Equity Implications of Cordon Pricing in Downtown Toronto
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The City of Toronto has done much to reduce congestion through transportation system management and travel demand measures. Yet, while measures to eliminate the traffic congestion problem have been necessary, they simply have not been sufficient to accommodate over 2.5 million residents and the many more who find their way into the area from points beyond particularly from other regions in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In addition, the transportation improvements certainly do not provide capacity adequate to address the needs of the future predicted residents and added economic activity. Congestion pricing is an untapped transportation strategy that can reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and raise the revenue essential to implement needed transportation measures that are effective in improving transportation services and facilities. While experience with congestion pricing is limited, there are sufficient examples and experiences around the world to demonstrate that, when implemented properly, it virtually never fails to be an effective tool to curb congestion. Yet, when initially proposed, it never fails to be controversial. This is due in part to the lack of research on the equity impacts on different socio-economic groups. This is the dichotomy and the dilemma of congestion pricing that every city must face in seeking this new approach to congestion management. The main goal of the research is to provide empirical research that enhances our understanding of the equity implications of cordon pricing for the urban region of Toronto, Canada. Three research objectives are identified to address the research goal. The first objective is to examine the ways that the GTA is moving toward or away the principles of sustainable transportation, and thus to make a case that Downtown Toronto is a candidate for cordon pricing. The second objective is to investigate if particular socio-economic groups would be disproportionately affected by the implementation of cordon pricing in Downtown Toronto, as one way of approaching the equity dimensions of such a policy. The third objective is to explore some of the policy aspects associated with implementing cordon pricing in Toronto, including public perceptions of such a policy as well as probable responses to the policy. The major findings of this analysis are that the GTA is not moving in the direction of sustainable transportation, which provides a concrete justification for demand-management interventions and that Downtown Toronto is a candidate for cordon pricing. A Downtown Toronto cordon pricing scheme would be progressive in its effects on the various socio-economic groups, and that the progressivity holds up even when travel is disaggregated by demographic factors such as age, gender, household size and occupational category. Full-time workers account for a larger proportion of the affected trips and the percentage of trips that would be affected is highest for those in the full-time high-income neighborhoods. The analyses show that toll charge is an important factor that would trigger some income groups to change their travel behaviour. People from high-income neighborhoods are more willing to pay the charges and drive as usual than people from other income neighborhoods. Revenue redistribution is critical to assess and achieve equity of congestion pricing.