Cross Country Checkup

Toll roads: a cash grab or the solution to what ails our cities?

They may be coming soon to your city. Toronto wants tolls on two highways into the downtown, to ease traffic congestion and fund public transit. What do you think... cash grab or the solution to what ails our cities?
One of two toll highways in Canada, Highway 407 serves the southern Ontario region and many travellers going through or around Toronto. (Keith Beaty/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Listen to the full episode1:52:59

They may be coming soon to your city. Toronto wants tolls on two highways into the downtown, to ease traffic congestion and fund public transit. What do you think... is it a cash grab or the solution to what ails our cities?

This week, Toronto's mayor, John Tory, announced it's time to "tame the traffic beast" by introducing tolls on the two biggest highways into the downtown. He's suggesting a $2 fee for every time a driver uses the roads. 

It's a flip-flop. Before he was mayor, John Tory mocked tolls, calling them "highway robbery." Now, he says the city needs to raise billions of dollars to pay for transit and road improvements. He figures highway tolls are the best option.

He's not alone. City councils across Canada are mulling over road pricing, whether bridge tolls or tunnel fees or congestion charges.

It's a political risk. Canadians like our free access to endless asphalt. There's only two toll highways in this country. But the rest of the world doesn't shy away from them. Stockholm, Singapore, London, and San Francisco all introduced road pricing to fight gridlock and expand public transit.

Our question: Are toll roads a cash grab or the solution to what ails our cities?

Guests

John Tory, Mayor of Toronto
Twitter: @JohnTory

Roger Anderson, Chair of Regional Municipality of Durham
Twitter: @Regional_Chair

Gord Price, Fellow of the City program at Simon Fraser University. Served five terms as councillor for the city of Vancouver (1986-2002) 
Twitter: @pricetags

Christopher Ragan, Associate Professor of Macroeconomics, McGill University. Chair of Canada's Ecofiscal Commission and a member of the federal Advisory Council on Economic Growth. 
Twitter: @ctsragan 

Links & Articles

CBC.ca

Globe and Mail

National Post

Huffington Post

Ottawa Sun

Vancouver Sun

The Tyee

Calgary Herald

Edmonton Sun

Toronto Star

Hamilton Spectator

The Independent (UK)

CD Howe Institute study

Conference Board of Canada

Munk School of Global Affairs

Pembina Institute