Electric car subsidies proposed as part of Toronto city plans to clean up the air

A staff report lays out a range of measures in a bid to bring forward the ambitious goal of cleaning up the city’s air

Staff have proposed cutting taxes for employees driving electric cars and inversion schemes to encourage public transit use, according to a report presented to Toronto city council’s transportation committee on Thursday.

The measures are part of a wider plan to meet city council’s ambitious target to have 80% of cars and trucks off Toronto’s roads by 2030 – a pledge the city’s mayor, John Tory, made in January. The plan also aims to make the city carbon neutral by 2035.

Tory wants to make the most of a series of progressive policies that have come to prominence during his first year in office, and aims to adopt at least some of them on their own.

Chris Schneider, the city’s chief transportation engineer, presented the team’s recommendations to councillors, among them an “inter-class, inter-partner” rebate scheme that would offer incentives to first-time buyers, low-income residents and employees using electric vehicles.

“There are certainly a range of things that councillors can choose from that we’re discussing with them,” said Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for the city’s transport department. “It could be something that we draw on in terms of a series of recommendations that have been made before the Ontario [provincial] government.”

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The city is also considering a number of inter-partner transport incentives. One would be a 10% discount on ridership charges for a wide range of agencies and associations that ride in mass transit vehicles. The discounted charge would be another move away from a one-percenter system, which rewards driving.

The city would also look at ways to increase public transit use and infrastructure investment. These could include subsidising purchases for people who access public transit; increasing the amount of funding available to transport companies who help employees reach job centres and public transit; making space on buses and Buses more for people with disabilities; and encouraging shared car sharing platforms.

“If a public transit user took five trips in a single day, and they worked for a company that gave them five or more weeks off, that could be a transit rebate for that week,” said Smith. “They could be given a total that didn’t go into the transit pay envelope, but if they were to use it as an incentive for taking that day off to take transit, it would be something we would be looking at.”

Passengers at Toronto’s new Sheppard subway line. In 2014 Toronto set the goal of having 80% of vehicles off the road by 2030. Photograph: Aaron Harris/Reuters

Incentives to encourage employees to move off-street parking into shared carsharing groups, rather than driving their own vehicles, are another idea that could be acted on in coming years. The campaign group Toronto Expat Advocacy group says the city should also look at more incentives for alternative routes to work, such as cycling and carpooling.

The report also proposes switching city buses to electric vehicles, as well as reducing the size of buses and reducing business-road access in large areas to create car-free zones where more than 60% of the vehicles are electric.

“The City of Toronto should consider several incentives related to bus electrification,” the report said. “This includes lower fares for electric buses, equitable access to these buses within the metropolis and access to reduced fares for students.”

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