Category: Transportation

We can’t rely on the gas tax anymore

Ok I wasn't the only one that said it. Overnight, global markets tanked in reaction to falling gas prices, which affected the North American exchanges and prompted a briefly halt to trading moments after the markets opened this morning.

It is now time to revisit this need to rely on oil.

In 2009, as a green planner, I read Jeff Rubin's book Why Your World is About to Get Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization. In 2012, he wrote a second book, The End of Growth. While it has been a while since I read both books, his wild predictions were interesting. He wrote them during a time when global gas prices were astronomical.

People will not just abandon their cars en masse, but they will use them less and less. If I have to drive to work, I might not be able to afford to use my car anywhere else when the cost of filling the tank is going to run north of $100. And for some 10 million Americans or so, the cost of driving will rise so high that they really will have to get off the road. As people start to park their cars for longer and longer periods, they will increasingly want to get on the subway or LRT. And when they do, the legacy of North America’s past transportation choices will come back to haunt the continent.

Excerpt from Why Your World is About to Get Smaller

The opposite has happened!

Senior governments saw an opportunity to close the gap on already decreasing transit funding by introducing gas taxes. The Canadian and American governments pegged the dollar to the price of oil. Now that peak oil has come and gone, it is time to rethink how public transit is funded.

Over the course of the last year, there have been several shocks to the oil markets - 2 times in a month alone gas prices have been below $1 a litre. Psychologically, drivers will naturally line up at gas stations to take advantage of these low prices. Many will abandon transit in the short term. But change must occur.

Road pricing, when proposed, has literally been deemed political suicide. While for over a decade, London has had cordon pricing in their downtown core. New York City has proposed one for Manhattan, but now New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that the Trump government is holding it back based on technicalities with FHA funding.

The Federal Highway Administration can derail congestion pricing because federal law prohibits the installation of tolls on roads built with federal money — and some of the streets inside the toll cordon, Manhattan south of 61st Street, minus the FDR Drive or West Side Highway, are part of the National Highway System.

Streetsblog February 11, 2020

Late last year, the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario published a report "Ontario's Downward Trend for Fuel Tax Revenue: Will Road Pricing Fill The Gap?" In the report, the points emanated from their analysis:

  1. The growth of fuel-efficient and hybrid vehicles will rise.
  2. Behavioural and technological shifts will result in decreasing gas tax revenues even though congestion will remain constant.
  3. The Province should implement dynamic pricing and parking levies, especially in larger municipalities.

In 2015, the Canadian Urban Transit Association put out an Alternative Funding Report, but did not insofar, make any recommendations on the best way to fund transit.

It's not the first time these were proposed. Metrolinx, in 2013, released its investment strategy, years after their first Regional Transportation Plan - The Big Move. There were public consultations throughout the region to garner support for their proposal. Seeing waning support especially in the GTA suburbs, the Liberals kiboshed the plan and the results of the public consultation were scrapped from their website.

In 2018, when Toronto mayor John Tory proposed tolling the Gardiner Expressway to fund transit, GTA politicians cried wolf. The Provincial Liberals panicked and nixed the idea. They lost the election.

Just like this Streetsblog article proposes, it is time for Canadian transit agencies a wage an aggressive campaign and take advantage of the falling gas prices. This has to include, parking levies and congestion pricing as the RCCAO proposes. Also it is time for a carefully administered and equitable regional sales tax, like in California's cities, to fund major transit projects, purchase more buses and to fund operations.

While Jeff Rubin was partially right with his predictions, we both told you so.

The State of Transit Leadership: The Need to Address Social Equity

In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.

Albert Einstein

Shout out to an old colleague Mikel Oglesby who previous was Sunline Transit's CEO and where I attended my one and only State of Transit address several years ago.

As a kid who resided in Lawrence Heights in social housing and in a co-op , transit was a8 way of life. My parents never owned a car. Nevertheless, I was enamoured by the whole experience. The bus drivers on the Ranee 109 or Lawrence 52 were my friends, even though I never knew their names.

I looked forward to every TTC map release and would ask the collector manning the booth for a copy. Sometimes multiple times if there weren't any copies. I always viewed the TTC as an organization I wanted to work for.

I never viewed public transit as a status symbol and always played down the terms choice rider or captive rider.

Transit, to me was about a career with ties to community building and social equity. So when I saw TTC's recent campaign wrapped in messaging, it was the wrong tone to send to their customers.

Image via Sean Marshall

John Lorinc's Spacing article "Just Who is the Face of the TTC These Days?" highlighted the leadership vacuum that exists. There is clearly a stark difference between Andy Byford, who recently resigned as New York City's Transit President after a two-year stint, and the current TTC CEO Rick Leary. Case in point, as Lorinc mentions, Leary was incognito after the second subway derailment this year. In addition, .

Transit providers should treat all individuals with dignity and respect, one of the key points noted in a 2018 APTA leadership presentation on social responsibility. There is also strategic and technical leadership. For example, while transit service standards have evolved over time, including King County where they include social equity measures, Canadian transit agencies do not incorporate them service standards.

It was a mere 3 years ago that the TTC was awarded the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) Outstanding Public Transportation System. Oh have times changed.

The state of transit leadership thus far in 2020 is bleak at best. Andy Byford was a prime example of one who went out of his way to be publicly present and defend transit during some their trying times. The City and region is devoid of leadership and willingness to take risks.

It can only get better from here.

Adding Social Equity to Transit Metrics and Programs

Image via Toronto Transport Guy Flickr

Social equity was not taught in urban planning school back in day and has not been reflected in the planning, and let alone in the transit profession. All the while, I began to observe through readings and lived experiences. It is something that has frustrated me for quite some time.

Shin-pei Tsay was on the latest TransLoc Movement podcast episode where she recanted her lived experience growing up and what she visualized within the transportation world and in public spaces. One point with the podcast triggered my thoughts. While social metrics have not been part of the discussion regarding metrics, I look to the evaluation of transit projects and moreover performance metrics. In the transit world, these are service standards and guidelines.

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Shared Mobility in the Suburbs: An Opportunity Lies Ahead

While waiting for the bus last week, I noticed a man and his scooter is south on Chingaucousy.  It gave me the impetus to write this post.

They're popular in Europe, but could they flourish in North American cities and suburbs?

Ridehailing and single occupancy vehicles dominate in my neighbourhood as opposed to transit, walking and cycling. It begs the question of whether micromobility can add to the transportation equation and succeed in the suburbs?

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The transformation of conventional transit is coming

bird
Image courtesy of the City of Santa Monica
David Pickeral, a consultant, posted a LinkedIn message that caught my attention. Within his message was a link to American Public Transportation Association (APTA) statistics which showed a 2% decline from the previous year in United States transit system ridership. There was a 6% increase for Canadian systems, but should still ring some alarm bells on both sides of the border. Why the difference? More people are using new mobility options in American cities because there are quite a few more options. Dan Sperling predicts that new mobility will have more ridership than conventional transit. Read More

Reason for Optimism?

government Watching the social media commentary during and after the announcement of the $28.5 billion provincially-funded portion of the Toronto transit plan, there was plenty of pessimism and skepticism all around.  I am going to try to be a bit of an optimist. There is plenty to discuss regarding the "Ontario Line" and the subway and Eglinton Crosstown LRT extensions.  I'm just tired of talking about the extensions because that has been debated to death. Read More

Talk about funding transit with one voice

While I partially agree with this tweet by "urbanist" Adam Chaleff (a term I absolutely detest by the way), it set me off. The article Chaleff referred to was about finding innovative ways to fund the Waterfront East LRT according to Mark Romoff.  Romoff included a land value capture model that is being used to revitalize Mimico GO Station and leveraging the use of the Canada Infrastructure Bank.  The latter is an idea that I fully supported, and so did Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.  Critics have stated infrastructure banks similar to ones in Chicago and Los Angeles, have gotten off to slow starts.  One of the reasons is that we tend to work in silos. Read More

Missed Connections

Several days ago, I was asked for my thoughts on transit amalgamation from a couple of seasoned veterans in the urban space.  This was in light of Thursday's Institute of Municipal Finance and Governance talk on transit regional governance with Joe Berridge, Trisha Wood and Michael Schabas and The Agenda's panel discussion the night before. While I agree that transit governance and funding are discussions well worth having now, the significance of the end user, aka the passenger has been missing.  I'm not just talking about affordability, mobility or accessibility.  It is about the passenger experience.

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A systems approach to regional transit governance

Regional transit governance has been in the news within the last year and it is my time to chime in. It has been over a year since The Toronto Board of Trade released a proposal on the formation of a new regional transit agency loosely defined as Superlinx. The paper outlines a regional transit governance structure with boundaries in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) rather than the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Now that GO Transit commuter bus and rail extends to Niagara, Waterloo and Kawartha Lakes Regions, it only makes sense to have a new governance structure defined as such.

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