Canadian Transit Systems Need Renewed Operating Support
TORONTO (February 17, 2023) – Today marks the one-year anniversary of legislation that provided federal and provincial funding to help municipalities cover public transit operating shortfalls in 2022. Transit systems across Canada are expecting significant budgetary shortfalls in 2023 and the risk of service cuts is looming. The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) calls on all levels of government to renew transit operating support to help maintain service levels and prepare for an increase in population.
Transit ridership continues to rebound from its pandemic low of 17 per cent to roughly 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels as of November 2022. The recovery is well underway, as ridership patterns shift and evolve, and transit systems adjust service levels accordingly.
Operating support is needed in this final stretch of the recovery. The Association du transport urbain du Québec warned that without renewed government support, the deficit for the province’s public transit industry will be approximately $560 million. A January 2023 internal survey by the Ontario Public Transit Association estimated an operational deficit of at least $510 million for Ontario’s public transit sector.
“Without emergency operating support in 2023 to offset shortfalls, we fear the recovery will be derailed, service cuts will be implemented, and the work done to keep transit running up to now will be lost,” said Marco D’Angelo, CUTA’s President and CEO. “Cuts can lead to a downward spiral of reduced ridership and revenue leading to even deeper service cuts that ultimately undermine past investments.”
Service cuts reverberate for years. When revenue shortfalls led to significant service reductions in Toronto during the 1990s, it took nearly 18 years for ridership to recover.
Transit operating support is vital as Canada aims to increase immigration, housing supply, and economic growth, as well as reduce emissions, and improve public safety.
There is currently a concerning rise in public safety incidents on transit. A portion of operating expenses are allocated toward public safety, but operating shortfalls will make it more challenging to ensure a safe and secure experience for riders.
All levels of government must act to ensure frequent, affordable, and reliable public transit service in Canadian communities.
Communications & Public Affairs Specialist