THE CITY: Paying the price for underfunding transit

News Apr 18, 2013 by David Nickle Scarborough Mirror

The Toronto Region Board of Trade weighed in, and then came Metrolinx. Next week, Toronto councillors will begin to talk about a made-in-Toronto plan to raise the tens of billions of dollars it will take to cover the costs of public transit expansion.

Both the business group and the provincial transit agency have proposed a broad range of revenue tools as they’re called, for public transit. Toronto’s recommendations are narrower.

For the first wave of Big Move transit expansion plans, city staff are recommending four possible ways to pay for transit: dedicated development charges, an additional fuel tax, parking levies and sales tax. The politically dicier options of road tolls and a vehicle registration tax reintroduction would show up in later years.

Reaction from Mayor Rob Ford was swift and unequivocal following Tuesday’s release of the recommendations.

He wouldn’t support any of them.

Public works and infrastructure committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong came up with a similar, and on-the-surface-of-it more nuanced position: he told reporters the public should know how much they’re paying for public transit expansion per family, and government should tidy up the way it finances big infrastructure projects, before anyone considers charging any more taxes for anything.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Parkdale-High Park Councillor and Ford critic Gord Perks bemoaned the fact the recommendations excluded income taxes, which are more progressive than the pay-as-you-go options like road tolls and fuel taxes.

At least Perks has made it clear he’ll support the measures in the end.

That’s something the mayor and the guy who heads the committee in charge of the roads haven’t indicated.

To sum it up: This, Toronto, is why we can’t have nice things.

The reality is that for some time now, things haven’t been very nice at all when it comes to getting around the city. Gridlock on the roads is paralyzing; public transit, particularly the subway system, is suffocatingly overcrowded; and the reason for this is simply enough that it is all underfunded, and has been for decades.

Or to put it less kindly: we have been underfunding it for decades. We elected politicians on the promise of reduced and frozen taxes and the elimination of small fees and charges, on the willfully-ignorant assumption we might maintain or even increase the services we need and want.

Collectively, we have been fools.

David Nickle is Metroland Media Toronto's city hall reporter. He column appears every Thursday. Contact him at dnickle@insidetoronto.com

THE CITY: Paying the price for underfunding transit

News Apr 18, 2013 by David Nickle Scarborough Mirror

The Toronto Region Board of Trade weighed in, and then came Metrolinx. Next week, Toronto councillors will begin to talk about a made-in-Toronto plan to raise the tens of billions of dollars it will take to cover the costs of public transit expansion.

Both the business group and the provincial transit agency have proposed a broad range of revenue tools as they’re called, for public transit. Toronto’s recommendations are narrower.

For the first wave of Big Move transit expansion plans, city staff are recommending four possible ways to pay for transit: dedicated development charges, an additional fuel tax, parking levies and sales tax. The politically dicier options of road tolls and a vehicle registration tax reintroduction would show up in later years.

Reaction from Mayor Rob Ford was swift and unequivocal following Tuesday’s release of the recommendations.

He wouldn’t support any of them.

Public works and infrastructure committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong came up with a similar, and on-the-surface-of-it more nuanced position: he told reporters the public should know how much they’re paying for public transit expansion per family, and government should tidy up the way it finances big infrastructure projects, before anyone considers charging any more taxes for anything.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Parkdale-High Park Councillor and Ford critic Gord Perks bemoaned the fact the recommendations excluded income taxes, which are more progressive than the pay-as-you-go options like road tolls and fuel taxes.

At least Perks has made it clear he’ll support the measures in the end.

That’s something the mayor and the guy who heads the committee in charge of the roads haven’t indicated.

To sum it up: This, Toronto, is why we can’t have nice things.

The reality is that for some time now, things haven’t been very nice at all when it comes to getting around the city. Gridlock on the roads is paralyzing; public transit, particularly the subway system, is suffocatingly overcrowded; and the reason for this is simply enough that it is all underfunded, and has been for decades.

Or to put it less kindly: we have been underfunding it for decades. We elected politicians on the promise of reduced and frozen taxes and the elimination of small fees and charges, on the willfully-ignorant assumption we might maintain or even increase the services we need and want.

Collectively, we have been fools.

David Nickle is Metroland Media Toronto's city hall reporter. He column appears every Thursday. Contact him at dnickle@insidetoronto.com

THE CITY: Paying the price for underfunding transit

News Apr 18, 2013 by David Nickle Scarborough Mirror

The Toronto Region Board of Trade weighed in, and then came Metrolinx. Next week, Toronto councillors will begin to talk about a made-in-Toronto plan to raise the tens of billions of dollars it will take to cover the costs of public transit expansion.

Both the business group and the provincial transit agency have proposed a broad range of revenue tools as they’re called, for public transit. Toronto’s recommendations are narrower.

For the first wave of Big Move transit expansion plans, city staff are recommending four possible ways to pay for transit: dedicated development charges, an additional fuel tax, parking levies and sales tax. The politically dicier options of road tolls and a vehicle registration tax reintroduction would show up in later years.

Reaction from Mayor Rob Ford was swift and unequivocal following Tuesday’s release of the recommendations.

He wouldn’t support any of them.

Public works and infrastructure committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong came up with a similar, and on-the-surface-of-it more nuanced position: he told reporters the public should know how much they’re paying for public transit expansion per family, and government should tidy up the way it finances big infrastructure projects, before anyone considers charging any more taxes for anything.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Parkdale-High Park Councillor and Ford critic Gord Perks bemoaned the fact the recommendations excluded income taxes, which are more progressive than the pay-as-you-go options like road tolls and fuel taxes.

At least Perks has made it clear he’ll support the measures in the end.

That’s something the mayor and the guy who heads the committee in charge of the roads haven’t indicated.

To sum it up: This, Toronto, is why we can’t have nice things.

The reality is that for some time now, things haven’t been very nice at all when it comes to getting around the city. Gridlock on the roads is paralyzing; public transit, particularly the subway system, is suffocatingly overcrowded; and the reason for this is simply enough that it is all underfunded, and has been for decades.

Or to put it less kindly: we have been underfunding it for decades. We elected politicians on the promise of reduced and frozen taxes and the elimination of small fees and charges, on the willfully-ignorant assumption we might maintain or even increase the services we need and want.

Collectively, we have been fools.

David Nickle is Metroland Media Toronto's city hall reporter. He column appears every Thursday. Contact him at dnickle@insidetoronto.com