Toronto area voters who want to see transit relief in this generation should rule out the Progressive Conservatives and support the Green Party, the Liberals or the NDP on June 12, says sustainability think-tank Pembina Institute.
The Ontario PCs received a low grade when it comes to fighting regional gridlock, in Pembina’s pre-election analysis of the four provincial parties’ transit platforms.
If Pembina were writing its own transit platform, it would probably look a lot like the Green Party’s plan. It is the only party to offer ideas for new revenue sources that could be invested in transit — including road pricing that could also persuade motorists to leave the car at home, said Cherise Burda, who helped write the report called, “Who’s ready to fight traffic with transit?”
It evaluates the platforms based on their gridlock-fighting potential, cost-effectiveness and their ability to relieve traffic congestion, in the short term and region-wide.
While all the parties are focused on big-ticket, long-term regional projects such as Toronto’s downtown relief line and expanded GO service, there’s been less discussion at the provincial level about measures that would make commuting easier right now, said Burda.
“We’re all suffering now. We need to get more buses on the road, we need to get more (express) buses,” she said.
The Green Party’s platform is built to do that because, in addition to dedicating $2 billion annually to new projects, it allocates $1 billion a year to operating municipal transit systems. It is also committed to road pricing and cycling improvements — measures that could help entice more people out of their cars, said Burda.
The Liberals scored second highest because they would introduce high occupancy toll lanes (which allow single-occupant cars to use car pool lanes for a fee) as a first step in road pricing, something the NDP hasn’t promised. Both those parties have included cycling improvements in their platforms, where the PCs haven’t included policies to deter single-occupancy vehicle drivers, according to the report.
The American experience with LRTs shows why it’s so critical to get motorists out of their cars, said Burda. Building new transit isn’t enough to persuade drivers to ride it.
Motorists tend to view driving as free because the cost of owning and fueling a car is already part of their budget. Switching to transit feels like an added cost. People need to be convinced that transit will save them money and free up time for reading or work.
“American experts are recognizing that unless you put in mode-shift-based road pricing revenue tools you’re not going to raise the money you need to keep building out the transit, and you’re not going to move people’s behaviour — and that’s what’s really critical,” she said.
The Conservative plan to focus on extending the Sheppard subway rather than building an LRT, would cost about $1 billion more than the Liberal and NDP commitments in the Metrolinx Big Move plan, said Pembina. The PC platform would result in only about 20 kilometres of new transit lines rather than the 142 kilometres prescribed by Metrolinx.