Metrolinx released a shortlist Tuesday of possible ways to pay for billions in transit upgrades planned for Hamilton and southern Ontario, but it met with a cool reception from some Hamilton councillors.
It's all funding for the Big Move, Metrolinx's regional transit expansion plan that has a projected cost of $50 billion over 25 years. The project is expected to include a new rapid transit system in Hamilton, as well as major changes to the GO Transit rail network, and projects in other cities such as Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton.
Metrolinx is considering the following investment options as a way to pay for the project:
- Development Charges
- Employer Payroll Tax
- Fuel Tax
- High Occupancy Tolls (HOT)
- Highway Tolls
- Land Value Capture
- Parking Space Levy, including pay-for-parking at transit stations
- Property Tax
- Sales Tax
- Transit Fare Increase
- Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) Fee
Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins told CBC Hamilton that the Big Move discussion is an important one, but people also need to keep in mind the ripple effect new taxes would have on the local economy.
"On the surface, many of the funding options fly in the face of what we're trying to accomplish locally," Collins said. "New local fees such as fuel taxes, highway tolls, new sales taxes, increased property taxes or other attempts to increase revenues on the backs of local ratepayers and businesses will most surely undo much of the progress we've made over the past five to 10 years."
Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla was even more vocally opposed to the idea.
"I think it is ludicrous that the province is looking at taxing us more, particularly when they are presently in a deficit situation with the City of Hamilton of approximately $120 million annually," Merulla said in an email to CBC Hamilton.
According to a press release, Metrolinx examined more than two-dozen strategies and investment tools that are used in other jurisdictions to fund transit. It received input through a series of 12 round table meetings with residents across the GTHA on ways to fund public transit.
"We want to continue our conversation with municipalities, stakeholders and the public to help us deliver our investment strategy," said Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig.
"At our roundtable meetings, we heard that there is wide recognition of the problem of congestion and there is impatience for a solution," he said. "Participants want to see more transit and transportation expansion, they understand that this requires significant investment, and overall they supported tools to build new transit and transportation."
Ward 1 Coun. Brian McHattie says some of the funding measures, like increasing fuel taxes and sales taxes, make sense —while others, like increasing local property taxes and transit fares, do not.
"I'm strongly in favour of new taxes," McHattie told CBC Hamilton. "This is a critical investment for the province of Ontario."
An official investment strategy for The Big Move is set to be released by June 1.