Why is it so hard for us to build rail-based transportation? Honestly! Every highway proposal goes through unchecked and unthought of, but every time transit is proposed, it’s like we all of a sudden really need to think whether it’s worth it. “But what’s so great about highways?” some will say. “What’s so great about transit?” others will reply.
Well, I think it’s high time we compare.
Highways are built thanks to federal, provincial and municipal taxes. Their maintenance is assured thanks to these levels of government as well. They are 100% funded by taxes and will forevermore.
Rail and transit projects are built thanks to money begrudgingly given by all levels of government, but here’s the kicker: People actually pay to use them. So while we pay 100% of the annual $3.5 Billion spent on maintaining roads in Canada, 71% of the TTC’s budget is payed for by users. These users are also paying for the roads they don’t use.
So while it costs less to everyone to build and operate, it seems like every time a project is proposed, it’s like pulling teeth. For example, Gatineau’s pitiful Rapibus is refused $30M of additional funding for its last leg . Meanwhile, 200km east, the Turcot interchange is being rebuilt for $1.5B (yes, billion) more than expected and the province just shovels cash upon it.
If we changed our government’s regulations and practices to at least put them on equal footing, it would already be that much better for all of us.
Why this double-standard?
Especially considering that automobile use has been linked to high societal costs through health expenses (See this article from the University of Illinois as an example) and the economic losses due to climate anomalies (see this summer’s drought) and that highways are 100% funded through public funds and make propriety values and taxes plummet in surrounding areas (living near the Gardiner Expressway is not considered an amenity), you’d think that governments would be just a little less hesitant about giving a bit more of the pie to transit, which reduces health costs, stimulates growth and value and is mostly funded through pay-per-use.