Funding: Get Serious About Toronto Cycling, Part II

A couple days ago, in Part I, I described a way to create space for wider, safer, separated, arterial bike lanes by offering managed parking within a block to replace street parking displaced by those lanes. While no new parking spaces are needed, this still requires a modest amount of funding.

The same in-car equipment needed to manage all that extra parking is also able to selectively toll a single street. In Toronto, a small number of arterials such as Bathurst, Gerrard, St.Clair or Vic Park (better ones would be chosen by traffic planners), could be tolled during peak hours (drivers can avoid the toll by avoiding those few streets during those hours – so the system is voluntary, as is the 407). Streets tolled in this way would have dramatically less automotive traffic during peak hours (perhaps 80% less) and can then be used for bike lanes and RT (rapid transit). Those drivers wishing to take advantage of these routes to save peak-hour travel time might pay, say, 12 to 15 cents/km (i.e., less than the 407 fee of 18 cents or so). The revenue from these drivers would help fund the alterations needed to accommodate the bike lanes.

The beneficiaries of such a scheme would be:
  1. The TTC which would pay less per kilometer for such a RT scheme than they did for the St. Clair streetcar modifications.
  2. Transit users who can expect a significant timesaving due to less congestion on their route.
  3. Cyclists who will be safer.
  4. Parts of the new streetcar system that would be better in the company of more bikes and fewer cars.
  5. The people cycling on these new paths who will experience increased relative health benefits.
  6. Drivers who avoid this route and will experience less congestion because of increased bike use and increased transit use in the same travel corridor (even in winter, those cyclists that use these routes that revert to transit will likely use the transit in the same corridor).
  7. Some of the businesses along the route that will see more cycle traffic.
  8. The residents along the route who will experience a drop in pollutants
  9. Ontario, which would have an opportunity to test voluntary tolling programs in advance of their necessity due to falling fuel-tax revenue.
  10. Toronto, which would be able to add this program to their growing list of green initiatives to help them meet the promised 80% reduction in GHG (not much besides sleeping reduces GHG production more than biking).

How it works

A small telematics ‘black box’ is mounted on the windshield (just like a 407 ‘tolltag’). It gathers position information which it then turns into a toll amount (no position information leaves the ‘front-end’ system. When the vehicle is parked, the black box determines if any toll is owed for the prior journey (most roads are not payable), if it is payable a notice goes to a billing center saying how much is owed and to whom. An account (which may be “pre-paid/anonymous”) is then debited or a private, non-anonymous, account is charged. This is done without the ‘gantries’ that hover over the 407, because the positioning is done by GPS and the communication by build-in cellular. The black-box software that is used to be certain a car was on the road being charged for is sophisticated and involves a highly reliable form of GPS called financial-grade GPS for these kinds of applications. It is designed to be impossible to overcharge. The system is also designed so that it cannot be tracked (like a having a Garmin NUVI or a Tom Tom that only the driver can see. So security (anti-theft) features are not available on this system.

When the car leaves its parking spot, a similar determination is made to determine the parking fee for that spot, as described in Part I. Several other services, such as pay-as-you-drive insurance, loyalty rewards for parking, modality rewards for not driving during peak hours, and the like will soon be available.

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