In my Urban Compass column this week, I wrote about the need for mayors and councillors across the GTA to step up and get serious about the need to raise new revenues to build transit. To hell with the feeble excuses. We don’t have the luxury of waiting around for a national transit strategy or private sector hand-holding or the results of years-in-the-making studies and consultations that will inevitably recommend more studies and consultations.
Let’s just build some stuff.
Finding the money doesn’t need to be that hard. While everyone else—including me—was busy eulogizing OneCity late last week, the private consortium that owns the 407 highway reported their financial results for the last quarter. Off $188.4 million in revenue, the company netted a crazy $40.9 million in single-quarter profit.
To put that in context, that means that the GTA’s privately-owned toll highway will this year likely generate—in profits, mind you—three times as much as Toronto’s much-maligned vehicle registration fee ever did. It’ll bring in twice the cash that the Toronto Parking Authority brings in. And if revenues keep going up, it could end up rivalling Toronto’s Land Transfer Tax as a money-maker.
Some back-of-the-envelope number crunching that compares the 407′s profit numbers to the revenue-generating scheme at the heart of the OneCity transit plan makes an even stronger point. If there were five highways operating and performing just like the 407 in the GTA, governments could, over 30 years, raise the $30 billion needed to build all the transit routes proposed in the OneCity plan solely via road toll profits.
This proves a couple of things. First, selling the 407 to a private company was the sucker move to end all sucker moves. And second, finding revenue to build the transit we need is achievable. While it’s unlikely that we’ll see 407-style tolls slapped on every 400-series highway, moderate tolls on a few routes coupled with other revenue tools gets you to $30 billion all the same.
And then we can finally stop talking and start doing.