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Transport minister cancels federal road toll study
The federal transportation minister has cancelled a study on the role road tolls might play in reducing urban pollution and congestion, as well as raising funds for public transportation.
The Transport Canada study would have examined "how pricing can be used as a tool to induce greater efficiency and sustainability in urban transportation," according to a funding request document.
The document says that the effectiveness of road tolls and other fees, such as parking and fuel taxes, have not yet been studied in Canada.
"A better understanding of urban transportation pricing in Canada will prove invaluable to cities, provinces, and other stakeholders in the formulation and implementation of more sustainable transportation practices."
Six Canadian cities were to be included in the study: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton.
Road tolls have been used to great effect in a number of cities around the world, including London, Singapore, Milan and Stockholm, to raise funds for public transportation initiatives and reduce congestion.
In London, a toll of eight pounds (C$15) to enter the city centre has led to a 30 per cent drop in traffic.
According to the city of London website, all net revenue collected in the first 10 years of the so-called congestion charge must be invested in public transportation.
City figures indicate that more than C$230 million was raised in the fiscal year 2006-2007 for transit improvement.
Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon called off the Canadian study after he first learned it was going forward by reading a story in Saturday's Globe and Mail, CTV's Robert Fife said in a Saturday appearance on Newsnet.
Cannon had not given the ok for the study and may have scrapped it in fear of alienating suburban voters, many of whom commute to work and would not appreciate road tolls, Fife said.
"The government feeling, I guess, during an election campaign is that the last thing they want to do is anger urban commuters who might be concerned about paying tolls on bridges going across to Vancouver or increase parking levels in downtown Toronto and Montreal," Fife said Saturday. "So he cancelled it immediately and that's the end of the study."
Environmental issues and initiatives such as a proposed carbon tax are expected to be key talking points in the upcoming federal election.
Earlier this year, an independent panel that reviewed Toronto's finances suggested the city could receive a portion of tolls if they were implemented on the 400-series highways.
However, Mayor David Miller has expressed hesitation at the prospect of introducing tolls to Toronto roadways.
Vancouver is planning to establish a new toll bridge into the city and Montreal is also considering toll roads.
However, the issue of tolls and congestion charges raises a key issue: commuters will no doubt resent any new fee they will be forced to pay if they have inadequate public transportation alternatives.