Canada’s three largest transit agencies urge early funding allocation for critical projects

Posted: 22 March 2024 | | No comments yet

TransLink, STM and TTC collectively advocate for the early allocation of funds under the new federal Permanent Transit Fund, stressing the pivotal role of public transit in addressing pressing challenges and sustaining urban growth.

Canada's three largest transit agencies urge early funding allocation for critical projects

In a synchronised effort, three of Canada’s major transit agencies – TransLink, Société de transport de Montréal (STM) and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) – have jointly submitted a compelling plea to the federal government. The plea advocates for the advancement of funding under the new federal Permanent Transit Fund (PTF) by early 2024, two years ahead of the scheduled 2026 timeline. This expedited allocation of funds is deemed vital for catalysing critical projects and supporting long-term capital planning initiatives.

The complete budget submission, accessible online, articulates the pivotal role played by public transit in Canada’s largest metropolitan regions. It underscores public transit’s significance as a cornerstone of national infrastructure, sustaining essential services and facilitating the functionality and prosperity of urban centres. 

Pooling their efforts, STM, TTC and TransLink, have collectively accounted for roughly 60% of Canada’s transit ridership in 2022. These agencies provide services in regions that accommodate one-third of Canada’s population, while also contributing significantly to the economies of their respective regions, generating approximately 40% of the nation’s GDP.

The collaborative submission delineates the formidable obstacles faced by these transit agencies, including aging infrastructure, an outdated funding model reliant on regressive revenue streams like transit fares and property taxes and the anticipated surge in ridership in the forthcoming decades. With projections indicating an influx of around 2.35 million new residents in the three cities by 2050, urgent and sustained investment in transit operations, infrastructure maintenance and capacity expansion is imperative to accommodate this growth.

In addition, the submission calls for the permanent doubling of the Canadian Communities Building Fund (CCBF), aiming to provide a reliable funding stream for municipal infrastructure needs. The transit authorities also propose the establishment of a forum for ongoing tripartite engagement involving all levels of government to devise a sustainable, long-term funding model for public transit. Such a model would comprehensively account for both capital and operational costs associated with delivering high-quality transit services.

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The transit agencies caution that failure to secure new funding for urban transit systems in the upcoming 2024/2025 budget could imperil transit-oriented developments and diminish access to affordable housing initiatives, which are collaborative efforts among the three cities and their provincial and federal government counterparts.

“A strong public transit system is fundamental to meeting our affordability and climate action goals,” said Rick Leary, CEO of TTC. “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.”

“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,” said Marie-Claude Léonard, CEO of STM.

“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 of TransLink.