CBC Toronto begins a series this week looking at the challenges the city faces as it works to improve transit and ease congestion on our highways. Reporter Steven D'Souza opens the series with a story about a commuter who moved his family to improve his commute.
Tired of a murderous daily commute into downtown Toronto from Newmarket, commuter Craig Sharma moved his family to Ajax in 2009.
The decision came after he was stuck in a snowstorm during one particularly difficult commute. After two hours of driving, he was only halfway to his office at Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue.
“I said to [my wife], 'we have to move, we have to put up the house for sale, I can't do the commute anymore,'” he said.
Now Sharma makes the daily drive from Ajax. His commute now takes between 45 minutes to just over an hour. That's roughly half what it used to be.
Sharma lives not far from a GO station, but finds using the commuter train takes longer, costs more and is less convenient than driving.
“I actually like driving because I prefer to have my freedom, to be able to leave and come and go when I want to,” the father of four told CBC News.
Convincing drivers like Sharma to leave their cars at home is a key challenge facing Metrolinx, the provincial body that oversees transit planning for Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area.
“The great thing about transit is even if you don't use it, you benefit from it because the people who are using transit mean fewer cars on the road that are interacting with you,” said Metrolinx president Bruce McCuaig.
This week Metrolinx will begin a series of public roundtables to not only sell its transit plans, but also open the conversation about the need for new tools to pay for them. Those tools include everything from road tolls to new sales taxes.
McCuaig said the consultations are not about forcing funding tools on the public, but about informing of how other cities have paid for transit improvements.
Sharma said better fares and more frequent GO service might convince him to leave his car at home. He’s also not completely opposed to tolls.
“If it lightens congestion, I'd end up weighing my options, I'd hope they'd use the money for the right things,” he said.