toronto traffic

Metrolinx releases list of 11 taxes for transit expansion

Provincial transit agency Metrolinx has released a list of 11 potential taxes, tolls, and fees it believes are capable of funding the next wave of transportation projects, including the much-needed Downtown Relief Line and other light rail and bus corridors in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Several of the tools parallel those released in mid-March by the Toronto Region Board of Trade, including a regional gas tax ($330-840M revenue), high-occupancy toll lanes ($25-45M), a dedicated sales tax ($1-1.6B), and parking space charges ($1.2-1.6B).

The other ideas being considered by Metrolinx to reach the $2 billion annual goal include:

EMPLOYER PAYROLL TAX: A 1% tax added to payrolls in the GTHA, similar to EI and Canada Pension Plan deductions, could pull in around $1.4 billion each year. The tax would apply to all employment income without any caps. A 0.5% tax is projected to yield between $810 million and $920 million by 2021. A similar scheme is used in Paris.

DEVELOPMENT CHARGES: This tax would target construction in the GTHA. A $2-3,000 per-unit charge on select new developments has the potential to deliver in the region of $30-55 million by 2021. The tax could also be flexible, with developers paying more for larger building projects. Development charges are currently being used to fund the Spadina line extension.

PROPERTY TAX: Raising property taxes by 5% based on the value of the building or land would be worth about $870 million a year, a hefty amount close to the value attributed to a payroll tax. Vancouver and London, Ontario are using a property tax to fund transit.

PER-KILOMETRE DRIVER TAX: This one's a little different. By charging drivers a fee based on the number of kilometres travelled within a designated area (the downtown cores, for example) the region could score a whopping $1.6 billion each year. The charge would likely be 3-cents per kilometre and would be tracked by GPS transponder in vehicles. This alternative to a fuel tax is Austria and Germany but is limited to highways.

TRANSIT FARE INCREASE: Also likely to be unpopular, a region-wide transit fare increase of 15-cents per ride would be worth about $50 million each year. There's a chance some of this increase could be mitigated by the introduction of PRESTO to the TTC, which currently charges $2.65 for a ride.

HIGHWAY TOLLS: Charging to use the Gardiner, Don Valley Parkway, 401 and other GTHA highways is also a potential goldmine. A 10-cent per kilometre fee, monitored using transponders like on the 407, is estimated to bring in $1.4 billion annually. These charges are used across North America and Europe.

LAND VALUE CAPTURE: This tax, which is light on details, aims to claim back some of the increases in land values brought about by new transit infrastructure. For example, if a plot of land increased in value by having a subway built nearby, the LVC would take some of that money back.

The final recommendations, which will likely be a combination of several of these tools, will be packaged into a report that will be presented to the province in the summer. In the meantime, Metrolinx will continue to hold public consultations to discuss each of these possible charges.

Which do you think are the most viable? Would a combination of a transit fare increase and a per-kilometre vehicle charge be fair to all travelers? Which of these are the most painless or invisible?

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

Image: MrDanMofo/blogTO Flickr pool.

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