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Congestion in Toronto is costing taxpayers billions each year

TORONTO – Time is money, and when you’re talking about how much is spent trapped in gridlock, the price tag is around $6 billion for the GTA.

“This is an astronomical sum that takes into account lost wages and lost time and also the cost of fuel,” says Matti Siemiatycki, associate professor of geography and urban planning at the University of Toronto.

The C.D. Howe Institute says the social cost which climbs when families and residents forego social activities could be closer to $11 billion.

“This Summer there was a lot of talk about how congestion was impacting fans travelling to games and attending live events. There was talk [they] were not going because of all the traffic and congestion on the roads,” Siemiatycki said.

Tuesday’s DVP shut down had a large blast radius that clogged neighbouring areas as vehicles weaved in and out of side streets looking for alternate routes. Shops along Bayview Avenue were among the casualties as customers cancelled appointments.

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Allison Ng, a manager at baby boutique Moms To Be… and More, was taking phone orders because customers were scarce.

“We had stroller maintenance appointments and they all cancelled because they couldn’t get here. After 6:00 p.m. we can’t take them,” she said.

READ MORE: Why it took so long to reopen the DVP after Tuesday’s crash

The real risk is when traffic events like this happen more regularly, according to Siemiatycki.

“As we start to see these events repeating and becoming much more for frequent then the cost really starts to add up: businesses may start to make different decisions about where they will locate and whether they want to even locate in this region,” Siemiatycki said.

The fallout would be jobs and economic growth.

Toronto has the highest commute time to work in the country: 32.8 minutes, according to Statistics Canada. The Canadian average is 25.4 minutes. Toronto and the GTA has lost a generation of transit investment according to experts, and now it’s taking its toll.

“We haven’t kept pace with the need and growth in this region, and so what you’re seeing is that these individual corridors are becoming extremely important, and there’s not an alternative for people,” said Siemiatycki.

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If the situation is not addressed, the price tag for congestion could balloon by 2031 – more than doubling to around $15 billion according to the Deputy Mayor’s Round Table on Gridlock & Traffic Congestion