Federal cash for buses, light rail vital during pandemic and onward

TORONTO — The David Suzuki Foundation is standing with public transit authorities throughout Canada by calling on Ottawa and the provinces to provide emergency funding to keep buses, light rail and subways running during and after the pandemic.

With plummeting ridership, transit systems are facing dramatic revenue shortfalls. B.C.’s TransLink is reportedly losing $75 million per month. The Toronto Transit Commission estimates its ridership has been reduced by almost 80 per cent.

“Public transit has rightly been deemed essential,” says Gideon Forman, a transportation policy analyst with the Foundation. “That means it has to continue running during the pandemic, at service levels that permit physical distancing. Buses can’t be crowded. But transit authorities can only do this if Ottawa gives them money to keep sufficient vehicles running.”

Transit services are vital to move essential workers — such as nurses, doctors and sanitation staff — and to help city residents shop for food and medicine.

Coming out of the pandemic, it is also crucial that Canada addresses the climate crisis. The David Suzuki Foundation not only urges emergency spending during the pandemic, but a federal commitment to make transit funding permanent. The latter was promised in Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna’s mandate letter.

“We join groups like the Canadian Urban Transit Association in asking Ottawa to launch permanent transit funding this year,” Forman says.

Transit that runs on electricity, including light rail and e-buses, is especially important during the climate crisis.

The federal government has said it will devote transit dollars to zero-emission vehicles starting in 2023. The David Suzuki Foundation would like to see that date pushed up, in part to facilitate a green recovery. Canada already has several e-bus manufacturers and, with government support, could have more.

“Electric buses don’t create emissions, but they do create jobs,” Forman says.

Read DSF’s full green stimulus plan

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:  

Kate Adach, David Suzuki Foundation, 416-970-4985, kadach@davidsuzuki.org