Canada to invest nearly C$15 billion in transit over eight years

Feb. 11, 2021
The investment includes C$5.9 billion in immediate funds and a permanent C$3 billion investment starting in 2026.

The federal government of Canada will invest C$14.9 billion (US$11.73 billion) in public transit over the next eight years, which includes an upfront investment of C$5.9 billion (US$4.64 billion) and a permanent C$3 billion (US$2.36 billion) per year starting in 2026.

“When we invest in public transit infrastructure, we are supporting good middle class jobs, creating better commutes, fighting climate change and helping make life easier and more affordable for Canadians. We will continue to do what it takes to ensure our economic recovery from COVID-19 and build back a more resilient country for everyone,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The government noted while the pandemic has changed how Canadians use transit, it has not lessened the importance of transit to both urban and rural communities. The government says providing predictable transit funding will help cities and communities plan for the future. The government believes the permanent investment will help Canadians move around more easily while creating construction jobs, support sustainability goals and reduce pollution, support more diverse modes of mobility to promotive healthy lifestyle and bolster transit access to Canadians living in rural and remote areas.

“As we build back better, it is time to ambitiously invest in modern and sustainable public transit across our country, to reduce congestion, to help create a million jobs and to support cleaner and more inclusive communities,” said Canada Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna. “Permanent, long-term funding for public transit will mean new subway lines, light-rail transit and streetcars, electric buses, cycling paths and improved rural transit. It will mean that Canadians can get around in faster, cleaner and more affordable ways. And it will help drive us to net-zero emissions and ensure a more sustainable future for our kids.”

The Canadian government through Infrastructure Canada will work with provincial, municipal, transit and policy stakeholders to develop a more in-depth plan for the C$3 billion (US$2.36 billion) per year investment in public transit. The government says consultations on the design of the new permanent transit funding will begin in the near future.

Reactions from Canada’s transit industry and municipal representatives were supportive.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) said the transit funding “has the potential to make transit modernization a centerpiece of the job-creating, emissions-reducing, quality-of-life-enhancing recovery” the country’s residents deserve post-pandemic. FCM President Garth Frizzell and Chair of FCM’s Big City Mayors’ Caucus Don Iveson say the plan builds on what’s working and recognizes municipalities will be central partners to the country’s recovery.

“This announcement builds on what’s working. The transit stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan (ICIP) has been empowering cities to move forward with vital system expansions. Growing this into a permanent transit fund—beyond ICIP’s 2027 horizon—offers cities the long-term predictability we need to continue delivering transformational system growth,” said Frizzell and Iveson.

The Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) credits federal officials for providing the leadership needed for Canada to rebound from the pandemic impacts.

“It is clear the federal government understands the transformational benefits of investing in public transit infrastructure. Transit systems are at the center of Canada, connecting our communities, creating jobs and economic activity and fundamental to reducing emissions and meeting Canada’s net-zero carbon emissions commitments by 2050,” said CUTRIC President and CEO Josipa Petrunic. “We are pleased to see the government deliver and our members are eager to build on what has been achieved together and launch more cutting-edge, clean public transit projects that will transform our society for the better.”

The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) called the news “a significant advance for expanding public transit, acting on climate change and decongesting cities.”

“A permanent transit fund will solve many of the hurdles and delays that currently plague transit being built. We thank the government for its commitment to transit and this significant advance,” said Marco D’Angelo, CUTA’s president. “This fund will create jobs, lower emissions and keep our cities moving. It’s a transformative step ahead and transit systems are grateful.”

D’Angelo also noted expansion is not the only issue facing transit. He explained revenue is down significantly due to pandemic-related ridership declines and funds from the federal and provincial government to help keep service going expire next month in most provinces. CUTA is asking the federal and provincial governments for ongoing operating support until ridership returns.

CUTA’s concern is supported by FCM, as well.

“Transit operating shortfalls remain a significant challenge. Farebox revenues are down in this pandemic, and cities are having to cut or delay job-creating capital projects to fill those gaps—not contemplate new growth. This remains an urgent conversation with our federal and provincial partners,” said Frizzell and Iveson.

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC) noted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic demand for public transit was increasing.

“We are hearing throughout the region a continued optimism that the demand is still there, and we need to prepare to meet that customer demand with enhanced frequency, infrastructure, technology and coverage throughout Greater Victoria,” said VRTC. “Knowing that there is sustainable funding coming from the government of Canada will help us continue delivering for our customers now, and plan for the future.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.