Public transit holds the key to a clean environment

Climate change is one of the single greatest threats to our planet. As the world warms, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to pollute the atmosphere. Canada remains the world’s tenth highest emitter, sitting at 2.5 times the global average

What can be done to slow and reverse these trends? One answer lies in expanding and investing in public transit—including the federal and provincial governments providing emergency revenue relief now so public transit can help decarbonize the economy as it reopens and grows.

Public transport is an essential, cost-effective way to make cities more sustainable. It gets people out of their cars and helps reduce sprawl. It also reduces congestion and vehicle-idling, leading to shorter trips and more sustainable transportation. In a 2019 Leger survey commissioned by CUTA, nine out of 10 Canadians believed that public transit investment helped the environment.

This World Environment Day let’s recognize the importance of public transit in maintaining a healthy  environment. But let’s also recognize where we would be without it.

Without public transit, cities would be congested with gas guzzling cars; urban air would become unbreathable; and many lower-income Canadians would be unable to access jobs.

During his re-election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to legislate a target to reduce Canada’s emissions to net zero by 2050. Public transit investment was going to be crucial to reaching this goal, with the PM mandating “growth-generating investments in public transit” and procuring 5,000 zero-emission school and transit buses over the next five years.

But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, transit has experienced a financial crisis. Ridership is down; revenue is drying up across the country; and significant layoffs are taking place. As a result, transit systems have had to cut service and cancel routes. CUTA has requested $400 million a month from federal and provincial governments to maintain service for essential workers and, as the economy reopens, those essential to economic recovery.

For transit to help with the federal government’s climate objectives, we can’t be hollowed out. Unless higher levels of government deliver funding today, transit won’t be able to support the climate objectives of tomorrow.

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