A diverse coalition of health agencies, universities, environmental groups and members of the business community sent a letter to Ontario politicians this morning, urging them to support grand plans for improving transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
The timing couldn't be more critical. This past year, Toronto and its suburbs slipped past Chicago as the 4th largest city in North America. Despite explosive population growth in recent years — adding about 100,000 newcomers per year — decades of underinvestment in transit has left the region with an inadequate transportation network.
This failure to address transit infrastructure is literally strangling the region.
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Residents throughout the region spend more time battling congestion everyday, in mind-numbing traffic jams and in over-crowded buses and subways, than in any other city in North America.
The Toronto Board of Trade estimates that congestion costs the economy $6 billion each year in lost productivity. Furthermore, air pollution from traffic is estimated to cause 440 premature deaths, 1,700 hospitalizations and about 68,000 asthma-symptom days a year, according to the Toronto Board of Health.
Thankfully, Ontario's ambitious $34 billion "Big Move" plan would greatly expand transit infrastructure across the region, including new light rail, rapid buses, subway lines, and cycling and pedestrian improvements.
The regional transit authority, MetroLinx, has backed up the plan with a balanced and fair proposal to raise the revenue needed to propel the Big Move — including a modest increase in the regional sales tax, the gas tax and other revenue tools.
Vancouver, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and New York City have consistently ranked among the most livable cities in North America, in part because they have world-class public transit systems that move residents in a safe, affordable and sustainable way. It's time for Toronto and its suburbs to do the same.
Effective transit and transportation solutions can spur economic productivity, protect the environment and improve quality of life.
You can join the conversation for sustainable transit and transportation solutions on Twitter at #movethegtha.