TORONTO — Cherise Burda, Ontario policy director at the Pembina Institute, made the following comments today after the release of the 2013 Ontario budget:
“We are happy to see the Ontario government follow through on promises to fund transit expansion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area by introducing paid express/high occupancy lanes, calling for a national transit strategy, and committing to dedicated transit revenues.
“Paid express lanes on major highways can help to ease congestion immediately and allow drivers to bypass traffic. In California, which shares Toronto’s congested highway problems, a paid express lane on a major highway averages 100 kilometres per hour during peak periods, compared to 25 kilometres per hour for regular lanes.
“Drivers of single-occupancy vehicles will be able to pay to use high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in Ontario while carpooling drivers can still travel for free, resulting in less congestion and a fair revenue tool for working Ontarians. Studies show that low-income drivers are as likely to approve of and use paid express lanes as drivers with higher incomes.
“The delays caused by congestion can often result in lost hourly wages, late fees for day care and longer hours away from home, all of which could be avoided with express options. The budget also commits to expanding the HOV network on critically congested highways.
“The Ontario budget clarifies that revenues raised for transit through paid HOV lanes and other means will be transparent and dedicated to transit development, which is an essential step in building public trust and support for revenue tools to fund transit.
“Research by the Pembina Institute shows that 70 per cent of drivers in the GTA are open to revenue tools — whether taxes, tolls or levies — if the funds collected are dedicated to transit. Furthermore, the budget speech commits to making the two cents per litre gas tax to municipalities permanent.
“The budget calls for the federal government to step up to the plate with a national transit strategy that includes long-term, predictable and dedicated funds for municipal transit. We are happy to see the budget make this bold statement, as the federal government currently commits significantly less funding for transit infrastructure than the provice.
“Funding transit expansion and combatting traffic congestion is a key goal of the Wynne government, and we hope that the rollback of auto insurance premiums promised in the budget will not result in more cars on the road due to cheaper insurance.
“We encourage the province going forward to achieve the average 15 per cent reduction in insurance rates through smart options such as pay-as-you-drive insurance, which saves money for drivers, rewards those who drive less and frees up commuters to choose other options like transit, carpooling and cycling.”
Ontario Policy Director
Dedicated to transit: Having our say and winning the medal (Feb. 13, 2013)