BLOG: Connecting Canadians with High-Frequency Inter-city Transit Corridors

Published January 27, 2023.

One of the constant challenges of operating inter-city transportation in a country as large as Canada is providing transportation options that are cost-effective and convenient for travelers. While the country has an extensive network of roads and highways ideal for cars, many Canadians rely on other inter-city transportation modes like bus and rail to travel between cities and towns. Canadians in rural or remote areas who work in or travel to cities need access to cost-effective and reliable modes of transit. The current state of inter-city transportation in Canada is far from ideal, and there is a pressing need for more frequent and reliable service. With larger transit entities and private partnerships, transit systems can play a role in inter-city transportation to support growth, especially in developing areas.

Inter-city transportation requires collaboration between different municipalities. Service cuts to air, rail, and road transit impact Canadian travelers, and create an opportunity for public transit agencies and private sector transportation operators to fill the void. While Canada is sparse, one benefit that our geography affords is the ability to plan high-frequency “transit corridors” where reliable service is needed as a sufficient “back-bone” for cross-country transportation infrastructure to improve inter-city mobility.

Canada once relied on several inter-city transportation companies, which no longer operate, to connect and support populations in remote communities. The shortage of reliable inter-city transportation has had a disproportionately negative impact on people living in rural or remote areas. Better coordination and collaboration between different public transit systems make it easier for the rider to seamlessly transfer between different modes and complete a trip. Intra-city transit is often vital for those using inter-city transit to complete a full trip. Increased government funding for inter-city transportation would help reduce travel time by simplifying linked trips between systems and taking cars off the roads. Unfortunately, major urban hubs, outlying suburban areas, and rural municipalities face budgetary shortfalls that could lead to potential service reductions.

Fortunately, we are seeing how the federal government, provinces, municipal transit agencies, and the private sector are stepping in to keep Canadian communities connected. Examples include Transdev in Quebec, Metrolinx in Southern Ontario, BC Transit along the Highway 16 corridor, and many other high-frequency inter-city and regional transit projects across the country. Canadians understand the value that public transit agencies play in building resilient regions.

There are several steps that can be taken to improve inter-city public transit in Canada. One option is to increase funding for existing inter-city transportation operators, to allow them to expand their routes and adapt their service to reflect changes in demand. Another option is to invest in new technologies, such as frequent rail and zero-emission vehicle technology, which could provide faster and more efficient transportation options. Finally, there is a need for more efficient travel to make it easier and more attractive for the end user.

Overall, there is a clear need for better inter-city transportation. By addressing these challenges, we can improve transportation options that help connect Canadians, and build a more sustainable and liveable country. We must be ready for population growth, changing demographics, and a shift in the way people travel. If a country as large as Canada is to grow sustainably, we will need frequent and reliable inter-city transit to create liveable corridors that connect communities with vital hubs.