Doing the two step

Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca wrote me a letter recently to say that I’d been chosen at random for a traffic survey. I was delighted to participate. After the weather, traffic is the number one topic of conversation in Toronto. The survey was straightforward. They designated a specific day and asked where I went and how I traveled. In my case, it was simple: a three-point trip by subway downtown to the Toronto-Dominion Centre, on to Yonge and St. Clair, and then home.

Hard to imagine what they learned from that. In fact it’s hard to imagine what they’ve learned or what action has been taken as a result of past surveys. According to the letter, this survey has been conducted every five years for the past thirty. As any denizen of the city can tell you, traffic has only gotten worse during that time. In the 1980s, I could drive downtown from where I lived in the west end in twenty minutes. Now it takes at least twice as long.

Here’s the simple solution. First, declare the downtown area bounded by University Avenue, Dundas, Jarvis and Front Streets a congestion area where non-essential vehicles must pay a daily fee to enter. Such a cordon has worked well in London since 2003 and has raised about 3 billion British pounds for improved transit. Second, charge tolls for all vehicles using the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway. Why should they be free? Public money built the subway system but I pay every time I use it. A similar user-pay scheme for road travel is only fair.

Follow that two-step, Minister Del Duca, and I can assure you that the next five-year survey will show a remarkable reduction in gridlock and road rage. Plus, there will be a lot more revenue to spend on improved transit facilities and infrastructure projects. Otherwise, it’ll all just be life in the slow lane.

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