Zehr calls for more revenue to fund transit

Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr is coming out in favour of finding new revenue sources that would go directly toward improving transit and roads.

Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr is coming out in favour of finding new revenue sources that would go directly toward improving transit and roads in the region.

Zehr told CBC News bringing all-day two-way GO train service between Waterloo region and Toronto is "very important."

But he said an increase in property taxes to pay for transit or improved GO service is a non-starter.

"The property tax is already overburdened, and it cannot stand any more weight," he said Thursday. He favoured implementing user fees to pay for transit expansion.

"In a general sense, all municipalities … are going to have to more and more look to user pay approaches and that can be in a variety of forms." He wouldn't specify which fees he might support, saying he didn't want to get into details yet.

His comments come in the wake of the release of report by provincial transit agency Metrolinx, which outlined a shortlist of possible funding tools to pay for transit expansion projects planned for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area in the next 25 years.

"We who are here outside of the GTA proper still rely on goods and services and people travelling to and from the GTA. So we are impacted perhaps not on a daily basis, but it does affect us here," he said, adding there is a need for "upgraded transit systems in and around the GTA and the expanded region."

The funding tools outlined in the Metrolinx report, which was released Tuesday, are part of an ongoing process looking at ways to cover the cost of transit expansion over the next 25 years in the GTA.

The suggested funding tools include:

  • Development charges.
  • Employer payroll tax.
  • Fuel tax.
  • High occupancy tolls.
  • Highway tolls.
  • Land value capture.
  • Parking space levy, including pay-for-parking transit stations
  • Property tax.
  • Sales tax.
  • Transit fare increase.
  • Vehicle kilometres travelled fee.

The tools are needed to generate about $2 billion a year to pay for The Big Move, a transit expansion plan targeted at the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area that is expected to cost $50 billion over 25 years. Development of transit in Waterloo Region is not part of The Big Move plan.