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Average household to pay $477 a year under Metrolinx transit funding plan

File photo. CITYNEWS.

Under Metrolinx’s funding formula, the average household will pay $477 a year to fund transit expansion across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).

The provincial agency handed over its funding report to Queen’s Park on Monday.

The proposed taxes and user fees include a five-cent gas tax, a parking levy, a one-per-cent sales tax increase, a 15-per-cent hike in development charges, implementing high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, and implementing “pay for parking” at transit stations.

The HST increase requires the approval of the federal government. If implemented, it would generate $1.3 billion a year, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig said.

Because the tax would cover all of Ontario, McCuaig said that “funds collected outside the GTHA should fund priorities in other parts of the province.”

The five-cent fuel tax would generate $330 million a year, while the parking space tax would bring in $350 million a year.

The 25-year Big Move plan is expected to cost $50 billion.

“Metrolinx is recommending that we have dedicated funds,” McCuaig said.

“We are also recommending that these funds be placed into a transportation trust fund to create certainty that The Big Move projects are delivered and to provide the accountability and transparency GTHA residents demand and deserve.”

Transportation Minister Glen Murray said he supported the “guiding principles” of the Metrolinx funding strategy and is now looking closely at the proposed taxes and user fees.

“We accept the guiding principles of the Metrolinx funding strategy: revenue must be dedicated to specific outcomes; costs and benefits of transit expansion must be fairly distributed; all parts of the GTHA should benefit from transportation infrastructure investments; spending must be transparent; and, projects held to high standards of public accountability,” Murray said.

John Tory, chair of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, urged the government to act.

“It’s been decades in the waiting, and the time has come for governments to invest in a dramatically better way to move people and goods across the Toronto region. Let’s make our dream of a connected regional transportation network a reality,” he said.

CivicAction has been pushing for increased transit funding with its ‘What Would You Do With 32?’ campaign and other initiatives.

While the gas tax and HST hike would cost the average household $477 a year, McCuaig said it would be less for students and seniors.

“Seniors who do limited driving and take transit would pay $140 a year, while students who don’t own a car and use transit would pay $117 a year,” McCuaig said.

Earlier this month, Toronto city council considered numerous so-called revenue tools and rejected 14 of them outright, also refusing to endorse two others: the sales tax and development charges recommended Monday by Metrolinx.

The massive Big Move transit project includes a downtown relief subway line in Toronto, the expansion of the Yonge subway line into York Region and several new rapid bus transit corridors across the region.

The goal is to have 80 per cent of residents in the region within two kilometres of a transit station or stop.

Businesses surveyed by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) supported highway tolls and a fuel tax, while the Toronto Region Board of Trade (TRBOT) also endorsed a fuel tax.