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Toronto mayoral candidate proposes highway tolls
to pay for expanding the subway system

Sarah Thomson, a candidate for mayor of Toronto, attracted a lot of interest from the public, the media and other politicians, when she unveiled her transit platform last week.

One of the main planks of her platform drew the most attention — she proposes to establish a $5 toll for rush-hour drivers on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway to pay for expanding the city’s subway system.

According to Thomson, placing tolls on the Gardiner and DVP, could bring in as much as $500-million a year. In her plan, that revenue would be the best way to pay for expanding a subway system at a cost of $13-billion. She estimates the toll money would pay for total cost of the new subways in ten years. After ten years, she’d cancel the tolls.

During a speech announcing her transit platform, Thomson said, “I believe a great city depends on a complete subway system — it is our key to a strong and dynamic future, but it has fallen prey to budgetary impotence and political trepidation.”

“The people of Toronto want subways, not the Transit City light rail lines”, she claimed. “Streetcars add to road congestion because they are outside and exposed to the elements —- especially winter elements — and who today truly wants to wait outside in our freezing cold Toronto winters?”

Working with early TTC maps and density plans, Thomson estimates the city needs to expand the subway by about 58 kilometres, with some above-ground and some underground.

She would build a line along Eglinton Avenue between the airport and Kennedy Station and extend the Bloor-Danforth subway to Scarborough Centre, replacing the current Scarborough rapid transit. She’d extend the Sheppard subway to Scarborough Centre, too, and the Yonge and Spadina lines northward to Steeles Avenue — but no further. And, she’d build a downtown relief line from Pape Station southward, then along Queen Street through downtown and then northward to rejoin the Bloor-Danforth subway at Dundas West Station.

Thomson explained that she’d work with Metrolinx and the provincial government to encourage them to participate more in developing Toronto’s transit system and redirect the funds that the province has currently allocated for building light rail lines to build her subway network.

“My first subway construction priority”, she said, “will be to transform the proposed above-ground Eglinton crosstown line from a partial surface route to a proper subway line. This will relieve the pressure from the surface of Eglinton Avenue, making travel safer for pedestrians, cars, and cyclists.

“I am calling on Mayor Miller and City Council to suspend construction on the Eglinton LRT line, pending the outcome of the current election.

“To start construction on the proposed LRT system would be irresponsible and costly to undo.”

Thomson also wants to encourage private businesses to help build the city’s transit system.

She explained: “After speaking with people from both government and private sector, I believe that comprehensive financing, design, construction and maintenance arrangements will reduce the overall costs of the subway system to the taxpayers.

“Companies like SNC Lavalin, Skanska, and McNally International build subway systems across the planet. They have the tools, expertise, innovation, and experience needed to do the work at a competitive cost. I will move to secure finance partners interested in revenue sharing or long-term lease arrangements.”

In addition to the revenue from the private partners and the provincial government, Thomson estimates that tolling motor vehicle drivers only during Monday-to-Friday rush hours could generate between $400 million and $500 million per year on the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway with a $5 toll, based on 2006 traffic counts.

(The province of Ontario has already asked Metrolinx to study road tolls and to present a report by 2013. Many municipalities have some form of road pricing to fight congestion and raise money for transit.)

You can read more of Sarah Thomson’s transit platform here.

You can read Transit Toronto’s report on rival candidate Rocco Rossi’s transit platform here.

You can read a Transit Toronto editorial by James Bow about candidate George Smitherman’s proposals to privatize parts of the TTC here.

From the Transit Toronto Newspaper Article Clippings archives, read:

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