit Wilson Street in Ancaster. As a crush of cars from the Lincoln Alexander Parkway inch onto the highway, mean speed drops to 86 km/h from Wilson Street to the QEW/407 split, hitting as low as 40 km/h at the Linc.
The story during the evening commute is almost exactly the same, only in reverse.
The Travel Time Study by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, a mammoth 1,700-page document that helps guide planning for the province's major highways in the Golden Horseshoe, found that generally, congestion is getting worse, travel times are growing and drivers can count on long commutes more of the time.
That's no surprise to local commuters who say they are leaving earlier to get to work.
"It's slowly gotten longer," said Marshall Craft, who has been driving to Toronto from Hamilton and now Grimsby for 10 years.
It leaves commuters like Craft looking for that sweet spot -- a quasi-scientific formula of latest departure time without running the risk of arriving late.
He heads out the door at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday to Thursday but at 7 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays when he says traffic is lighter.
That generally gets him to work at 8:15 a.m., 45 minutes early. But if he leaves any later, he doesn't have a hope of sitting at his desk at 9 a.m.
In MTO jargon, Craft is building in buffer time -- the extra minutes needed to consistently arrive on time. The ministry's study found that commuter trips in 2008 could be expected to take 13 to 24 per cent longer than the same trip in 2002.
Craft, a graphic designer for a Toronto newspaper, says the biggest change he's noticed is heavier traffic heading west through Oakville and Burlington in the morning.
MTO data bears that out. Gone are the days of watching jammed lanes pouring into Toronto in the morning and out at night from free-flowing lanes in the opposite direction.
Bustling development and job growth all across the Golden Horseshoe means rush hour now cuts both ways.
For instance, a stretch of the Niagara-bound QEW in the morning takes 15-20 minutes to travel. The same stretch heading to Toronto takes 16 to 25.
Goran Nikolic, head of traffic planning for the MTO's central division, says given the huge tracts of housing built around Burlington and Hamilton, local commute times are staying relatively stable.
"We're talking minutes here or there ... There are problems on the QEW during peak hours but that's not new for anybody," he said.
"There has been phenomenal development and it's phenomenal we're still moving."
The MTO study included 4,270 kilometres along 13 major 400-series highways and 92 arterial roads in the GTA.
Nikolic says about 61 per cent of the studied highways didn't see a significant change in travel times and average speeds between 2006 and 2008.
But those that did, including segments of the QEW, Hwy. 404 south, the 410, and 401 eastbound, got markedly worse.
The biggest drop in speed came in the 401 collector lanes between Mississauga Road and Dixie Road, which fell from an average of 95 km/h in 2006 to 50 km/h in 2008 during the morning rush.
The eastbound QEW between Erin Mills Parkway and Hwy. 427 gained speed, from 48 to 52 km/h between 2006 and 2008, but the stretch is still considered the fifth slowest 400-series segment.
Overall, the survey, which used a fleet of GPS-equipped "probe" vehicles covering 141,000 kilometres, found congestion is a problem in the core GTA but is growing in outlying areas as well.
Marilyn Walden of Hamilton has racked up a sizable 407 bill thanks to her long commute to Oakville and Brampton.
The drive to two campuses of Sheridan College where she works as an IT technician is taking longer all the time.
"It's chaos anytime ... if I try to leave here after 3 p.m., I'm stopped on the QEW."
The hike to Brampton where she works two or three days a week takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours daily. And that's with $160 a month in highway tolls. According to Mapquest, it should take her more like 90 minutes two ways using the 407.
"I dread those days... the drive is just brutal."
On the plus side, improvements on the QEW, 401 and other highways boosted average speeds between 2006 and 2008. As well, high-occupancy vehicle lanes cut travel times by as much as 43 per cent in morning rush hours on the eastbound 403.
But Nikolic acknowledges that when capacity in those lanes is reached, the benefit will be cut.
* Total number of workers (over 15) in Hamilton, Burlington, Grimsby census metropolitan area: 324,650
* Number working in own municipality: 180,815
* Number working in CMA: 13,970
* Percentage travelling outside CMA: 30 per cent
* Percentage of Ontarians leaving CMA to work: 20 per cent
* Number in local CMA travelling to work by private vehicle: 274,705
* Number taking public transit: 28,340
* Number walking or biking: 19,010
Source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Census
Where Hamiltonians are going to work:
Jan 9, 2010, 10:29 PM
I think we're going to see HOT lanes pop all over the area in the near future. I bet all or parts of the money will go towards Metrolinx.
HOT lanes have exploded in USA. Instead of HOV lanes there's toll lanes.
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