For Whom the Road Tolls



Our dependence on cars is primitive. We have 3 million rich, technological people living together in Toronto who can’t build themselves more than two measly subway lines. On the grand scale of civilizations that’s pretty pathetic. European cities, subways all over the place, damn subway can drop you off in your own basement.

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In Toronto the average incoming car has only 1.1 occupants! Its very inefficient to have people shipped in alone. We need to build more trains. Tolls guarantee a steady flow of cash to fund big projects.

I remember when i was a kid how proud Canadians were that our roads were cleaner and better maintained than in the States. Not true today at all, our roads look terrible and dirty. Tolls would create jobs and free up some extra funds for maintenance and cleaning.

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Now, I’m not going to blame the drivers and its unfortunate that they alone would be paying tolls. My old job and apartment were both away from subway lines. By transit I could get to work in 1 hour using 2 buses and 2 trains. Instead I drove and it took me 20 minutes. If the transit had been better connected to me and my work I would have used it.

Imagine this for yourself. Wherever you live, you leave your door, walk a short distance and enter a thing that takes you directly to work. You can snooze, sip a coffee, read the paper, its uncrowded , well maintained and faster than driving. . . . If this option were available, people would take it. Problem is that there is no money to build this type of thing so long as people’s transportation budgets are flowing toward car and gas companies. Car and gas companies can use the cash to build assets, but it doesn’t do anything for the transportation system. One way or another people need to be coaxed out of their cars so that their transportation budgets start flowing toward the city and its infrastructure.

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To be fair, there are some people who would unfairly feel the brunt of tolls. Delivery companies, repairmen and cabbies for example haven’t really got a choice but to drive. Why should they pay the same toll as Stacey who’s buzzing into town for lunch in her SUV? . . ..People with approved needs could apply for a pass which exempts them, maybe just a discount. If traffic was reduced, being a deliveryman wouldn’t be such a chore, its gotta be worth something. We could also have a discounted car pool lane, there are many ways to make the tolls target the worst of drivers specifically.

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The biggest problem making big projects like new subways happen is that governments change every few years. No leader is willing to run a huge deficit in the interest of starting a huge project that could very well be axed by the opposition in a couple years anyway. Better to just push the limits of band aid solutions like more roads or exclusive airports and hope to keep the budget numbers looking good for a couple more years.

They built the 407 toll road, an excellent idea, then sold it to a private firm. Its the same problem. Governments sell off assets to prop up budgets, screw the long term loss, lets get re-elected. Its why we no longer own Petro Canada- they’re still profiting from selling gas right, might have made sense to keep it.

It stings, but we need to artificially make transit the better choice first by making driving more expensive. There also needs to be a guarantee that the proceeds of that expense fund driver’s alternatives. Use tolls to build subways. If driving had been more expensive when i was a driver, it might have convinced me to switch to transit. Taking a helicopter to work would be the fastest, but I can’t afford that either. If the government has some extra cash from tolls, they can start new projects without fear of losing face. Quite the opposite, they’d get to cut ribbons and look like heroes.

But the cash needs to be there first. You can’t build a chicken without the egg people, so let’s lay an egg.

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7 Responses to “For Whom the Road Tolls”

  1. ponch58 Says:

    Oh hello, Remi…

    Once again I have a problem with your poll. Disinterested doesn’t quite describe my feelings on this one, more of an undecided and untrusting vote.

    As I have outlined on my own blog, I am forever driving back and forth between Toronto and Hamilton, making many stops in between. Until about a year ago, the 407 was off limits to me. Partly because of the costs it would incur, but also due to the Political shame it is to be paying a toll to some rich guy to use “his” road. I sat in traffic for hours and hours and hours and hours……………. A couple times, as much as I hate to admit it, this situation caused me to drift off and nearly ended up in a collision. I know, shame on me, but what can I do? It’s exhausting sitting in traffic in the sweltering heat.

    A little over a year ago, we got fed up with this and decided to start taking the 407 once in a while. We ordered a transponder ($20 a year, saves you the video charges which actually work out to be about half of the cost per trip. Well worth it! Now that we take the 407 somewhat regularly, we are able to keep appointments with clients and just generally have more time to get actual work done.

    Now, as far as the other highways go, they have built an HOV (high occupancy vehicle) or “car pool” lane on the 403 and have been in construction to do the same on the QEW. On the 403, it works great. If you can manage to ignore the single drivers who feel it is there “right as taxpayers” to use this lane, regardless of laws, and also seem to think that this lane is strictly for people wishing to travel at speeds of 140 km/h and above. On a whole traffic, which used to be terrible, speeds along smoothly and efficiently even in peak rush hour.

    I am interested to see how this addition will help the QEW, a much busier highway. There is an awful lot of work being done to expand the road and I’ve heard some murmering about a toll being applied.

    Now that I’ve babbled on, my point is this. If the QEW becomes more efficient with the addition of the HOV lane, and the tolls are required to pay for the work done, I have no problem paying this toll under a transponder based system. If, however, the highway is immediately sold to the highest bidder like the 407 was, I might buy a bigger vehicle and take out some camera towers!

  2. remistevens Says:

    Yea private roads, what a crock of shit. Lord Autoblaught permits you to pass across his lands for a fee. Its such a piss off what they did with the 407. I should re-work my article to state that tolls are good provided they remain ours.

    Car pool lanes are also a great idea, but never seem to get enforced. Just like bike lanes, streetcar tracks and crosswalks. Toronto motorists, the jackasses only, dominate and wreck everything. Just last night a dude in an SUV tried to drive through my livingroom and got angry with me when i got up to go take a leak.

  3. remistevens Says:

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  7. Pedestrian « The Remi Stevens Bolg Says:

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