Transit, infrastructure the top issues in Toronto, poll says

Watch above: Half of Torontonians would be willing to pay more for transit. Alan Carter reports. 

TORONTO  – The daily commute, in one way or another, is the top issue this election, according to an Ipsos Reid poll done exclusively for Global News.

Thirty-one per cent of Torontonians said public transit was the most important issue facing the city, and another 15 per cent said the most significant issue was infrastructure like roads and bridges.

Forty-four per cent of the 1,292 respondents said they used public transit to get to work. Forty-nine per cent said they drove.

All three candidates have spent the majority of time arguing about whose transit plan is best – John Tory’s SmartTrack plan, Doug Ford’s promise of 32 km of subways, or Olivia Chow’s increase in bus service and a relief line.

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Public transit was also the top issue across all five areas of Toronto – Etobicoke, North York, downtown Toronto, East York and Scarborough – but to a far lesser extent in Ford Nation territory.

READ MORE: 90% say life in Toronto is increasingly difficult for average people

In Etobicoke, only 20 per cent of people said public transit was the number on issue – just one per cent above road infrastructure and five per cent above taxes.

“What everybody agrees on is it’s getting harder to get around in this town and that it’s been getting worse over time,” Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs aid. “People are been reporting that they’re spending a lot of time just getting around in this city, and they want to see some sort of solution but when you actually come down to what the solution is there really doesn’t seem to be a consensus on that point.”

Gridlock is a major economic issue in the city as well. Metrolinx has cited the economic impact of gridlock at $6 billion annually. But that’s a conservative number: the C.D. Howe institute said in 2013 the number was closer to $11 billion.

READ MORE: Half of Torontonians willing to pay more to spend less time on TTC

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Your commute is just getting longer

It’s not getting any better either. Only 2 per cent of Torontonians polled by Ipsos-Reid said their commute got shorter over the last four years. Fifty-seven per cent said their daily commute got longer and 41 per cent said there was no change.

The Ipsos Reid poll also concluded exactly half of Torontonians are willing to pay more for transit. The other half, aren’t willing to spend another dime.

Bricker said the simple part of fixing gridlock is admitting there’s a problem, what politicians can’t do is get people to trust them with their money.

“What its showing is the lack of belief that the people who are being entrusted with this money or these plans can actually make the situation better,” he said.

So what do the candidates say?

While half of Torontonians polled say they’d be willing to pay more for a faster commute – two of the three candidates said they can bring relief without having to pay for it.

Doug Ford, who remained adamant that people in Toronto want nothing but subways, said Tuesday he can build them without raising taxes.

“We know for a fact through our polling that people do not want LRTs, they want subways,” he said.  “I’m not in favour of road tolls, what I’m in favour of, is finding efficiencies. I’ve shown nine ways of paying without raising taxes.”

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READ MORE: Poll shows Scarborough residents feel neglected by local government

John Tory said his SmartTrack plan will be built in seven years through Tax Increment Financing – a controversial plan that borrows from future development.

He said taxpayers will contribute – but through provincial and federal dollars.

“I think it’s one of the most appropriate uses for tax dollars to invest in transit and it’s one of the reasons why the federal government and provincial governments to contribute and I’ll be convincing them to do that,” Tory said.

Olivia Chow is the only candidate admitting she will increase taxes to pay for transit. She’s not however willing to raise them across the board. Instead, she says she will increase the land transfer tax by one percentage point on homes worth more than $2 million.

“With that amount we can start building the downtown subway relief line which is the TTC’s top priority,” Chow said. “You can’t get something for nothing. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

With files from Alan Carter

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Ipsos surveyed 1,252 Torontonians on Global News’s behalf via an online panel between September 22 and 25. The survey is reliable within +/- 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The data, summaries and commentary in exclusive Global News / Ipsos Reid polling are subject to copyright. The data, summaries and commentary may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper attribution to both Global News and Ipsos Reid in all web articles, on social media, in radio broadcasts and with an on-screen credit for television.

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