Only 30% of Torontonians approve of the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s transit tax plan, Forum poll finds.
Toronto business and civic leaders anxious to stem a mounting congestion crisis in the region say the public has never been more ready to accept new taxes to fund transit.
But a poll from Forum Research shows more than half — 52 per cent — of Torontonians responding disapprove of the taxes and tolls proposed Monday by the Toronto Region Board of Trade to pay for a $50 billion regional transit expansion.
Less than one-third of the 1,045 poll respondents approved of the revenue tools. Nineteen per cent said they weren’t sure.
People may need to better understand the benefits of expanding transit if the public is expected to accept more taxes, said Forum president Lorne Bozinoff.
“I think the specific benefits need to be better defined — what exactly do we get for these levies?” he said. Approval, he added, varied most significantly among those who drive and those who take transit.
“This is mainly a tax on drivers to pay for public transit without convincing drivers that this plan would get cars off the road,” Bozinoff said.
While 36 per cent of transit users said they approved of the taxes, only 23 per cent of drivers felt the same.
Respondents were asked whether they approved of a transit funding plan that includes a 1 per cent regional sales tax; a $1 per space parking levy; a 10-cents/litre regional gas tax and a toll of 30 cents/kilometre to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes while driving solo.
Those numbers were used by the board of trade to show how the taxes and tolls could raise between $2 billion and $4 billion taxes and tolls could raise between $2 billion and $4 billion annually across the region. The board did not endorse any specific prices or mix of its preferred options.
Only 23 per cent of North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke residents, on average, approved of the tax proposal, compared with 45 per cent of those in downtown and East York.
Did asking about the taxes as a bundle rather than individually lower respondents’ approval levels?
While some of the taxes and road tolls might have drawn higher approval if presented as an individual option, others could have polled lower, said Bozinoff.
The Forum poll did not ask for the opinions of GTA residents living outside Toronto. But two regional commuters who spoke to the Star were incensed at the idea of paying more for transit.
“I pay enough as it is,” said Burlington commuter Jayson Coffield, 39, who takes GO and the TTC to his downtown job. Fares continue to climb while TTC service “is horrendous,” he said.
“I struggle with how pathetic the subway system is in Toronto compared with other major cities. If you look at other systems, there’s more routes, less dependency on streetcars,” said Coffield.
Whitby commuter Steve Kee, who teaches college in the west end, prefers the GO train to driving, but says the fares are high.
“The whole idea of public transit is to take some pressure off driving, so you do one of two things: You either make the tolls so high that you don’t want to drive and you have to take transit. (Or) maybe you reduce transit costs to encourage people not to take their cars,” he said.
Forum’s Interactive Voice Response poll was conducted Tuesday, a day after the board of trade released its report. The poll results are considered accurate within 3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Transit tax acceptance
36% Transit users who approve of the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s recommended tax tools that would be dedicated to transit
17% Percentage of Rob Ford voters who approve (11% “don’t know”)
15% Percentage of PC supporters who approve (9% “don’t know”)
37% Percentage of Liberal supporters who approve (19% “don’t know”)
32% Percentage of NDP supporters who approve (24% “don’t know”)
41% Percentage of respondents aged 18-34 who disapprove of the transit taxes, compared with 59% aged 55 to 64 who disapprove.