Who should pay for transit expansion?
The time for hemming & hawing over transit planning is over.
That was the consensus among of speakers at a symposium on relieving congestion in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area at the Harbourfront Community Centre on Thursday night.
On the panel, Newstalk 1010's John Tory, speaking on behalf of Civic Action. He was joined by Oshawa Mayor John Henry, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton & Mississauga councillor Bonnie Crombie.
Mayor Henry can't understand why a solution to gridlock that's costing the economy $6-billion/year, is so slow in coming.
That lost revenue is exactly John Tory predicts the federal government will jump into major transit project funding before the next election. He's even willing to wager a beer on it.
Tory reasons that paying into in public transportation is the best investment for economic development in southern Ontario that the Conservatives could make.
Where the money for transit should come from remains a question mark. Tory says support for paying for that growth is on the rise, though no one seems to favour jacking up property taxes to get there.
Panelists suggested a "basket" of funding options are available--road tolls, taxes, levies & taking on debt--but no one championed any one method in particular. The symposium was hosted by the Toronto Transit Alliance, which has proposed a 1% sales tax to pay for transit expansion.
In June, Metrolinx will reveal how it proposes to pay for the Big Move plan, expected to cost $2-billion/year for the next 25 years.
Before Thursday's symposium, the mayor of Oakville expressed concern about the power & influence Rob Ford could have on that payment plan.
But Tory points out Ford is just 1 member of Toronto council & Metrolinx will have to consider the will of the group as a whole.