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Federal Budget throws public transit under the bus again

Following months of campaigning, the Keep Transit Moving coalition recently won a $750 million commitment from the federal government for transit operating funding, which was reiterated in yesterday’s federal budget. But it is far from clear whether this funding will be enough to meet the needs of local transit agencies for the duration of 2022, and transit agencies have identified that they will continue to face budget shortfalls over the next several years.

“It’s clear that public transit systems in Canada need long-term support. While the $750 million is welcome and needed, it covers less than two months’ worth of what our struggling public transit systems need this year alone,” says John Di Nino, President of ATU Canada.

That’s why the Keep Transit Moving coalition is calling for a long-term operating funding commitment from the federal government to protect public transit from cuts, as ridership continues to fluctuate and slowly recover. Sustained operational funding for public transit will ensure that Canada can lock in sustained greenhouse gas emission reductions and help reach the federal government’s climate targets, and beyond.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has been promising a just transition for three years. It’s time to deliver. Public transit is a core part of the solution to the climate crisis and can drive much of the systemic transformation that’s needed. We need sustained funding and expansion for green municipal public transit and intercity public bus service, but instead this federal budget is stuck in the mindset of more highways and fossil fuel subsidies,” says Dylan Penner, Climate and Social Justice Campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

Keep Transit Moving is continuing to call on all federal parties to act on the demands in the coalition’s 2021 Vote Transit platform: Permanent Operational Funding; National Intercity and Highway Bus Service Plan; Leadership and Accountability on Social Justice, Public Health and Climate Crisis Impacts; Reliable Capital Funding; and Improving Accessible Transit.

“While support and investment to make home and electric vehicle ownership will certainly be appreciated by many, the essential workers who rent and rely on public transit to get to work everyday are increasingly being left behind,” says Ian Borsuk, Climate Campaign Coordinator with Environment Hamilton. “A just transition for Canada means providing the support they need to keep our economy and communities functioning – this budget doesn’t do that.”

“The TTC projects a budget shortfall of $561 million in 2022 alone, and shortfalls into 2023 and 2024. The $750 million in federal support is welcome news for cash-strapped transit agencies, but will it be enough to maintain service levels?” says Shelagh Pizey-Allen, director of Toronto membership-based transit organization TTCriders. “Sustained federal funding for transit operations will help win back riders with increased service frequency and lower fares. Cities must double transit ridership in the next 10 years to meet our 1.5 degree Celsius emission targets, and they need federal support to do it.”

Keep Transit Moving is a pan-Canadian coalition of transit workers, transit advocacy, environmental, and social justice organizations.