Federal parties should be talking transit, group says

The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) says a public transit plan should be on every party’s platform this election.

The group says there’s not enough money committed to urban transit infrastructure over the next five years and that cities need a funding commitment for the future. Margaret Shuell, director of communications for CUTA, said municipalities need predictable funding to maintain and expand public transit.

“It is always good to know what the plans are going into the future,” Shuell said. “There is a need for projects elsewhere and we need a commitment for funding in the future.”’

According to Statistics Canada almost 80 per cent of Canadians live in urban centres. Julia Deans, CEO for the Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance, says despite the large urban population, the federal election campaign has had little focus on the needs of urban voters. Deans spoke at the Innis College Town Hall panel discussion, Who Cares About 15 Million Voters. She said congestion costs the GTA about $6 billion a year and is expect to rise to $15 billion by 2031 if nothing is done.

She said it is essential for Canadians to have a federal funding commitment for transportation and infrastructure.

“We are the only developed country in the world that doesn’t have a national housing strategy or a national transportation strategy,” Deans said. “These are issues that are absolutely essential to our long-term social and economic prosperity as a country, and therefore they have to have federal leadership.”

Taylor Train, Conservative candidate for Parkdale-High Park says Canadians should look to the Conservatives record on infrastructure funding for assurance that funding is there.

“(The Federal Conservatives) have spent about $2 billion in total infrastructure investments with no seats in Toronto,” he said. “I am a firm believer in cities moving people efficiently in a cost effective manner. This is my priority.”

Taylor pointed to numerous projects in Toronto, including the York Spadina Subway extension and the train bridge redevelopments at Dufferin Street, Brock Street, Lansdowne Avenue and Dupont Street.

“The Build Canada plan has invested $8 million in those bridges, with Dufferin already completed,” he said. “If we are going to build trains to the airport, we need to invest in infrastructure, and we are doing that.”

Olivia Chow, NDP Incumbent for Trinity-Spadina, introduced the National Public Transit Strategy Act as a solution in January. The legislation proposed a permanent investment plan to support transit.  It also sought to establish a Federal funding mechanism and a commitment to work with all levels of government to provide sustainable, predictable, long-term funding for public transit.

Deans agrees that legislation establishing specific commitments is necessary.

“We need a national transit strategy … we need hard goals for transit ridership, and commuting times … and we absolutely need that funding commitment,” Dean said. “We (GTAA) think it is probably about $2 billion a year.”