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Is a gas tax hike on the way for Toronto and Hamilton?

Posted by Chris Bateman / December 12, 2013

Gas tax toronto hamiltonDrivers in the Toronto and Hamilton area should be asked to pay more at the pump to help fund new public transit, a report by a government-appointed panel due to be released today recommends. The province should increase the gas tax by 5 cents per litre to pay for new transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, it says.

The hike in the current 14.7 cent per litre gas tax on unleaded fuel, which the report notes hasn't been raised in more than 20 years, would deliver around $800 million a year plus another $80 million through extra HST.

The report comes from a 13-member panel chaired by Ryerson University's Anne Golden that was tasked with finding ways to generate the roughly $2 billion needed every year for transit in Ontario.

In addition to the gas tax increase, the province should also collect taxes from corporations and developers that benefit from improved transportation infrastructure. The money raised from the proposed hike and other sources would be placed in a dedicated transit account and used as leverage to borrow additional money.

The additional tax would not be applied outside the GTHA.

The long-awaited Yonge relief line (don't call it the Downtown Relief Line) is one of the projects that would benefit from the new funding, which would be put towards the next phase of Big Move projects.

Earlier this year a separate report from Metrolinx backed a gas tax, a business parking levy, and an increase in development charges and HST.

The report will be presented to Premier Kathleen Wynne, who will decide how to proceed.

Is this a fair way of raising money for new transit? How do you expect the report will be received? Does a gas tax increase unfairly target drivers?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Discussion

56 Comments

Mark / December 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm
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Here is what I don't get , I am a driver and thus do not rely on public transit , but need to pay more to drive in order to pay for Public Transit …. can someone please explain to me how that makes any sense ? Why shouldn't the users of Public Transit pay more to use there means of transportation … Drivers don't make non drivers pay for our vehicle expenses so why should we pay for them. I am 100% all for better TTC services and subways as I do live in the city and know that we need better service , but making drivers pay makes no sense.
Arturo / December 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm
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Does a gas tax increase unfairly target drivers? Yes.


I have a better solution. Index TTC drivers salary to the market wage. Increase TTC fares so that it is a self-sustaining enterprise. That the TTC is going to have 528 million riders in 2013 and run at a loss is baffling, that's roughly $1.4 billion in revenue, but let's say $1.2 billion because of metropasses.

Of course the best solution would be to strip all municipal and inter-regional transit of their monopoly status - and allow competition in the selling of "public" transportation.
ddt / December 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm
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And...should there be a gas tax credit for people who can't help but drive...especially if they're a caregiver for a crippled senior?
Welshgrrl / December 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm
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So I guess using that argument I can refuse to pay more for roads that I don't use, children that I don't have, rinks that I don't skate on, social assistance as I'm not poor, etc?
duder replying to a comment from Mark / December 12, 2013 at 12:37 pm
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Totally understand your point, though here's where you're wrong: TTC riders / non-drivers DO pay for your driving by paying taxes for roads and upkeep. The TTC receives the lowest government subsidies for any major transit system in North America, and the fares have increased at a ridiculous rate over the past decade (and service hasn't improved).

Not saying that a gas tax is the answer (gas prices have also gone through the roof in the past few years), just that if we ask only transit users to pay for its improvement, nothing will ever get built or improve.
W. K. Lis / December 12, 2013 at 12:38 pm
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Why doesn't the blue fairy just wave her magic wand and conjure up rapid transit lines for us?

That's what some want to happen. Nobody should pay for infrastructure including public transit.
duder replying to a comment from Arturo / December 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm
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The problem with this model is this: what is the goal of public transit? Is it to make a profit and pad the government's coffers, or is it to serve a public good (along the lines of other public utilities, like the fire department and police)?

Because if profit is the only motive, fine - sell off the TTC, fire the workforce, take away the union. But experiences in other cities where they've done things like this suggest that neither service nor value has improved, as the model is solely on taking the maximum amount of profit out of a system that typically doesn't generate that much of it.

This isn't to say that the TTC doesn't face some terrible union issues and could do with a huge makeover in that area. But typically speaking, public transit systems are a money-loser for governments, which is why they're subsidized (they serve a public good that ultimately benefits the economy and the citizenry).
iSkyscraper replying to a comment from Mark / December 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm
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Mark, it's pretty simple -- you live in society, public transit is a public good, the members of society bear its cost to reap its benefit. Let me reword your statement:

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Here is what I don't get , I am an adult without kids who grew up elsewhere and thus do not and never have attended public school here, but need to pay more to live my life in order to pay for schools -- can someone please explain to me how that makes any sense ? Why shouldn't the students of public schools pay more to use their means of education … single adults don't make people with kids pay for our lifestyle so why should we pay for them. I am 100% all for better education as I do live in the city and know that we need educated workers , but making people without kids pay makes no sense.

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I doubt you would write the above. The problem is that while there is a good understanding of how schools benefit even the people who don't attend them, there is a very poor understanding of how making it possible for people to move around on mass transit easily and inexpensively is good for everyone.

You also show another trait of the anti-transit funding crowd, the myth that people who do not drive don't help pay for your auto use. Actually, everyone pays a lot to build and maintain public roads - those things cost a fortune and the gas tax doesn't even begin to cover it. Of course, that could be made user-pay also and you could be tolled the true cost for every km you drove on every road, but just as with public transit there is a public good derived from having a strong road network and so we all help pay for it. Drivers pay a little more via gas tax just as transit riders pay a little more via their fares, but everyone contributes.

Finally, there is the common sense approach. Toronto is the least funded transit system in North America. That's a fact. Toronto has the highest transit fares in North America. Also a fact. The money has to come from somewhere, and like other cities a mix of revenue tools was studied. Whether gas tax, payroll tax, property tax, sales tax -- there has to be some form of extra payment from everyone. (I personally prefer a sales tax).

Hope that helps.
Joe Scratch / December 12, 2013 at 12:50 pm
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A gas tax is not a smart way to pay for transit for several reasons:

1. People are buying more fuel efficient cars and therefore will use less gas every year.
2. The gas tax increase is a fixed dollar amount and is not fixed to inflation, therefore its purchasing power will decrease every year.
3. Gas tax revenues go into general revenues, there is absolutely no guarantee that the money will find its way to transit.
4. The City of Toronto currently gets a share of the HST on gas and it goes into general revenues and has not increased transit funding directly.

The best way to pay for transit in my opinion is for Metrolinx to take over the funding of the ttc, and have income tax pay for a credible transit plan. Everyone pays, everyone benefits.

Now if we could only get a government to spend money where its needed instead of wasting it on re-election schemes and greedy unions.
jeff replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / December 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm
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Did you get that Mark?
duder replying to a comment from Joe Scratch / December 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm
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A very reasoned and sensible argument against a gas tax increase. Let me be clear that I'm all for funding tools for new transit, but this might not be the best one.
G / December 12, 2013 at 01:04 pm
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Anyone who doesn't understand why they should pay taxes for services they don't use doesn't understand the basic concept of taxes.

It's seems that people also don't understand that transportation in and around the GTA is a system, with each piece impacting the other. Increased public transportation directly benefits drivers by providing alternative option for people who currently drive, reducing the number of cars on the road and related congestion.

Then there's the environmental benefits of public transportation. I'm pretty sure drivers and transit riders are all breathing the same air.
Justin / December 12, 2013 at 01:14 pm
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Very simple logic here for all the "I don't take transit, so why should I pay for it?" types.

You don't take transit? Fine. But Millions of people every single day do. And every one of them that's in a bus, on a train, on a streetcar or on the subway is one less vehicle taking up space on the roads, competing with you for parking spaces and causing damage to infrastructure that we all pay for through our income and municipal property taxes.

Is congestion bad? You bet it is. And guess what? With the GTHA expected to add another couple MILLION people in the next 20 years, it's only going to get worse - and last I checked, we don't really have the option to build more roadways. The only possible answer is to start moving more people with the infrastructure we have, and to start thinking about how we pay for new infrastructure that's designed to give people more options in how they get around and keep them off the roads and out of your way. All the BS arguments about privatizing transit (it doesn't work), raising corporate taxes to pay for it (they'll either find loopholes or simply move) and the beloved public-private partnerships (usually end up costing the taxpayer more over time) ignore the reality of the situation: we needed to start making these decisions 20 years ago. We can't afford to punt anymore, and yes it's going to hurt the pocketbook and it's going to cause some anger, but if we don't do it, our region will grind to a halt, and we'll be stuck with even higher congestion than we already have.
Alex / December 12, 2013 at 01:17 pm
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Why don't they take the current gas tax revenue out of general revenue and allocate it all to fixing up the road infrastructure/paying for transit? Replace the loss with an increased payroll tax. It's still a tax hike, but at least it will give people more confidence that what they contribute goes to where it was intended to go. Then you can introduce these new funding tools to pay for the Big Move.
andy / December 12, 2013 at 01:34 pm
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Interesting how there hasn't been a hike in 20 years yet it seems as though there's a fare hike (transit systems all around the gtha) practically every other year. Drivers don't realize their own subsidies methinks
SousedBergin / December 12, 2013 at 02:03 pm
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Considering seniors are the wealthiest Canadians we should no longer subsidize their fares. Before raising taxes on the working class how about we end the $1.00 per fare subsidy for the wealthiest Canadians.
Seniors:
Control 55% of Canada's discretionary income.
26% higher income per capita than average.
Spend $35 billion a year.
If seniors do not want to pay more for transit perhaps they should vote for a federal government that will help fund it.
Squint replying to a comment from Mark / December 12, 2013 at 02:08 pm
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My guess it's one of those, with better public transit it would mean there would be less people choosing to drive, so making it better for the drivers to get around as well.

Althought I don't really agree with the gas tax, there should be some sort of toll system in place in the high congestion areas of cities in peak times. I'd say that will help reduce traffic and help pay for any transit upgrades.
McRib / December 12, 2013 at 02:13 pm
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ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME

that's basically what i see when I read something like Marks post.

as George Costanza said: You know we're living in a society.
McRib / December 12, 2013 at 02:16 pm
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and I don't really agree with gas taxes either, tolls and congestion charges would be a much better option in my mind.
jameson / December 12, 2013 at 02:18 pm
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I really like the argument against gas taxes because cars are becoming more fuel efficient.

When the logical conclusion from that argument is that we should raise gas taxes over time because cars are becoming more fuel efficient.
Qaf / December 12, 2013 at 02:26 pm
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People who argue that there shouldn't be a gas tax to fund transit, because they themselves don't take transit, seem to be looking at this issue from a very narrow point of view. We need to look at transportation in the GTHA as a larger picture - which includes driving, public transit of various types, walking, and biking. They are all viable means of transportation, and are good and bad in different situations for different people. Today's transit user might be tomorrow's driver for any number of reasons, and vice versa. So please, let's focus on sustainable and longterm solutions, and recognize that no matter what we do, it costs money.
GRBY / December 12, 2013 at 02:28 pm
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There's an idea 'tax developers'

Maybe if we taxed the f#ck out of Chinese developers like Concord that build hideous projects like 'Shitty Place' we'd have more $ for transit!
Another Mark / December 12, 2013 at 02:31 pm
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It has been proven that drivers, particularly in the GTA, pay much more than enough to cover road maintenance and development through our gas tax, licensing and registration costs. Transit on the other hand is way under-priced. This is simply another attack on drivers. Smart people see what this is all about. Wynne and her government have mismanaged this province into poverty and her only solution is to steal more of our money. These policies will only serve to ensure she has no seats outside of downtown Toronto.
iSlumdweller replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / December 12, 2013 at 02:32 pm
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Shut up.
Ginus / December 12, 2013 at 02:33 pm
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TTC is among the most expensive public transport services in the world, and yet their service sucks comparing to Europeans.
MER1978 replying to a comment from Joe Scratch / December 12, 2013 at 02:34 pm
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"1. People are buying more fuel efficient cars and therefore will use less gas every year."

Yup the amount per driver will probably go down over time... however many many new cars are added to the system every year.

"2. The gas tax increase is a fixed dollar amount and is not fixed to inflation, therefore its purchasing power will decrease every year."

That's true... though once they implement the initial 5 cents I doubt it would be all that hard for future governments to raise it by a cent or two when necessary if they can show how the money is declining year over year.

"3. Gas tax revenues go into general revenues, there is absolutely no guarantee that the money will find its way to transit."

Part of the panel recommendation is to put all of the money raised into a trust dedicated to transit.

"4. The City of Toronto currently gets a share of the HST on gas and it goes into general revenues and has not increased transit funding directly."

The city of Toronto is getting about $100 million per year from the gas tax fund... much of that has been going into transit as detailed on the city's website.

http://www.toronto.ca/gastaxworks/

A dedicated portion of income tax isn't a bad idea... though personally I think it should be paired with a dedicated portion of corporate taxes since businesses obviously benefit from a more mobile population.
iSlumdweller replying to a comment from Keith / December 12, 2013 at 02:34 pm
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Whine much?
swen replying to a comment from Welshgrrl / December 12, 2013 at 02:52 pm
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True...I do not use skating rinks,I do not have kids(why I should fund teachers,firefighters,gov. workers, police retirements funds???)

Just because we all are sucked up in money draining machine called "government"(lost all respect for both governments) we all have to pay for the failed system. We already have 2 tier society.Unionized and non unionized.I have not received pay increase in 5 YEARS!(And I have never used UI in 16 years!). Contract to contract not having payed vacation dental etc...Why politicians are afraid of unpopular measures? That is why we are canceling mail delivery and gauging motorist an whoever is forced to pay! Pedestrian, why don't you pay 200$ for TTC metropass since that is REAL VALUE compared with owning the car!!!!! It is 9000-12000$ a year compared with 1400$ a year worth of metropass.
I pay 200$ insurance 300+ Gasoline + 340 rate for the car EVER MONTH)!!!!...WHY I NEED TO PAY MORE!FOR WHOM? Tell me please.

This Chinese style totalitarian blanket economy in Canada can not go like that anymore.Just stop paying federal government 1 or 2% of GST for 5 years and there is your money for everything!AND IF IN NEED OF MORE MONEY REPEAT PLEASE!

Sorry for the caps but I am fuming beyond belief...And sense of entitlement(not yours) also bring all my rage out...If I have to drive out of GTA to fill up I will!
Mark replying to a comment from Joe Scratch / December 12, 2013 at 02:57 pm
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I totally agree with you .

I live on the subway line, I own a new diesel car, I am from Toronto, born and raised in Toronto and would gladly take public transit when possible to work if it was more feasible but I do sales and need a car. We need better public transit to help get more cars off the road , unfortunately I have to be on the road. All I am saying is raising a Gas Tax isn't the solution , it may help but isn't the solution.
Aaron / December 12, 2013 at 03:00 pm
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Want to ride public transportation?
Pay for it yourself!

Tell the 'government-appointed panel'to take a pay cut to fund public transit too, after all, their salaries come from the public. I'm guessing every person on the panels makes more than $100,000 per year.
iSlumdweller replying to a comment from Keith / December 12, 2013 at 03:10 pm
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What's wrong whiney, you get your precious feelings hurt?
iSlumdweller replying to a comment from Aaron / December 12, 2013 at 03:11 pm
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Agreed. Maybe Keith the whiney crybaby can chip in also.
swen replying to a comment from Justin / December 12, 2013 at 03:12 pm
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You don't take transit? Fine. But Millions of people every single day do. And every one of them that's in a bus, on a train, on a streetcar or on the subway is one less vehicle taking up space on the roads, competing with you for parking spaces and causing damage to infrastructure that we all pay for through our income and municipal property taxes.
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And that is great millions of pedestrians to fund millions of dollars.
I already use car and I do not have intention use ttc. Damage to infrastructure is mainly caused by Condo Downtown construction and I do not see construction companies being asked to pay for using cement trucks and dump trucks in downtown core,causing congestion and also closing whole f@#$% lanes in downtown Toronto, try to use Richmond and Adelaide and numerous other projects(Bell laying a fiber-optic cables Toronto, Hydro projects on King street west water and sewage pipe replacement etc) that creates patch after patch after patch on the road and immense congestion, not to mention Police regulating NOTHING (only is city pay them 50$ per hour on their free days).That is the reason I got SUV.My small Honda Civic was falling apart while using downtown core bumpy roads.You all are brainwashed into the blame-game of cars need to pay, cars are evil, hell NO.
We removed leaded gasoline, cars are more efficient, yes I do not shop where there is no free parking spots and I use internet for my purchases so someone else will drive my crap, and there is less and less drivers in GTA.The "Millennium" generation more than 50% do not have driving license nor they want to get one...
Doug 71 replying to a comment from Mark / December 12, 2013 at 03:23 pm
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Actually all taxpayers subsidize drivers. You think the roads magically fix themselves? And the snowplows in winter are free? Drivers and non-drivers alike contribute to funding these expenses. I think that a gas tax is a great idea because it will also encourage more transit use by deterring people from driving. Fewer drivers is less congestion on the roads. Win/Win as far as I'm concerned.
swen replying to a comment from McRib / December 12, 2013 at 03:25 pm
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Welcome to 21st century.This is what is been created by technology we embrace.I do not see nothing wrong with me,me,me,me,me...that is society that is easier to control and manipulate. If our noses are less in social media and more putting pressure and interest on incompetent politicians me will turn into WE.

Until than,enjoy ME...I explained why ME is taxed to death and ME does not like it!
Bob replying to a comment from Mark / December 12, 2013 at 03:54 pm
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But transit users do pay for your vehicle expenses. Everyone's taxes go towards roads and bridges that I never use when I take the subway.
Laughing@you / December 12, 2013 at 04:16 pm
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I was going to put in my two cents here but the idea of arguing with people who can't spell or don't know/care about the difference between your and you're, their and there is quite frankly laughable. How can I take most of you seriously?
Dean / December 12, 2013 at 04:23 pm
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I agree with the gas tax, but don't agree with it's implementation. Until the TTC covers all the GTHA then the entire GTHA shouldn't have to pay for it. Because I know that me subsidizing the TTC won't improve the YRT.
Mark replying to a comment from Doug 71 / December 12, 2013 at 04:28 pm
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Until you can magically get all your food, clothing and other goods to your neighbourhood store by a method that doesn't require the use of roads, you can damn well continue to pay taxes to help with the upkeep of said roads. As was mentioned earlier though, drivers already pay more than sufficient fees and taxes to cover that maintenance. Upwards of a billion dollars more in Ontario. Wynne and her cronies are as addicted to spending as Ford is addicted to crack. Her drug of choice is killing this province. His will only kill himself.
linden / December 12, 2013 at 04:30 pm
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what about the millions that are spent on keeping the Gardiner from falling apart;should the non-driver's tax payers be exempted from this. I guess we all have to share the cost of the public goods.
steve replying to a comment from Another Mark / December 12, 2013 at 04:38 pm
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Interesting analysis would be interested in seeing how that conclusion was made.
Paying $600 to $1000 a year in gas taxes and licensing does not even scratch the surface of building and maintaining roads. Insurance does not go to the government it goes to the coffers of private business, insurance companies.
glenn storey replying to a comment from swen / December 12, 2013 at 05:23 pm
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genius idea. you'll spend 25 bucks to drive to collingwood to fill up, which will save you 7$, thereby resulting in a net loss to you of 18$.
JP / December 12, 2013 at 05:25 pm
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Drivers DO benefit from increased transit funding.

The better the transit options, the more people will take transit and leave their car at home. It would mean fewer people on the roads and a less congested drive into work.
Postie replying to a comment from Mark / December 12, 2013 at 06:21 pm
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I'm glad I'm not the only one asking this question. Why people that don't use public transit (they use their cars) should pay for its expansion? How about raise public transit fees to pay for repairing the highways? My god. These people are out of their minds! Higher price of gas will affect EVERYTHING. Food, clothing, services, everything will have to go up (including public transit fees) to offset higher cost of transportation.
Dan replying to a comment from Postie / December 12, 2013 at 06:24 pm
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Are you for real? Did you read any of the comments, or have any clue how the world works? Everyone pays through taxes for roads and infrastructure (ie. even people who don't own cars who only take public transportation pay to build and fix the roads you drive on).

Why are people so ignorant? Not saying I'm for the gas tax but my god people educate yourselves.
Jordan / December 12, 2013 at 06:48 pm
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They always sell these things the wrong way. A smarter way to sell this - reallocate funding for the ttc in the government, and reduce funding for road repairs. The gas tax should be used to pay for roads. Why mingle the two?
Shirley / December 12, 2013 at 07:28 pm
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After reading all of these posts it sounds like you guys are arguing. Shhhhh...not so loud.

I think our governments need to learn how to make money. Taxing people shouldn't be their first priority, it should be their last. As our governments stand right now (that's provicial and municipal), they simply don't have the expertise, or at least the inclination to try.

Mark is right. There's no reason for one group of people to be singled out for a tax, for this purpose. If our governments must impose a tax in this case, they should tax all so that it is affodable for all. Taxing corporations (closing loopholes), and developers is also a must (it's been my sentiments all along). It will bring down the amount of tax that's charged to us (if they do it right). Corporations and developers have been getting a pass for some time now when it comes to infrastructure and TTC expansion.. There's no reason fot them to not help, and give back to these communities that they take from. It's good for them (their reputations too) and it's good for us. I don't think they're going to flood out of here at all. Toronto means big money to them and they know it (even if they are taxed).

Why is Toronto paying for expansion into the 905 and 407 anyways. Shouldn't they be paying for it?

Personally, I say screw any new expansions right now (except Scarborough). We should wait for an election.. There's too much dust in the air and we should wait for it to settle. I'm not thrilled we're being forced into such a big decision like this at this time (by Wynne, our pro-left city council, and TTC chair Karen Stinz) because I can feel another scandal in the breeze.

Three years ago I was all for privatizing TTC, not anymore. I've seen the staff work so hard at making changes, and I'm proud of them for it. But I think the union needs to not dig their heels in so deep either. If it comes down to it I hope the union can make a deal, because in the end if you become too expensive to manage, privatization will become a reality.

God, someone said privatize with Metrolink. Ugh. I don't like that idea at all. You know not all Crown Corpoations do so well. That just worries the heck out of me.

Yes we all must pay taxes and maybe we shouldn't gripe so much, but just imagine what our governments would do, without a peep from us.

I'm going to close with a great big THANK YOU to SWEN. I LOVE that statement you made about ME and WE. My sentiments exactly.
Nick Hill replying to a comment from Arturo / December 12, 2013 at 09:22 pm
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Thank you! If the wages were market value and not inflated, then the TTC could save enough to extend the subway every few years.
Thomas Aquinas replying to a comment from Jordan / December 12, 2013 at 10:21 pm
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We need people like you in government.

Or maybe it's the old divide and conquer strategy? Polarize the two opposing sides and then cater to the larger one to win the next election.
Shirley / December 13, 2013 at 12:11 am
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Thomas Aquina-Funny. I thought that's what the provincial NDP were already doing for the provincial Liberals.
Shirley / December 13, 2013 at 12:11 am
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Thomas Aquina-Funny. I thought that's what the provincial NDP were already doing for the provincial Liberals.
stanley / December 13, 2013 at 08:37 am
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if you guys are that worried about paying taxes for the roads you don't use...oh wait u do use roads cause last i checked buses run on roads, no??????
the lemur / December 13, 2013 at 09:48 am
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If we can't direct the current fuel tax revenue so that it goes ONLY to things related to transport infrastructure, then we should be looking at road pricing. It is precisely the attitude of 'I don't use transit, I'm too good for that' that leads to unnecessary driving and then drivers start looking around for someone else to blame for congestion. If the cost of driving were really linked to the amount of driving you did and adjusted for time, place and emissions levels, over time you wouldn't have roads clogged by drivers who think driving is free and should be done all the time, for every trip.
lizzy / December 13, 2013 at 12:56 pm
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What ever tax is going to be put in place to fund public transit - Let's stop talking and start digging!
Expansion of Toronto's transit system should have been done a long time ago.
All this debate keeps delaying a decision.

Put in place subsidy that make sense for the long term and get money from businesses!
Concern Citizen / December 13, 2013 at 04:13 pm
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Here is what you guys don't get......lets all but bicycles and tripeds like the Chinese do in china and save a lot of money and become as rich as the Chinese are.....

Jakob / December 14, 2013 at 11:52 pm
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I see so much discussion about what services some people use and what services they personally don't need. If you think (a) rationally and (b) long-term, then those considerations shouldn't matter this much. What matters in the long run is (a) sustainable quality of life, and (b) economic output.

If I vote for politicians who avoid spending money on stuff that benefits the economy more than it costs, then it'll get back to me in 10 years when the economy and congestion problems are really screwed. Ideally, taxes are for stuff that benefits society and the economy as a whole.

If you're trying to avoid paying taxes because you don't use those specific services, you're thinking in the wrong way. What you should be asking yourself is, "Will these taxes make more money for the government in the long run, by allowing more people to work efficiently (i.e. more income tax earnings) and increase business investment (i.e. more people employed, therefore more income tax earnings)?"

If immigration to Toronto slows down because the transit system sucks, that'll be a net loss for everyone in Ontario, because YOU will have to pay the taxes that could have otherwise be paid by other people in a better-functioning society.

Don't view it as a "I win, you lose" game. View it from a "how can I help the government make as much money as possible from other people in the long run" angle. That's what sensible people above mean when they say that public transit is a "net benefit to society". It reduces other costs and enables economic growth, a.k.a. overall tax earnings for the government.

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