COVID-19 has hit transit services across the country especially hard; municipalities have had to maintain some kind of service to make sure essential workers can still get where they need to go, while revenue has almost completely dried up. Transit advocates across the country, including the Royal City’s own Transit Action Alliance of Guelph, are turning up the heat on the Federal government to offer financial help for the nation’s transit systems.
“While the collective focus of transit providers, like Guelph Transit, right now must remain on protecting the health and safety of its customers and employees,” said Transit Action Alliance of Guelph Chair Steven Petric in a statement. “Federal funding is urgently needed to prevent service reductions and ensure that transit users, many of whom are essential workers, can get to work and be physically distant while taking public transit.”
TAAG is one of nearly two dozen Ontario-based organizations to sign on with nearly 50 different groups across Canada. According to a press release, the combined groups see public transit as “crucial to the movement of essential workers during the pandemic and to Canada’s effort to build a sustainable recovery.”
“Few aspects of our lives remain untouched by the impact of COVID-19; public transit is yet another area of our lives negatively impacted by this pandemic,” said Bianca Caramento, Manager of Policy and Government Relations at the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce in a statement. “In order for our economy to recover and flourish, reliable and affordable public transit will serve to return Canadians to their jobs and spur economic activity.”
Last month, both the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) made separate calls for emergency funds for cities in general, but with particular emphasis on transit. According to FCM, transit systems across the country are losing $400 million each month in lost revenue, which is why $2.4 billion of the $10 billion in emergency funds that they’re asking for is being directed specifically to transit.
The reality of the situation for transit systems is getting scary. Starting tomorrow, Greyhound is cancelling service until passenger demands recover along with the financial outlook. Windsor Transit was shut down for weeks as a precaution about the spread of COVID-19, and service was only restored at the beginning of May after protest from city councillors and local activists.
“The people we rely on to keep hospitals clean and grocery stores open take transit to work. Transit is essential because they are essential,” said Marco D’Angelo, CEO of the Canadian Urban Transit Association, who have been pushing for emergency funding to transit since April. “We cannot keep delivering our essential service in a timely way without federal support soon. And we do not understand why Air Canada receives help, but vital transit service does not.”
You can read the complete letter below:
May 12, 2020
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,
Honorable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities,
Honorable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport,
Honorable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance,
Re: Groups from Sectors Across Canada Come Together to Ask for Emergency and Permanent Transit Operating Funding
Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister McKenna, Minister Garneau, Minister Morneau,
Public transit remains a lifeline for many Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be essential to the country’s economic recovery. Essential service workers continue to rely on public transit to get to work, while others depend on transit to access basic needs such as medical care and food. Nevertheless, as the majority of Canadians are confined at home and ridership has declined by up to 90% for some, transit agencies can no longer rely on fare revenues to maintain operations and cover expenses. If we continue down this road, public transit agencies will be in dire straits and incapable of maintaining adequate levels of service to provide the basic right to move.
The Federal Government: A Critical Actor in Public Transit Recovery
This uncertain period requires innovative solutions. This is why we, the signatories below, have come together to demand that the federal government review its role in funding and maintaining the operational costs of public transit systems across Canada.
Two essential actions are needed for public transit to survive past this crisis:
1. We join our voices with many groups such as the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Amalgamated Transit Union Canada (ATU) in calling for emergency funding to keep Canadian transit systems running during the pandemic, along with bridge funding.
2. We urge the government to continue funding public transit beyond the pandemic. In reference to Minister McKenna’s mandate letter, the federal government must act on their promise of funding public transit permanently. This must be implemented as soon as possible because capital funding alone cannot keep transit affordable or functioning in the long term. Stable federal operating funding is needed for local transit agencies to improve service and cap fares to boost ridership after the pandemic.
Public Transit: Crucial for Our Communities Across Canada
Maintaining transit service has never been more important. Emergency federal funding is needed to ensure that transit agencies can maintain an adequate level of service during the pandemic for transit workers and riders to practice physical distancing.
Transit agencies need financial assistance with their operating costs in order to respect provincial public health guidelines. As such, they need to be supported in the purchase of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies, in providing paid sick days for employees, and halting fare collection as long as necessary.
We must re-evaluate how we see public transit and remember the vital role it plays in keeping essential services afloat. Transit is an essential component of a green economic recovery. We must equip ourselves with the necessary tools to face the climate crisis that is still ahead of us.
National: ATU Canada, ACORN Canada, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, SEIU Local 2, Transport Action Canada, The Leap, David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Federation of Students – Fédération canadienne des étudiantes et étudiants, The Council of Canadians, Green Communities Canada
Québec: Trajectoire Québec, Équiterre, Alliance Transit
Ontario: ATU Local 107 (Hamilton ON), ATU Local 113 (Toronto ON), ATU Local 1189 (Guelph ON), CUPE Ontario, Disability Justice Network of Ontario, Doctors for Safe Cycling, Hamilton Transit Riders’ Union, Hamilton and District Labour Council, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, Environment Hamilton, Fight Gridlock (Brampton), TAAG – Transit Action Alliance of Guelph, Tri-Cities Transport Action Group (Region of Waterloo), Transport Action Ontario, London Cycle Link, London Transit, Riders Alliance, London Environmental Network, Ecology Ottawa, Social Planning Toronto, Toronto Environmental Alliance, TTCriders, Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet (CUSP) – Thunder Bay, Scarborough Transit Action
Manitoba: Manitoba Federation of Labour, CUPE Local 204, Functional Transit Winnipeg, ATU Local 1505, Green Action Centre, Social Planning Council of Winnipeg
Saskatchewan: Bus Riders of Saskatoon
Alberta: Free Transit Edmonton
British Columbia: Abundant Transit BC, Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria, Wilderness Committee, Happy City, ATU Local 1724 (Vancouver BC), HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, Vancouver and District Labour Council
Atlantic provinces: Transport Action Atlantic, It’s More Than Buses (Halifax)