Toronto to launch new transit consultation

Commuters tired of fighting their way through Toronto's terrible traffic will soon have a new outlet for their rage.

City planner Keesmaat says new planning tools needed

City of Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat said the discussion over transit funding "is most important conversation we have to have in this city." (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Commuters tired of fighting their way through Toronto's terrible traffic will soon have a new outlet for their rage.

A city initiative seeks residents' input not only on how to solve the region's transit problems, but also on how to pay for it.

The meeting schedule

  • Feb. 4 — York Civic Centre.
  • Feb. 6 — Scarborough Civic Centre.
  • Feb. 11 — North York Civic Centre
  • Feb 13 — Toronto City Hall.

Called Feeling Congested? Toronto Talks Transit, the consultation includes four public meetings and an online tool to let users to weigh in on the various ways to pay for transit, such as with tolls and taxes.

'We need to ... open our wallets'

"I would argue that this is most important conversation we have to have in this city," said Jennifer Keesmaat, the city’s chief planner.

"What is so fundamentally different about this consultation is the recognition that the solutions don’t grow on trees, that we need to pony up and open our wallets. We need to figure out ways to pay for these plans."

The results will be compiled into a city report that gives the province a sense of what new funding tools residents will accept, and how much they're willing to pay.

The consultations coincide with a series of region-wide discussions planned by Metrolinx, the province's regional planning authority. The province is looking for ways to pay for its Big Move transportation plan, which will be presented to the premier in June. 

Keesmaat said almost every funding option is "one the table," including sales taxes, property taxes, toll lanes and parking levies.

Keesmaat appeared on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning Tuesday. Host Matt Galloway pointed out that few politicians are willing to seek additional money from the people who elect them.

Mayor Rob Ford, for example, has said he’s opposed to any new taxes.

Keesmaat said the process could deliver innovative revenue tools that might be more "politically palatable" than new tolls or taxes.

As an example, she spoke about the possibility of charging drivers who visit large shopping malls.

"If we were to charge just a buck, one dollar, every time someone entered Sherway Gardens or Yorkdale Mall into the parking lot. So these are, you know, relatively high-end users. What’s a buck, to you or to me arriving at a mall?

"We could generate millions and millions of dollars a year. An astronomical amount of revenue that could then go into transit or fixing our infrastructure."

The first meeting is set for Monday Feb. 4 at York Civic Centre.