Getting On Track?

Chow pleaded with attendants to make a spirited effort to let Liberal and Conservative Members of Parliament know they want a national transit plan. Photo by Omar Mosleh.

Three members of the New Democratic Party are urging residents to call their Members of Parliament to address an issue that generally falls within city jurisdiction: public transit.

Beaches-East York MP Matthew Kellway hosted a mid-January public forum on a national public transit strategy featuring guests such as Beaches-East York MPP Michael Prue, Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow and Canadian Urban Transit Association’s president and CEO, Michael Roschlau.

Most of the discussion focused on the Canadian Urban Transit Association’s Transit Vision 2040 plan, which sets out a 30-year public transit vision, and a private member’s bill by Olivia Chow to get the federal government more involved in transit funding.

Roschlau said all levels of government need to be thinking ahead so planning and development corresponds with future transit projects.

“Transit needs to be integrated into the fabric of our communities,” said Roschlau.

“Part of that is having an overarching framework that puts the federal, provincial and municipal governments together in an integrated way to plan, provide incentives, and invest in the right types of infrastructure that gets people where they need to go quickly and efficiently.”

Currently, approximately 70 percent of the TTC’s revenue comes from fares. The rest of its operating dollars comes from a subsidy from the city as well as other revenue sources such as advertising and parking.

Roschlau says this just isn’t enough.

“Right now we’re very limited,” he said. “There’s a very limited opportunity for our municipalities across this country to adequately fund public transit.”

That’s why Chow is making an effort to get the federal government involved.

Chow (who arrived late due to transit issues) says Canada is behind most developed countries when it comes to public transit.

“Canada is one of the very few countries where there’s no policy framework on public transit,” she said. “Whether it’s Japan or France, Europe or Asia, they have a policy framework.”

And it’s not just because of the country’s size. Chow says it’s mostly because of the governmental allocation of responsibilities.

She noted the federal government does occasionally give municipalities capital dollars for public transit projects, but the funding is neither consistent, nor reliable.

“There’s no funding formula,” she said. “It’s not clear.”

She believes a long-term strategy must be created to address what kind of transit is needed, where the money will come from, and for the federal and provincial governments to play a leadership role in creating sustainable funding.

The evening came to a close with Chow outlining her plan for her private member’s bill, and said it may not be until this fall, or spring of 2013 for when it comes up for debate.

“I’m waiting because I want to go across the country to talk to as many people as possible so they can get excited … I want to gather as much momentum as possible,” she said.

Chow pleaded with attendants to make a spirited effort to let Liberal and Conservative Members of Parliament know they want a national transit plan.

“We need it now, we needed it yesterday, we’ve needed it for a long time … but we have to start now.”

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