There is general agreement that both in Canada and the United States, the infra-structure for public transit is a mess – deteriorating, decaying, dangerous. There is no argument that it needs to be fixed. The problem is the cost? Where will the money – probably billions of dollars- come from?
Montreal’s city government thinks it has the answer. Road tolls. The plan would require vehicles coming toward the city to pay a toll of about $3 (except in evenings and on weekends). The tolls would bring in up to $450 million per year and this money would all go toward improving public transit in Montreal and throughout the region.
By discouraging people from driving, these electronic tolls would also have the effect of reducing smog and greenhouse gases and making traffic more fluid.
This would work with cameras taking pictures of license plates, and then billing the vehicle’s owners by mail.
Some polls show wide public support for such tolls so long as the money goes to transit.
Some critics point out that this whole plan will have a negative effect on Montreal because it will discourage some people from coming into the city for business or entertainment.
Which is why some critics want instead to ask the Quebec government to increase the special transit tax on gas, which hasn’t changed since it was introduced in 1996, when gas cost 61.8 cents a gallon (now $1.40) This higher tax would be dedicated to public transit.
Interestingly, just a week ago a bill passed one of two legislative chambers in California that would allow transit authorities of Los Angeles County to ask voters to impose a tax of nine cents per gallon on gas. Two-thirds of the revenue would go to public transit. As an add-on to existing taxes, the tax would require no fancy new equipment, no new bureaucracy, no head aches. Although tax prices are high enough as it is, in both Canada and the U.S we pay far less for gas than Britain or Europe.
One Montreal city official said if anyone can come up with something better than tolls, he’d be happy to support it.
Would you support road tolls for your region?
Would you prefer a new tax on gas to be dedicated to the improvement of public transit?
Is there some other way to go?