Canada's Condominium Magazine
According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, a combination of factors including traffic congestion, overcrowded public transit, and the Land Transfer Tax stand to cost residents millions of dollars. The board reached out to local government officials to inquire about solutions to these growing problems, particularly in regards to mobility issues and traffic congestion.
Traffic Congestion and Transit Issues Abound
Mayor Tory addressed these concerns in a statement, promising to make these issues a top priority. “Everywhere I go in this city, people tell me that traffic and congestion remain their number one issue. That’s why addressing traffic and transit continues to be one of my key priorities.”
Following up with his promises, Tory has launched initiatives which include accelerating road construction projects, cracking down on illegally parked vehicles during rush hour, and improvements regarding road closures. “We’ve moved marathons, coordinated construction projects, and injected a good dose of common sense into the whole process.”
Tory also stated that the main solution to traffic congestion is to provide more transit options. “We’ve made real progress. We have a lot more to do, and I’m focused on finishing the job for the benefit of all residents.”
Rapid population growth and residential development have overwhelmed the city, leaving public transit struggling to keep up. “Anyone who has followed transportation debates in the region has seen a lack of political will to reduce congestion,” said the C.D. Howe Institute in a report presented at the TREB event. “The province quashed Toronto’s plans for road tolls, and politicians can’t decide on where to build new transit.”
Toronto’s Land Transfer Tax to Blame?
According to the C.D. Howe Institute, the Land Transfer Tax may be to blame for worsening traffic congestion. “The tax tends to reduce the moves within a city rather than longer-distance moves or job changes. That means the economic cost to homeowners of transfer taxes is when they have to suffer through growing traffic congestion year after year to get to their same job because they can’t afford to move closer.”
The report also acknowledged that the tax negatively impacts businesses as well as employees and homeowners. “Land transfer taxes exacerbate what we call the hidden economic cost of congestion when people decide to make a trip. The hidden cost of congestion is that workers do not take jobs that are the best fit for them. Companies lose out because the pool of workers they may draw from is shallower than otherwise.”
As the tax is intended to bring in over $800 million in 2018, the city is not likely to relent and forego the tax, despite C.D. Howe research which shows that the cost of lost mobility is equal to roughly 13 per cent of the revenue that the tax generates for Toronto’s coffers.
A proposal by the C.D. Howe Institute recommended the introduction of high occupancy tolling lanes, which would allow drivers to pay for the privilege of driving faster than what is typically permitted on Toronto’s highways.
A vote to begin tolling two local expressways sparked excitement within the Toronto Region Board of Trade, though those hopes were shattered when the proposal was rejected by Premier Kathleen Wynne. “The road tolls got us all fired up,” said Board President and CEO Jan De Silva. “We decided that we’ve got to start thinking boldly.”
The board’s determination to find a solution led to a proposal to form a single, provincial agency called Superlinx, which would oversee all transit planning, construction, operations, and real estate commercialization in the region. The move would eliminate the eleven existing transit authorities, as well as maximize land use for housing, commercial, and public services. The board estimates an annual savings of over $93 million for Toronto, $7.4 million for Hamilton, and $13 million for York Region.
“For the region’s transportation plan to be successful, our primary focus on moving people must expand to include the efficient movement of goods; and until there is collaboration, better data, and policy alignment across all levels of government, congestion will be a major impediment,” said De Silva. “Our products are not reaching their destination on time, which negatively impacts our productivity. If we don’t manage our competitiveness challenges, our economy – like our goods and people – will remain stuck in traffic.”