Today is a special day for me, for today marks the first day that I will no longer commute. This has been a goal of mine that I have been working towards for a while. For those of you unfamiliar with how bad commuting is for people who live where I live, I will explain.
I live in the city of Oshawa, which is part of the Greater Toronto Area, located in Southern Ontario, Canada, along the north-west portion of Lake Ontario. For a long time, Highway 401 was the main arterial highway that linked all of the municipalities that make up the Greater Toronto Area, and in fact all of southwestern, central, and eastern Ontario. My city, Oshawa, is part of the Durham Region, which is home to many who commute into the City of Toronto. The reason for this is simple; Toronto is where all the good jobs are, but Durham Region is where the affordable housing exists. For the price of a tiny one bedroom condo in Toronto, one can find a three bedroom house with a yard, driveway, and no maintenance fees in the Durham Region. For those wishing to raise a family but also need a job that allows them to afford to raise a family, buying a house in the Durham Region and commuting to Toronto is the only solution.
Due to the incompetence of our elected officials, this concentration of good jobs in Toronto with the only affordable housing existing outside of the city, combined with a volatile job market that forces people to change employers every few years, Highway 401 is world class for the amount of traffic that it carries, and is often cited as the busiest highway in North America, as well as one of the busiest in the world. It’s no wonder that it’s also cited as being one of the most dangerous highways in Canada.
One of the solutions to this was to build a toll highway that would relieve the stress put on Highway 401. This toll highway is the 407 ETR. This highway was built with taxpayer money, and then sold by the Tory government (conservatives) in 1999 in order to “Balance the books.” Yes, isn’t it odd and extremely short-sighted for our government to sell something that could have been a positive revenue stream for many years to come? I suppose they make more than enough with their monopoly on unfair casino’s, lottery, and overpriced alcohol, and decided that greedy Spanish investors deserved to take a turn at screwing us. No wonder people mistrust the government.
I had been taking Highway 407 for my commute over the past year out of necessity. Some of my monthly 407 bills were in excess of $800. I wrote the people billing me a letter and phoned them, telling them that I felt the tolls were excessive for someone like me who relied on this highway every day. Their response was for me to use the highway “Strategically;” that is, to map out the sections of the 407 where the tolls are the most expensive, exit the highway at those points, take alternate side streets, and get back on where it gets less expensive. This hopping on and off the highway really defeats the purpose of a highway, which is to relieve wear and tear on our automobiles and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by allowing cars to operate at their most efficient. It also complicates my commute and increases the risk of an accident. Shortly thereafter, they announced that the rates were going up due to the fact that too many people are using the 407. That was it, I had had enough of participating in this game where the idle, greedy rich continue to screw over the working class. It was time for me to fire the 407 ETR.
I found a new job within 10 kilometers of my home. It pays a bit less, and the benefits aren’t as good, but I’ll actually come out ahead financially by not paying those greedy Spaniards their excessive toll rate on what I consider a criminal sale of what should rightfully be a public asset. I’ve talked to others who are taking the 407, and they’re currently planning similar lifestyle changes to kick this excessively tolled highway out of their lives. As for me, I’m never going back to that commute. It’s not healthy, and it’s not the way a human being is supposed to live. Remember, these excessive tolls are being paid for by after tax dollars, and we cannot write the expense off unless we ourselves are wealthy business owners. This means that, when comparing this cost to your hourly rate, take the average of 24% off your hourly rate to get a true cost to you. It’s oppressive, and we all should do whatever it takes to starve the greedy, idle rich, even if it means taking a bit of a pay cut.