Commute too long? Ditch the car and pay more for transit

Watch above: Why Etobicoke residents commute by car more than anywhere else in Toronto. Alan Carter reports. 

TORONTO – It isn’t just you: You really are spending longer getting to and from work. And that commute time’s lengthened since Rob Ford was elected mayor.

More than 80 per cent of those surveyed for an Ipsos Reid poll done exclusively for Global News spend at least half an hour a day commuting. Forty-seven per cent spend between 30 and 60 minutes; 39 per cent spend more than an hour going to and from work.

Just 14 per cent of Torontonians spend less than half an hour commuting daily.

According to the same Ipsos Reid poll 57 per cent of Torontonians said their commute has got longer since 2010. Forty-one per cent said it hasn’t changed and only 2 per cent said it got shorter.

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Eric Miller, a civil engineering professor at the University of Toronto’s Transportation Research Institute, said years of under-investment in transit have created a slow and unreliable transit system. To avoid that, people – especially in transit-starved Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough – buy cars.

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

“That just puts cars on the street, increases congestion and slows the cars down,” Miller said. “So the cars are not a good solution, but the cars are even slowing the buses down even more.”

When postwar planners laid the blueprint for what are now Toronto’s inner suburbs, Miller said, they assumed people would drive to and from wherever they needed to go.

“Transit has to be the solution and we have to have better transit to have better balance and attract some people back to transit. But, a) We are not willing to spend the money; and, b) the way we built the city, it’s going to make it tough to do.”

WATCH: (Tue, Oct 14) Half of Torontonians would pay higher taxes for a shorter commute time

Congestion costs the city between $6 billion and $11 billion a year in economic losses, according to Metrolinx and the C.D. Howe Institute, respectively; but, as Global News has reported, only half of Torontonians say they’re actually willing to pay more to expand or improve transit.

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

Taxes and tolls are still a dirty word.

“I think you can see steady pressure from people saying they want to do something. People know at the end of the day that they are going to have to pay for it,” Ipsos Public Affairs CEO Darrell Bricker said. “But the bigger issue they are dealing with is if the government has credibility to implement that kind of tax change or that kind of a toll change and use that money to solve the problems that need to be solved.”

Even Kathleen Wynne, who said last year the province needs an “adult conversaion” on paying for transit, ignored the taxes and tolls recommended by two consecutive expert panels. The transit plan her party ran on in June relies on new debt and cash from taxes on tobacco, jet fuel and the super-rich.

All three of Toronto’s mayoral candidates want to build more transit. But none is willing to hike property taxes to do so – even though city council just handed taxpayers a billion-dollar bill for a transit project the city could have gotten for free. 

John Tory wants to borrow money in the hopes the city’s future revenue will grow enough to cover the debt. Doug Ford says the money will come from somewhere but hasn’t said where. Olivia Chow wants to use money saved by reverting the Scarborough subway to the original provincially funded light rail line – that money comes from a multi-year tax hike council has already passed.

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With files from Alan Carter

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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