Torontonians support road tolls — if they pay for transit, poll suggests
Torontonians strongly support Gardiner and DVP tolls if they help fund transit and force non-resident motorists to pay up, a poll for Transit Alliance shows.
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Torontonians strongly support Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway tolls if they help fund transit and force non-resident motorists to pay their “fair share,” a new poll suggests.
The survey of 2,280 Torontonians by Mainstreet Research for advocacy group Transit Alliance also says Torontonians prefer tolls for transit funding over a Toronto-specific sales tax or property-tax hikes.
“People are finally ready to say we’ve got to do something to help get transit built and tolling is the right way to go about it,” said Sarah Thomson, Transit Alliance chief executive officer.
Thomson ran for mayor in 2010 on a platform that included tolls to help fund subway construction.
Noting residents of all 44 wards were polled, she said: “City councillors should take heed of what their constituents want: tolls.”
Mainstreet Research set up the poll question this way: “Proponents of road tolls for the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway say road tolls would force non-City of Toronto residents to pay their fare share; critics say road tolls are an unnecessary tax hike.”
The pollster then asked: “Do you approve or disapprove of introducing tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway to pay for transit and infrastructure?”
Some 70 per cent approved of the idea — 52 per cent strongly and 18 per cent somewhat — while one-quarter disapproved, 18 per cent of them strongly. Four per cent were not sure.
Approval of tolls was lowest in Etobicoke, where 61 per cent supported it, and Scarborough at 68 per cent. Approval was highest downtown at 77 per cent.
(The margin of error for the automated-calls survey of landline and cellphone users is plus or minus 2.05 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error is higher when data is broken out for parts of the city, as opposed to all of Toronto.)
On Thursday, Mayor John Tory reversed his earlier opposition to tolls and declared them the fairest way to help pay huge bills for transit and roads. He repeatedly noted 905-belt motorists who use the Gardiner and DVP would be forced to start paying a share of the cost of maintaining those roads.
A Forum Research poll conducted Thursday evening asked Torontonians if they supported tolls if revenue collected would go to pay for transit projects. Tory is proposing that it be used to fund transportation projects, including public transit and road infrastructure.
That earlier poll, which did not mention non-residents being forced to pay for the using the Gardiner and DVP, found about half of Torontonians supported the idea and half opposed it.
What neither of the polls capture is that the ballooning cost of rebuilding the Gardiner might not leave a lot of money for transit.
A suggested $2 toll, which Tory said he used as just as an example, would raise close to $5 billion over 30 years, according to a city staff report. After paying for the new cost of the Gardiner rehabilitation, there would be about $1.4 billion for transit over three decades. That leaves little for projects already on the books.
When she ran for mayor, Thomson proposed a $5 toll. She said Sunday a toll can be introduced and later raised if there is public support for a hike that would build extra transit.
Tory wants city council to task city staff to make recommendations on the fee, which could be based on kilometres travelled and not be a flat per-use toll.
The Mainstreet poll also told respondents: “Proponents of increasing the property tax say Toronto’s property taxes are low compared to the rest of the GTA. Critics say that increasing property taxes would price residents out of the city.” It then asked: “Do you approve or disapprove of increasing Toronto’s property tax to pay for transit and infrastructure?”
One-third of Torontonians approved, half of them strongly, while 62 per cent disapproved, most of them strongly. Six per cent were unsure.
The most support for property tax hikes to pay for transit and infrastructure was downtown, at 38 per cent, while the lowest was in Etobicoke, where only one-quarter of respondents liked the idea.
Some city councillors are calling Tory’s toll idea a distraction that won’t pay to build a booming city, and argue he has to abandon his campaign promise to keep property tax hikes at or below the rate of inflation.
Politically, however, property tax hikes are a sting felt by more Toronto voters. Tolls would only be paid by those who drive the Gardiner and the DVP, and Tory says about 40 per cent of them don’t actually live (or vote) in the city.
Mainstreet also told respondents: “Proponents of introducing a Toronto sales tax say it would be a sustainable progressive tax that would affect residents based on how much they spend. Critics say it would move sales outside the city and that the City of Toronto doesn’t have authority to introduce a sales tax,” and, then, it asked: “Do you approve or disapprove a Toronto sales tax to pay for transit and infrastructure?”
Just over one-fifth of Torontonians approved, 9 per cent of them strongly, while 72 per cent disapproved, 58 per cent of them strongly. Seven per cent were unsure.
Support was highest downtown (25 per cent) and lowest in Etobicoke (16 per cent) for the “revenue tool” that was long championed by former city manager Joe Pennachetti as the fairest way to raise significant sums to pay for housing transit, social services and more.
Mainstreet also asked residents to choose between tolls, property tax hikes and a Toronto sales tax as their preferred way to fund transit and infrastructure. Some 65 per cent chose tolls while 13 per cent backed a tax hike, 6 per cent a sales tax and 16 per cent were unsure.