On Monday, Metrolinx’s Investment Strategy to support The Big Move received unanimous support from Metrolinx board members. I attended the board meeting along with other members of Move the GTHA, a collaborative whose goal is to heighten public awareness of regional transportation funding issues.  Members of Move the GTHA received “shout-outs” during the meeting — including CivicAction, Evergreen, and the Toronto Region Board of Trade — for their critical efforts to lead and support public engagement on this topic.

The Metrolinx report identifies four revenue streams – a 1% sales tax increase, a 5¢/ litre increase in gas taxes, a 25¢/day/non-residential parking space fee, and a 15% increase in development charges – as well as ways to offset many of the public concerns that arose during the consultation period. For example, Metrolinx proposed a trust fund to ensure that funds raised are not mixed in with general revenue, and a mobility tax credit to shield those least able to pay the increased taxes.

While the Metrolinx Investment Strategy report is a very important milestone, it also feels like a race to the starting line. We have quite a long way to go towards building public acceptance of the need for new revenue sources – to the tune of $477/year on average – to fund adequate public transportation in the GTHA. But, while the proposed actions come at significant costs, the cost of doing nothing is far greater in terms of reduced regional prosperity and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Later on Monday, Metrolinx’s Leslie Woo identified the need to integrate active transportation amenities into all new public-transit infrastructure projects at the Complete Streets Forum. The Metrolinx Investment Strategy recommends a modest percentage (approximately 1.25%) of overall funding be used for non-transit mobility initiatives, including walking and cycling infrastructure. There is a real need to gain a clearer understanding of how this funding will work. For insights on this, check out Nancy Smith Lea’s recent article in the Toronto Star.