The Toronto Region Board of Trade is recommending the city turn to four dedicated revenue tools — including a gas tax and a parking space levy — to pay for improvements aimed at relieving a gridlock problem it says is holding back the local economy.
"We must act or fall behind," said Carol Wilding, the president and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade (TRBOT) at a news conference Monday.
"We must implement dedicated revenue tools to improve our mobility and our economic competitiveness. We can no longer defer the tough decisions on how to address our region’s lack of mobility."
The four measures TRBOT is putting forward for "serious consideration" include:
A regional sales tax.
A $1 a day parking space levy.
A 10 cents per litre regional fuel tax.
High-occupancy toll lanes in which drivers of single occupancy vehicles would play 30 cents a kilometre.
Wilding said the combined tools could generate at least $2 billion annually and said the numbers of each revenue tool could be adjusted.
"The exact dollar amount or percentage for each revenue tool would be negotiated by the province, the municipalities and a variety of other stakeholders," she said.
She also said the TRBOT will launch an advertising campaign touting the need for the revenue tools.
Metrolinx, the province's regional transit planning authority, has outlined the region's transit needs in a $50-billion plan called The Big Move. But existing revenue sources will only cover a portion of that bill.
The TRBOT has long argued that Toronto's traffic congestion costs the city $6 billion each year, a number it says will grow to $15 billion by 2030.
Wilding called on those opposed to the revenue tools to suggest other ways to pay for the transit infrastructure the city needs.
"For those who disagree with our proposed recommendations … we ask that you respond with an alternative," she said. "Saying no is simply no longer an option. If you don’t participate, don’t complain."
Wilding acknowledges that the revenues the TRBOT suggest may not be the ones ultimately included in the Metrolinx financing strategy that must be presented to the province by June 1.
"Talking about our congestion has become a regional obsession," said Wilding. "So too, has avoiding real solutions. We can’t continue to turn our back on solutions. We must implement dedicated revenue tools to improve our mobility and our economic competitiveness."