Chief executives from Toronto’s, Montreal’s, and Metro Vancouver’s transit agencies are appealing to the federal government to launch the promised Permanent Transit Fund (PTF) two years ahead of schedule in order to help them address growing pressures on their systems.

In a joint Federal Budget Submission, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Société de transport de Montréal (STM) and TransLink called on Ottawa to “advance the commitment of funding under the new federal Permanent Transit Fund by early 2024, instead of 2026, to enable critical projects and programs to advance and support long term capital planning.”

Public transit in Canada’s three largest metropolitan areas represents critical national infrastructure, an essential service that keeps our cities moving, working, and thriving. Some of Canada’s most pressing current challenges – climate change, housing affordability, immigrant settlement, innovation – require vibrant, successful public transit systems.

“A strong public transit system is fundamental to meeting our affordability and climate action goals. With the City of Toronto and Province of Ontario committing hundreds of millions of dollars toward new subway trains for Line 2, we are hoping the Government of Canada will open the PTF early in order for us to start the process of purchasing the new trains. While that’s our immediate pressure, we also hope to be able to use this fund for new buses,” said Rick Leary, CEO, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).

Together the STM, TransLink and the TTC in 2022:

• Generated approximately 60% of Canada’s transit ridership.

• Enabled mobility at the centre of regions that are home to 1 out of every 3 Canadians.

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• Served the core of regional economies that generated 40% of Canada’s national GDP.

In the joint submission, the transit agencies outline significant challenges they face due to aging infrastructure, an outdated funding model that relies on regressive sources such as transit fares and property taxes, and the exceptional ridership growth forecasted for the coming decades. With approximately 2.35 million new residents expected before 2050 in the three cities, immediate and sustained investment in transit operations, state of good repair and building capacity is essential to prepare for this growth.

“We have a rapidly growing population and an urgent need for ongoing sustainable transportation to meet our environmental goals – we cannot afford to wait another two years for access to the Permanent Transit Fund. We need that funding now to ensure reliable operation of our networks. It’s unthinkable that we would have to cut public transit services or put off refurbishing and replacing our outdated infrastructure because the available funds were allocated too late,” said Marie-Claude Léonard, CEO, Société de transport de Montréal (STM).

In addition to accelerating delivery of the PTF, the submission also requests that the Government permanently double the Canadian Communities Building Fund (CCBF) as a proven predictable funding stream for municipal infrastructure needs, and establish a forum for ongoing tri-partite engagement with all orders of government on the development of a sustainable, long-term funding model for public transit that considers the full capital and operating costs of providing high quality transit services.

“Just last year, Metro Vancouver’s population grew by 90,000 people – which was nearly double the projected growth for our region. As our population grows it’s imperative that our transit system expands as well. A federal funding commitment is urgently needed to help us meet the needs of our growing region through our ten-year Access for Everyone plan,” said Kevin Quinn, CEO, TransLink.

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The transit agencies are warning that if the Government fails to deliver new funding for urban transit systems in the 2024/2025 budget, it will put in jeopardy new transit-oriented developments and reduce access to affordable housing that all three cities are working to deliver with their provincial and federal government partners.

Featured image: (TransLink)

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