Federal Transit Investment Key Priority for Canadians

April 28, 2011
CUTA Releases Federal Party Positions on Public Transit. The Canadian Urban Transit Association is today renewing their call to federal party leaders to take action to keep Canada's cities moving by supporting transit. In many cities, transportation has become the number one public issue.

CUTA Releases Federal Party Positions on Public Transit

TORONTO, April 27 /CNW/ - The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) is today renewing their call to federal party leaders to take action to keep Canada's cities moving by supporting transit.

In many cities, transportation has become the number one public issue.  "According to a public opinion survey conducted for CUTA by Harris Decima just prior to the election call, a majority of those surveyed believe it is important to have access to public transit in their community," says Michael Roschlau, CUTA President & CEO. "Yet only 29% believe the federal government is doing enough to support public transit infrastructure."

"Clearly, Canadians think transit is a priority," says John King, CUTA First Vice Chair, "and we urge the federal party leaders to take this issue on and commit to long-term, sustainable investment in transit infrastructure, and changes to transit tax policy to benefit Canadians."

Each of the federal parties has identified steps that they will take regarding public transit, either in official response to CUTA's federal election questionnaire or from published campaign platforms.

Highlights include:

Conservative Party of Canada:

Work with provinces, territories, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and other stakeholders to develop a long-term plan for public infrastructure that extends beyond the expiry of the Building Canada Plan. Introduce legislation to confirm permanent funding for municipal infrastructure through the Gas Tax Fund.

Liberal Party of Canada:

Provide leadership, working with other levels of government and the private sector to put in place a Canadian Transportation and Infrastructure Strategy that targets long-term economic benefits. That specifically includes local and regional transit, rapid transit and commuter rail that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing efficient alternatives to private vehicles. A Liberal government will also be open to exploring with stakeholders incentives to favour a modal shift to transit during peak hours.

New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP):

Enact a National Public Transit Strategy, which would provide a permanent investment plan to support public transit and establish federal funding mechanisms to support public transit. Allocate another cent of the existing gas tax to public transit funding for municipalities. Encourage transit use by providing a tax exemption for employee workplace-based transit passes.

Bloc Québécois:

Support major investments in public transit infrastructure such as dedicated transit lanes, as well as the development of new lines for commuter trains, tramways, and trolleybuses.

Green Party of Canada:

Commit 2.1 billion dollars in new mass transit funding over the next three years. Work together with the provinces and municipalities to establish six municipal superfunds to provide steady, consistent funding for municipalities. One of these funds will be dedicated to mass transit promotion. Make employer-provided transit passes tax-free by exempting them from taxable benefit status, to encourage workers and businesses to use public transport. Provide financial support to provinces that provide free public transit passes to people living below the poverty line.

"In its own way, each party has indicated that it supports transit," says Roschlau.  "CUTA is pleased to see these various announcements and policy statements; however, we are calling on party leaders to specifically get things rolling now by adding a dedicated top-up to the existing federal gas tax fund for transit.  The fund is in place, it works and we all understand it."

Canadian transit ridership continues to set all-time records, carrying over 1.82 billion passenger trips per year, and is increasing at a rate two or three times the rate of population growth.  This demonstrates that public transit can and will attract more and more Canadians, under conditions where the right balance between expanded service and fare incentives can be provided.

An efficient, secure and consistent public transit system will provide significant economic, environmental and social benefits for the entire nation.  "Only with the application of true, long-term, and dedicated investment can we achieve both an efficient and equitable public transit system for Canadians," adds King.  "I invite federal party leaders to take a leadership role and make transit a priority in this election and in the next Parliament."

CUTA is the national association representing public transit systems, suppliers to the industry, government agencies, individuals and related organizations in Canada.