Drivers hold key to transit’s future – Metro US

Drivers hold key to transit’s future

The solution to the GTA’s transportation future is in the hands of car drivers — or rather, their pockets. The question is how long it will take for them to realize increased charges for driving may be the key to reducing the severity of traffic congestion?

Although reports show travel times are worsening steadily, motorists have so far just grumbled and put up with it. More cars are pouring onto Toronto’s roads every year, but many motorists lash out at any proposal to shift people to transit through tolls and increased funding for rail expansion.

However, this acceptance of creeping congestion could turn to anger if people suddenly wake up and decide they are spending too long behind the wheel. Many would demand politicians deal with the traffic nightmare, even if it means drastically raising taxes. But such a tipping point could come too late — it takes years to build new infrastructure and Toronto’s economic competitiveness may be damaged beyond easy repair.

Transit riders would suffer more from crowded road conditions until motorists have a change of heart. Alas, people who use buses are generally seen to have less political clout than those who drive.

Fortunately, some GTA citizens are willing to talk about the consequences of ignoring congestion growth — even if politicians won’t. Groups like the Toronto City Summit Alliance and others are taking a hard look at various ways to raise needed transport funds. (See www.torontoalliance.ca for its report Time To Get Serious.)

If and when our governments are ready for a real debate on gridlock solutions, an array of well-studied tools will already be available. Citizen experts are now weighing the relative benefit of highway tolls, gas taxes, car ownership fees and parking levies. And they do not shy from admitting the potential downside of each option.

One idea stands out — dedicating the extra pennies the new HST has just added to every litre of gas. Doing so would pump needed cash into the GTA’s transport plan — and show motorists their taxes are making a difference.

Quick tip
The TTC’s vehicle arrival system is finally accepting text requests. Find a unique code at each streetcar stop or on schedule pages at www.ttc.ca.

– Thank you, readers: After 575 Metro columns, I’m taking a break from writing. I’ll continue to tweet on transit issues at twitter.com/eddrass.