The reason no congestion tolls will be created for Ottawa roads is that Mayor Jim Watson, if those tolls were enacted, would be the most unpopular person in town.
His Worship really enjoys being popular, being called Uncle Jim and giving party advice.
But every time the toll-ticker ticked on a car travelling downtown, the driver would mutter under his or her breath, “Eww, Jim Watson.”
Some would say it is a tax grab for a city that is $42 million in the hole on its operating budget. In fact it could very well be a tax grab. That would be the only way Watson would approve it.
Watson is already going into the 2018 municipal election with a record of fiscal difficulty. All he needs to complement that is a car toll each morning and evening. A potential opponent could simply say “I don’t support the congestion fee” and that person will be elected in a flash.
A car toll won’t stop residents from driving. That’s better than taking a feeder bus to the Transitway then transferring to the train at Tunney’s Pasture or Blair Road to get downtown. The buses are slushy and dirty this time of year and tranfers in the cold are not welcome. Add a new, extra transfer onto the train and the new line will get old quickly.
Furthermore, buses are hardly fashionable which matters to no end of people who think taking the bus is a step down the social ladder.
Better for the city to intensify in the core to keep people down there after work hours. Put enough places to live downtown and Sparks Street revitalizes all by itself, people walk to work rather than drive, and cars become frills rather than necessities.
Want to get more cars off the road? Build on those parking lots downtown to raise the price of parking. Fewer spots, higher prices.
Finally find a better price point for OC Transpo fares. Now they are priced to cover a proportion of costs. Better to find the price point that maximizes revenue and ridership rather a prescriptive charge that takes the market out of the equation.
An OC Transpo adult cash fare downtown and back is $7.10. For the transfers, waiting, cold or heat and muck, most people are opting to take cars and pay the extra amount for parking beyond the bus fare.
Driving is very enticing. Congestion taxes are unlikely to diminish it and one politician won’t enact that tax if he is running in 2018.
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