Monday, November 16, 2009

No Tolls For T.O.

As Toronto's mayoralty race begins to heat up the perennial question of funding Canada's largest city rears its ugly head. One of the more popular ideas out there among the chattering classes is tolls on Toronto's major highways. The evidence that most advocates like Marcus Gee in this column put forward is that it works in Europe. Usually Stockholm and/or London are offered as examples of functioning toll systems. This is fallacy. Tolls work when there are viable alternatives to taking the highway. While the TTC works beautifully in the city, the suburbs (and frankly much of the old boroughs) are transit nightmares. While it is possible to get from the suburbs to downtown by transit, it is not necessarily easy for a lot of commuters. North American suburbs are far more sprawled out than their European counterparts and Toronto is no exception. Combine this sprawl with an infrastructure deficit and it becomes difficult to get from point A to point B. The other challenge for Toronto is that it finds itself as the go between for one of the busiest traffic allies in North America. The Quebec City-Windsor corridor runs through the northern end of Toronto. Charging tolls on the 401 would drive up the price of just about everything purchased in the corridor. Exempting trucks would be political suicide. Until the city's transit network improves dramatically, tolls will be unnecessarily punitive in Toronto.

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