The Time is Right: The Congestion Charge

Last week I wondered at the possibility of a congestion charge. It’s an instant tax that would be levied against private drivers entering the centre of cluttered Canadian cities. It’s been practiced in London England since 2003 – a daring experiment and surprising success.

But here? It’s probably pie in the sky – although it’s sad to remember that Canada used to lead the world in innovative civic thinking.

However, this past Thursday something interesting happened.

Toronto’s Mayor David Miller announced a decision not to run for a third term. Suddenly, the closest thing Canada has to London’s erstwhile Dear Leader, Red Ken Livingstone, has fourteen months of power remaining to do pretty much whatever he wants with few if any repercussions. Wouldn’t it be ideal for him to blow all the political capital he no longer needs on a suicide mission like Canada’s first congestion charge?

Of course! There’d be extra money flowing in for enhancements to public transit and repairs to roads so heinous, you’d swear you were in a former Soviet satellite.

One problem. Municipalities are the high school student council of Canadian government: pets of the province. The mayor can’t institute a congestion charge because it’s within the purview of the province. Not their city but, alas, their call.

Wait a minute! It gets more interesting.

Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure ‘Furious George’ Smitherman, who does have the power to implement the charge, has very nearly declared his intentions to replace Mayor Miller next year. Would he dare institute the charge while still in provincial politics? Probably not. It could be a huge success but it could also fail miserably. Either way, it’s a huge risk he’s not likely to take in this transitional state.

Still, when you spend half your life stuck in traffic, you’re left with plenty of time to dream.

This is not meant to be a Toronto article – city traffic is a universal issue. What do you readers from Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary think? Has driving become slower than walking? And does the idea of congestion charge sound ridiculous to you?

Image courtesy of pchwheat.

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1 thought on “The Time is Right: The Congestion Charge

  1. Are you out of your mind?!?!?!

    We motorists pay enough in taxes and fees to use the roads! In case you have forgotten, we pay the gasoline tax ($4 billion per year collected), renewal fees for licenses and plate stickers, drive clean, 5% tax on insurance premiums, the $60 miller tax. You want us to pay more?!?!? If you like paying so much, then why don’t you move to London, England and pay the fees over there and stop feeding such idiotic ideas to our already greedy politicians!

    One more thing, I am sick of subsidizing transit for those who cannot afford a car!

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