But Toronto region residents are divided on the best way to pay and how much; up to 57% told Forum Research they would pay a “modest annual household fee.”
Six out of 10 Toronto area residents believe that building more public transit is the route to reducing regional traffic congestion. But their preferences on how to pay and how much they’re willing to contribute vary dramatically, according to a new poll from Forum Research.
The survey of 1,750 residents, believed to be among the largest studies of transit issues in the Toronto region, shows that many residents are persuaded they will have to pay something toward transit expansion. Results based on the total sample are considered accurate plus or minus 2%, 19 times out of 20.
Sixty-six per cent of respondents said they would pay an additional 10 cents on their transit fare as long as the money was dedicated to reducing the commuting time that saps family life and leisure.
Even among those earning $20,000 per year or less, half said they would pay the extra fare.
Up to 57 per cent of respondents indicated some willingness to pay a “modest annual household fee” if it were dedicated to solving the gridlock that sees the average commuter in the region spending 39 minutes round-trip each day travelling to work or school.
The exception is Scarborough, where it’s 49 minutes.
It’s not clear how far that would go to raising the $2 billion per year that’s being prescribed for regional transit expansion.
Eighteen per cent said they would be willing to pay $5 or less annually in a household fee; 38 per cent would pay between $10 and $50 and, 15 per cent would pay $50 to $100.
Asked what kind of transportation they want, 35 per cent favoured subways, compared with 17 per cent who wanted LRTs. Among respondents inside Toronto, 43 per cent prefer subways. Only 9 per cent of respondents wanted more GO service, and 10 per cent preferred more local bus service in the region.
“People want subways. They’re not seeing (LRT) as a suitable alternative,” said Forum president Lorne Bozinoff.
Scarborough residents, who commute 10 minutes longer on average, may not see LRT as the technology that will save them that time, he said.
In many cases, the research shows drivers understand that transit also helps their commute by taking cars off the road, and they are as willing to pay toward transit expansion as those who ride transit.
Half of respondents agreed that the cost of transportation improvements should be borne equally between the city and the region.
“For the most part, city dwellers and suburbanites want the same thing — effective transit to reduce gridlock — and they are willing pay something for it. In fact, that willingness is more common to the outer suburbs around Toronto than it is to the suburbs in the city,” Bozinoff said.
Some 42 per cent of poll respondents said they would be willing to pay a 5-cent/km toll on the Gardiner Expressway if the money went to a downtown relief line. That option was more popular among Torontonians (45 per cent) than regional commuters (38 per cent), who would be more likely to drive on the Gardiner.
“What they like is a set amount for a set goal. Everything else is airy-fairy,” said Bozinoff, adding that people relate to individual projects.
The Forum poll comes as Metrolinx, Toronto and surrounding municipalities are consulting with residents about how to pay for the Big Move regional transportation plan. The public is being asked to weigh in on taxes and tolls that could be dedicated to transit as the region prepares to grow in the next 25 years by a population roughly the size of Montreal.
The poll shows about two-thirds of respondents are familiar with Metrolinx. Among those respondents, 80 per cent know the provincial agency is involved in co-ordinating transit in the region. But only 20 per cent of respondents said they were aware of the Big Move.
The findings suggest Metrolinx needs to reconsider its communications strategy, said Bozinoff.
“Most people know what Metrolinx is and what it’s supposed to be doing. They just don’t know what they’re doing now. That means they would have credibility coming forward with a plan. Maybe they needed a catchier name, but there’s been a disconnect between what they’re supposed to be doing and what they are doing,” he said.
The Forum findings are based on an interactive voice response telephone survey of 1,740 adults that took place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.They are considered accurate within 2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
In a Feb. 22 poll of 806 Torontonians, Forum found six out of 10 respondents supported the Downtown Relief Line as the next city transit project, up from 54 per cent last June.
Time and money
4% respondents who never drive downtown
18 extra minutes transit users spend commuting compared to the overall average commute (39 minutes)
35% Conservative supporters who think congestion should be solved by building more roads
18% Liberal and NDP supporters who believe in building more roads
32% Commuters who said they’d pay less than $1 a day to save the 30 extra minutes a commute is expected to take in 25 years, compared with 8% who said they’d pay $10 or more
19% Toronto respondents who don’t travel to work or school
10% 905-area residents who have a 60- to 90-minute commute, vs. 9% in Toronto