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Tolling for a purpose in GTA gets mixed response

TORONTO, Ont. -- A difference of three percentage points separates the opinion of whether highway tolls are a good ...

TORONTO, Ont. — A difference of three percentage points separates the opinion of whether highway tolls are a good measure to ease congestion in the Greater Toronto Area, reported a poll from the Toronto Star.

In a poll conducted by Decima Research on behalf of the Toronto Star, area residents were asked, “Would you support or oppose road tolls if the money were dedicated to solve gridlock?”

Forty-five per cent of respondents said they’d support the idea, with 12% strongly in favour. Forty-two per cent said they’d oppose road tolls, with 19% saying they’d strongly oppose the idea. The remaining respondents either were not sure or declined to answer.

Traffic congestion has become a target for environmental groups, but in the past the general public has largely been opposed to the idea of toll fees. South of the border, highway tolls are still being strongly opposed by the Amercian Trucking Associations (ATA).

During the ATA’s management conference and exhibition in Dallas the association continued its advocacy of a toll-free national highway system; utilizing other fees, like fuel tax, to finance highway improvements.

The ATA concluded that interstate highways are typically the fastest and most efficient routes for freight movement. As well, with truck drivers usually paying higher toll fees than passenger cars, drivers may use secondary roads to avoid fees, which are less optimal for safety and more vulnerable to surface damage.

But Toronto-area residents may not have a choice with the implementation of the province’s new Stronger City of Toronto for a Stronger Ontario Act (City of Toronto Act). Following the arrival of the new city council, the act will grant the municipality the general authority to levy taxes where it deems necessary. Only a handful of areas will be off-limits to the city, such as income or sales tax, payroll tax, and gas tax.

The telephone poll by Decima Research questioned 802 residents between Nov. 3 and 5. Of those who support tolls, 21% suggested dedicated money should be spent on transit, while 8% wanted to see it go to roads and 70% said it should go to a combination of both.

— with files from the Toronto Star

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