On Apr 6, 2016 Councilor Chernushenko has signalled an intention to bring a motion before Transportation Committee requesting that the City undertake a study concerning the broad issues of 'user pay' for roads. The intention of this study is to have its results available for consideration during the 2018 update of the Transportation Master Plan.
At one end of the spectrum, user pay approaches could be designed to focus on congestion pricing as a means to shift auto demand away from peak periods, thus reducing time lost due to congestion while at the same time raising revenues that could be used to re-invest in more transportation options. On the other end of the spectrum, user pay approaches could be designed to focus on raising the revenue required to pay for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the road network, opening the possibility of shifting these costs off the general property tax bill and allocating them more fairly to those who use the road resource the most.
But, there is opposition to the idea, including from Mayor Jim Watson. In contrast, the City of Toronto is proceeding with a study, and even The Globe and Mail newspaper is urging cities to get on with it.
Implementation of any form of pricing/funding of our road use is a long ways away but all journeys start with a first step. That step requires analysis of key concepts such as potential pricing tools, realistic projections of the funds they could raise, benefits they could provide, analysis of what roads are really costing us, equity and inclusion implications, etc. These would form the foundation for the start of an informed public policy debate.
The City has shown its willingness to enter into these kinds of funding consultations with the public as exemplified by the current initiative to discuss new and fairer ways to allocate to users the funding of our water and sewer infrastructure.
We cannot continue to avoid starting similar discussions on how we fund and improve our transportation network.
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