Sunday, June 15, 2008

Kitchen Report #2

In his report Kitchen explores seven different ways to help fund the restructured GTAH transit and transportation system.

1. Dedicated Municipal Fuel Tax

This would involve an additional tax at the pumps piggybacked onto the existing price of gas. Those who use the roads would pay. A rate of, for example, 6 cents a litre would be the equivalent of a 4.7% to 6.6% increase in property taxes. This year’s rising gas prices have left many commuters hot and bothered. Could such a tax be sold with a commitment to lower property taxes?

2. Tolls and Congestion Charges

Tolls and Congestion Charges “can be effective in controlling people’s behaviour” and are in place in many jurisdictions around the world. Kitchen recommends them for major highways but notes that some decisions are needed prior to putting these charges in place as to whether the existing public transit system offers an effective alternative. Perhaps Metrolinx provides a forum for this.

3. Tax on Non residential Parking Spaces

The City of Toronto already has the right to tax parking spaces and such a tax would likely have some impact on deterring auto use and increased transits.

4. Vehicle Registration Charges

Again Toronto is the only city that currently can levy such a tax. Taxes could be higher for higher emitting cars, heavier vehicles (as they do more damage to roads) or older cars.

5. Drivers License Charges

Municipalities could also take a chunk of an enhanced charge on licenses but Kitchen does not recommend this.

6. High Occupancy Toll Lanes

Apparently HOV lanes in the U.S. are not meeting their objectives. So in some cases these lanes are being turned into High Occupancy Toll Lanes where you can pay for the pleasure of getting a faster ride. Kitchen wants us to try this one out.

7. Value Capture Levies

If a property’s value is enhanced through spending on public infrastructure and zoning decisions it could be appropriate to capture some of the gains that the private sector has realized.

Kitchen feels this could apply in mega projects such as subway or rapid transit expansion.

Time for Action

Lots to think about in Financing Public Transit and Transportation in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton. Kitchen's final recommendation for a GTAH wide special purpose body made up of directly elected Councillors recalls similar governance discussions in the '90's. Nothing happened then. But something must be done on this file and soon.