Councillor Josh Matlow

Metro: If road tolls come to Toronto, who should pay them?

The city took another step towards tolling the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway last week, but there’s no consensus on who should have to pay.


March 16, 2016
Luke Simcoe
Metro Toronto

FILE--Traffic jams the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto in this April 8, 2000 photo.

Traffic jams the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto in this April 8, 2000 photo. PHOTO: Torstar News Service


Tolls could be coming to the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway, but it may not be a pay-one, pay-all system.


Some believe tolls should only be paid by those commuting into Toronto from other cities.


“Given that so many people who drive into Toronto every day use infrastructure paid for solely by Toronto taxpayers, it’s a reasonable question to ask,” Coun. Josh Matlow said.


The city has issued a request for consultants to help study the impact of adding tolls to two of its busiest roadways. Among other things, the study will look at precisely how much – and who – to charge, said Nazzareno Capano, Toronto’s manager of transportation planning and policy.


A previous staff report suggested that in order to cover the costs of maintaining the Gardiner and DVP, the toll would need to be at least $1.25 per trip. Higher tolls could raise much-needed revenue for other transit projects, the report noted.


According to Capano, 60 per cent of drivers on the DVP and Gardiner are local, meaning exempting them from the toll would mean lower revenues or significantly higher tolls.


Martin Collier, founder of Transport Futures, warned against only charging non-residents. One of the goals of road pricing is to encourage alternate transportation, he said, and giving Torontonians a free ride could do the opposite.


“It may even induce people inside Toronto to not take transit because traffic on those roads will decrease as people from Whitby and Oshawa choose other routes,” he said.


Rather than draw lines on a map, Collier said the city must ensure tolls don’t adversely affect low-income residents. Other jurisdictions, including Los Angeles, offer rebates for low-income drivers and also funnel revenue from tolls into programs – including public transit – that alleviate poverty, he said.


The study is expected to be complete by the end of year, at which time it will be presented to council.


Even if councillors choose to implement tolls, environmental assessment work and scheduled repair work on the Gardiner, means they won’t be in place until about 2024, Capano said.


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