Gridlock by policy: Canada all alone with no transit strategy


Cross-posted from Public Transit in Ottawa

The New Democrat Party of Canada has a long history of making transit-related announcements, a couple recent ones being a couple of bills to protect transit operators, and before that–during the 2008 federal election campaign–a series of funding announcements in major Canadian cities.

Last week, Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow introduced a National Public Transit Strategy. In a press release, the NDP said Canada was the only OECD member state without one. From the release:

“Canadians deserve fast, reliable, affordable and accessible public transit,” said Chow. “Every year billions of dollars are lost due to traffic congestion while simultaneously transit authorities struggle to meet demands.”

Chow’s legislation outlines a strategy for the federal government to:

  • Provide a permanent investment plan to support public transit
  • Establish federal funding mechanisms for public transit
  • Work together with all levels of government to provide sustainable, predictable, long term and adequate funding
  • Etablish accountability measures to ensure that all governments work together to increase access to public transit.

Hard to imagine how this could be a bad idea for municipalities looking for consistent funding for public transit infrastructure. The release goes on to discuss operating costs, which have never been funded by federal partners, but… hey, if it can help offer “predictable” transit funding, cities will be better able to plan their transit infrastructure development with the knowledge that the funding isn’t dependent on how generous the government of the day is feeling.

photo by Colin Rose


  1. It’s about time a politician made this a serious proposal. This should be done at the provincial level as well. I can’t speak about Quebec or BC, but the long standing Ontario commitment to fund the majority of transit capital projects, like subways, was eliminated by the Mike Harris Conservative government, which has put transit planning into government short term 4 year electioneering cycles, whereas serious and large scale transit infrastructure requires a much longer time period than that. As a result Toronto’s rapid transit network has seen forests of trees cut for transit studies, but very little addition to the actual network.

    • Excellent point RTM; 4 year election cycles far too precarious from a serious planning POV; infrastructure development needs to proceed from a consensus around long term policy commitment.

  2. If the federal government isn’t more involved in Canada’s cities–in a coordinating and facilitating role like with a national transit strategy–then the quality of life of Canadians will suffer. Most Canadians live and work in cities, and efficient transportation is critical to the productivity, health, and satisfaction of residents. Transit is the most efficient way of moving people, so it should be prioritized. Our cities will continue to grow, and with the proper transit investment, we will be able to ensure the growth is responsible and sustainable.

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