By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
Durham Region Transit is set to see some much needed funds from the province in the next few years – and that could see some projects destined for the future come closer to the forefront.
The province has announced that the portion of taxes it collects from the sale of gasoline that is designated to municipal transit agencies will be doubling. That allocation, currently set at two cents per litre sold, will start to make its way up in 2019 before finishing at four cents per litre by 2021. The province says this will not affect gas prices, as it just redistributes money it already collects.
As a result, Durham Region Transit (DRT) should be receiving approximately $15.8 million by the time the allocation increase is fully rolled out. This year, DRT is receiving $8.2 million.
Vincent Paterson, DRT’s general manager, says the influx of extra cash in the near future will allow the transit agency to begin looking at projects that were originally destined for years down the road.
“If you think of the bus rapid transit that we’re building along Highway 2, it’s certainly a shot in the arm. As this kind of extra funding set ups occur, it enables us to start looking at, ‘OK, maybe we can start thinking of a BRT setup along Simcoe Street, for instance, in Oshawa,” he says of the project first recommended more than a decade ago.
“We can start putting these things into real terms, into tangible infrastructure improvements for customers.”
Paterson says the extra money can also be put towards maintaining DRT’s fleet.
Speaking at an announcement made by the province announcing the increases, Regional Chair Roger Anderson said he was pleased not only with the increase to transit funding itself, but also as to how these funds are allocated.
“The good thing about this money is that it isn’t application-based. Staff don’t have to spend days, weeks, months filling out applications or hiring a consultant to fill out an application, only to have it be turned down,” Anderson said.
“Allocation-based funding is everything that we’ve always wanted when it comes to transfers from the province.”
Under the province’s gas tax program, transit funds are allocated based on ridership numbers.
According to the recently passed regional budget, DRT’s total expenses for 2017 is expected to come in at just under $81.3 million, although about $29.4 million of that will be covered through revenue streams such as fares and gas tax funds. The $51.9 million being spent by the region on transit amounts to a seven-per-cent bump over 2016.