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Another day, another report on ways to pay for new public transit in Toronto

Another day, another report on ways to pay for new public transit in Toronto
(Image: JasonParis)

It’s been quite a week for lengthy reports on the future of public transit in Toronto. Yesterday’s 138-page analysis, written by a private consultant, called the wisdom of Metrolinx‘s $50 billion "Big Move" transit plan into question. Now, today’s 68-pager from the provincially appointed Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel wants to show how to go about raising that $50 billion in the first place.

The panel, led by former Conference Board of Canada CEO Anne Golden, was convened by Queen’s Park in September and tasked with recommending ways of paying for the The Big Move’s various unfunded projects, which include the Downtown Relief Line and two-way all-day GO rail service.

To their credit, Golden and company do seem to have arrived at a proposal that would please a lot of people from across the political spectrum, by spreading the financial pain. They call for the province to use some combination of increased gas taxes, corporate income taxes and HST revenue—but no road tolls—to raise somewhere between $1.6 and $1.8 billion for the GTA each year. The money would be put in a special fund dedicated to public transit, so unrelated government agencies wouldn’t be able to raid it to cover shortfalls.

The frustrating thing, from a transit-watcher’s perspective, is that Metrolinx released its own study on investment strategies back in May. So now Toronto has two conflicting reports from two different provincial bodies appointed under two different premiers—and the next provincial election probably isn’t far off, meaning Queen’s Park could be pressing the reset button on all of this in a year or less. Looks like the GTA has plenty of “big,” but precious little “move.”

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