Dedicated Funding for a Regional Transportation System
The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) has 6 million people across 30 municipalities, 8242 square km, four levels of government and 10 transit agencies. Our demographics and politics are complex, our needs, values and motivations are diverse. The GTHA will grow by an estimated 3 million people in the next 25 years, and another 1.5 million more cars will be on the road in next 25 years.
Our existing transportation system is not meeting the current and future needs of this growing region – economically, socially or environmentally. It is fragmented, inefficient, inequitable and underfunded. Gridlock costs our economy $6 billion a year; the transportation sector is one of the main contributors to climate change and air pollution, and we have one of North America’s longest commute times.
A regional transportation plan has been put forward that’s been approved by our provincial and regional governments, called The Big Move. The plan is representative of the long-term, large scale planning we need. The plan calls for $50 billion in investment over 25 years. $16 billion of The Big Move initiatives are currently funded through senior government commitments. The remaining $34 billion in transportation improvements remains unfunded, and existing tax revenues are inadequate. Given government constraints, money will need to come through some combination of new sources.
In June of 2013, Metrolinx, the provincial agency responsible for developing The Big Move, delivered recommendations to the provincial and heads of the GTHA’s municipal governments on how to pay for these transportation improvements. These recommendations were followed by the creation of The Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel which produced a report entitled Making the Move: Choices and Consequences on December 12, 2013 providing further feedback on the Investment Strategy.
In order for stable funding mechanisms to be put in place, civic organizations will need to raise awareness, help identify public priorities, concerns and preferences and to garner support for new taxes and fees. This will need to happen within a highly contested political landscape.