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Let's Talk Transit

This Magazine Staff

It’s been a busy week, with the election and the stock market drops and the announcement that Britney will put out a new album in December, so it was easy to miss the Tuesday release of a study commissioned by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, a group that represents the public transit industry, that looks at what needs to be done to improve transit in this country.
You can read the executive summary here but long story short, billions and billions of dollars need to be invested across the country in order for transit to become something that drivers will regularly consider taking. The feds should contribute a good chunk of this cash via the existing federal gas tax and should also create a long-range national transit strategy. In other words, this study echoes the same recommendations that countless transit advocates have been asking for for years.
So now that those ideas have been “legitimized” by a large U.S. engineering consulting firm, are our federal leaders taking them seriously?

Well, like I said earlier, it’s been a busy week. So far, I can’t turn up any reaction on this study from any of the four national party leaders.
Now to be fair, the NDP did announce its plans for transit back before the study was released (and the election even announced). Those plans revolve dedicating one cent per litre of the existing gas tax to transit as well as a portion of the revenue that would result from the party’s proposed carbon emissions cap-and-trade plan.
Not surprisingly, the Green Party also has something to say about transit in this country. In their party platform, released on Wednesday, the Greens declared that if we vote them into power, they’d boost the GST back up to six percent and then send that extra percent to municipalities to pay for improvements to infrastructure and public transit.
As for the Liberal and the Conservatives? A search for “public transit” on the Liberal site brings up five results, none of which are that recent. The Conservative website doesn’t appear to have a site search but a quick look through Google News doesn’t bring up anything promising other than the Tories’ announcement that they’ll cut the tax on diesel, a fuel favoured by many city buses. Well, maybe those two parties are saving their plans for public transit for later in the campaign.
After all, public transit is no longer one of those issues that can be ignored or addressed with token acts such as offering tax rebates on monthly passes. Earlier this month the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Canadian Urban Transit Association released the results of a survey that indicates that public transit will be transportation of choice for many Canadians if gas prices continue to stay high. In fact, 20 percent of respondents had already switched over to using transit because of gas prices. Another 60-something percent would be more likely to use it if service was improved but given the current state of Canadian municipalities, that’s not going to happen without some cash and support from Ottawa.

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