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No Congestion Tax for Toronto?

Ted Tyndorf, the city's chief planner, is currently in London, England, exploring that city's use of a congestion tax to curb traffic and increase funding for transit projects. His initial findings, as reported by the CBC, indicate that he doesn't think it's a necessary move for Toronto.

I'll be up front say that I support the idea for a congestion tax in Toronto. It's not that I hate cars and feel drivers should be punished, but our transit system needs cash to maintain and continue expanding its service, and it doesn't look like that money is coming from any other sources any time soon. There has been a lot of positive discussion about implementing road taxes at the Toronto City Summit the last few days, but Tyndorf's comments suggest he still isn't too keen. With public consensus moving towards an acceptance of road tolls, though, this may not be the final word we hear on the subject.

Because Toronto isn't "a medieval city built on a river," Tyndorf says, it has a different road system with wider streets. The options the city should look into are "improving its use of space, the use of street railways, and better bus connections." Maybe I've misunderstood what he means by those options, but isn't that part of the point of the congestion tax? To fund street railways and bus connections and other transit projects?

Even more perplexing are his comments that about the change in London's air quality: "Diesel fumes were clouding your eyesight five years ago. And today it's been quite amazing. The air conditions have actually been quite nice." Although London is a much bigger city with bigger pollution problems than Toronto, wouldn't it be nice to say the same about our air here? Despite the decline in smog days last year, I think it's a number most Torontonians would prefer to see cut down even more.

With vehicular traffic, transit, and air pollution inextricably linked, the conversation on road tolls is likely only getting started. It will be interesting to see how Tyndorf's final conclusions compare to ideas put forward the Toronto City Summit.

Image by Reza Vaziri of the blogTO flickr pool.


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