New study finds Toronto-area drivers would pay to expand rapid transit and beat gridlock

April 21, 2012 – TORONTO – Drivers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are willing to pay for alternatives to commuting on congested roads five days a week, according to a new transportation study released by the Pembina Institute.

The study includes a survey of drivers in the GTA who face a daily commute of at least 30 minutes each way. The detailed online survey, conducted by Environics, found strong support among drivers for alternatives to the daily commute, such as expanding rapid transit to suburban communities.

While well over half of the drivers surveyed were willing to pay a road toll, sales tax or parking fee, 69 per cent said they would be more supportive if they knew the funds would go directly to expanding rapid transit in the region. The survey also found that drivers would choose rapid transit or telecommuting if those options existed, and would leave the car at home if they could purchase car insurance on a pay-as-you-drive basis.

“For many drivers in the Toronto area, there is no reasonable alternative to commuting to work by car,” said Cherise Burda, report author and director of the Pembina Institute’s transportation program. “This survey shows there is very strong support among drivers for road tolls and other user fees, as long as those funds are used to build or expand rapid transit options in areas where people currently have no choice but to drive.”

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • 70 per cent of drivers drive to work five days a week, and two-thirds experience some level of stress during their commute.
  • Two-thirds say commuting takes away from their quality of life, in terms of family and personal time.
  • Among drivers who could do their jobs by telecommuting (working from home), 94 per cent said they would be interested in this option.
  • Two-thirds would likely try pay-as-you-drive auto insurance if it were available, and 85 per cent of those would change their commuting habits to find some other way to get to work if they had it.
  • 70 per cent of drivers surveyed were more willing to pay a user fee on a highway or road if they could see the results in the form of new rapid transit built in the GTA.
  • Roughly 68 per cent of drivers in the GTA would be interested in taking either a subway or light-rail transit (LRT) if it were built along their route. More than 40 per cent said they would be very interested in those options.

The survey is part of a larger Pembina Institute report, Drivers’ Choice: Options to manage gridlock and fund rapid transit in the GTA, that examines best practices from other urban regions and considers how the options supported by drivers in the survey could be implemented in the GTA.

“Unlike other surveys that have asked the general public about their attitudes toward tough policies like road tolls that are known to reduce gridlock, we wanted to get the perspective of drivers who have to battle traffic every day,” Burda said. “We learned that drivers are willing to pay for solutions that will benefit everyone in the region – as long as these are fair, transparent and dedicated to building rapid transit and delivering real and attractive alternatives to the daily commute.”

About Pembina

The Pembina Institute is a Canadian non-profit think tank that advances sustainable energy solutions through research, education, consulting and advocacy. We promote environmental, social and economic sustainability in the public interest by developing practical solutions for communities, individuals, governments and businesses. The Pembina Institute provides policy research leadership and education on climate change, energy issues, green economics, energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy, and environmental governance.