Toronto's budget chief Mike Del Grande will be asking for a parking levy to raise $100 million a year for transit infrastructure.
Del Grande moved the motion at Wednesday's (March 21) special meeting to decide the future of rapid transit along Sheppard Avenue East.
Council is considering an expert panel report that recommends against Mayor Rob Ford's plan to build a subway along Sheppard Avenue into Scarborough, favouring a light rail (LRT) plan identical to the one that Ford cancelled at the beginning of his term.
"Fundamentally we've never been able to look at a fundamental plan for Transportation City," said Del Grande. "We're well behind other cities in the world that have a continuous tunnelling program. We don't have that in Toronto and we need to be able to do that. Not only with respect to the Sheppard dilemma but also other projects that the city needs."
Councillors have been clamouring for a financial plan to cover Ford's vision of the subway, which would cost $3.7 billion to build between Don Mills subway station and the Scarborough Town Centre.
Del Grande's motion would see the city develop a non-residential parking levy, that would bring in as much as $100 million a year. That revenue would be used to create a Rapid Transit Legacy Fund that would fund transit expansion and pay for the Sheppard subway extension. It would also fund a range of other projects including a connection from Yonge-Sheppard Station to Downsview Station; an eastward extension of the Sheppard subway line to Malvern and the Toronto Zoo; a westward extension of the Bloor-Danforth line to Sherway Gardens in Etobicoke; a westward extension of the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT to Pearson International Airport; and a downtown relief line.
The motion would also create a Rapid Transit Planning Office.
Del Grande said that he settled on the parking levy after talking with other councillors looking for a way to pay for the subway.
"The parking levy's appropriate because it gives us the fastest income," he said.
"That really benefits all Torontonians and the transportation infrastructure also benefits businesses by having people be able to move more effectively about the city."
Del Grande said he had spoken with Mayor Ford and he said "that I was basically free to undertake whatever I thought was right. I'm undertaking to do that along with my colleagues from Scarborough."
Del Grande said he hoped that other councillors beyond Scarborough who said they wanted to see a financial plan would support his motion.
"Councillors have said well show us the money - show us the plan. We've provided a plan to do just that."
Del Grande said he believed that the levy, combined with the $1 billion in leftover money from the provincial Eglington LRT project and federal funding, would be enough to complete the subway by 2020 on a pay-as-you-go method.
However, the plan got a lukewarm reception from city finance staff. Toronto Chief Financial Officer Cam Weldon told council that such a levy would prove unpopular with businesses and that the subway construction would still create serious debt pressure for the city with only those revenue tools.