A Brilliant Insight

I have started a new writing assignment for one of my UK publishers who asked me to prepare 2000 words on “Congestion Pricing in Ontario” just in time for an Intelligent Transport Systems conference. (Yes, Virginia, since Congestion Pricing is part of the arcane field of endeavor called “Intelligent Transportation Systems”, that absolutely does imply that unpriced-roads should be called “Unintelligent Transportation Systems”, which is pretty much what this blog has been saying since its inception.)

In any case, I have a colleague, Justin Peters, who has a far deeper grasp of government (any government) than I do. So, I sent him an email:

The new taxing powers recently granted to Toronto appear (in the press) to allow our mayor to toll roads without further permission. Do I understand that correctly? What else needs to be done (besides the political will and the technical system) to deploy congestion tolling in or around the GTA. (i.e., can the Province promote or stop this? The Feds? If you had to guess, by when do you think some form of congestion pricing would be put in place anywhere in Ontario?

My quandary is that I do not understand how this will roll out in Canada. In the US, the feds are putting up money for the states/cities to trial some ideas – it remains to be seen how that will play out, but there are already some cities looking hard and (for example) Vegas is about to rescind its "no-toll" law. There is no sign of that kind of shift here, but there is certainly a congestion problem in Toronto and in Vancouver. Indeed Toronto's Mayor Miller now says "tolling must be regional not 'just Toronto' " whereas before he said "no tolling", period. What does your crystal ball say re Toronto? How will this realistically play out?

His reply:

You are correct with respect to the City's ability to toll with new powers in the City Of Toronto Act. The only place where that power might be limited would be on the 400-series roads which may require Provincial Authority.

Municipalities are 'a creature of the Province' so the Feds would be way out of line and with the Federal Conservatives, off Party-line, to interfere. Conversely, if the Feds wanted to phase out Fed Gas Tax or GST on Gas, then they might sponsor Pay-Per-Use. Also, ECOMobility funds from the federal government are being made available for these types of Transport Demand Management measures. (Similar to USDoT's Urban Partnerships Agreements - constitutionality stretching National Goals.)

However, given the Mayor's position that tolling ought to be a GTA-wide strategy, the GTTA and Provincial governments will be needed to make things happen. But if Mayor Miller endorsed Road User Charging in the GTA and started a campaign to achieve it instead of his silly GST-penny thing, both other players would be forced to act. This would send a dual signal that the City of Toronto is serious about its budgetary problems and about climate change.
[bolding mine]

1 comment:

Darren J said...

Maybe I'm stating the obvious here, but if the GTTA implements a road tolling scheme, it would also mean the GTTA would need to make significant improvements immediately to the bus system. And people would need to believe in those improvements before the tolls go into place.

This seems to be possibly more challenging than implementing the tolls themselves. Do you think the GTTA is capable of making the changes needed and selling those changes?