FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MISSES OPPORTUNITY TO GROW TRANSIT RIDERSHIP IN BUDGET 2023
OTTAWA (March 28, 2023) – The Federal government did not extend funding support for public transit operations in budget 2023. Calls by the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) and Canada’s transit agencies for operating support to rebuild and grow ridership went unanswered.
“With Canada’s population growing significantly, investments in public transit operations are needed to maintain service levels and ensure communities can accommodate growth,” said Marco D’Angelo, CUTA’s President and CEO.
National transit ridership has recovered to roughly 73 per cent of pre-Covid levels. An infusion of funds is needed in 2023 to help offset transit agencies’ operating shortfalls. In recent weeks, several provinces took action to support public transit.
Last week, Quebec announced $400 million to Québec’s transit agencies for 2023 to help offset the roughly $565 million operational shortfall anticipated for the year. In early March, the BC government announced $479 million in operational funding to TransLink, the province’s largest transit system. In late February, the Manitoba government extended operating support to Winnipeg Transit. Ontario did not provide funding support for public transit operations in its 2023 budget. According to an internal survey by the Ontario Public Transit Association, the shortfall for Ontario’s transit agencies is estimated at $510 million.
With no indication of operating support from the federal government, many transit systems face the likelihood of service cuts and fare hikes in the coming months. This could create a negative feedback loop that would lead to further revenue reductions. When riders have to wait longer or pay more, many are forced to find other modes of travel.
The budget noted investments in public transit infrastructure through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). This includes a call for Quebec to allocate approximately $695 million of its remaining $2.7 billion in ICIP project funding to the Montreal Blue Line project and the balance of these funds to other priority projects.
CUTA is looking forward to the launch of the Permanent Public Transit Fund (PPTF), currently scheduled to begin in 2026. CUTA is energized to start working with government to support the transition through intermediate capital financing and funding arrangements before the PPTF starts. There is a growing need, especially in Canada’s largest cities, to ensure the state of good repair for existing public transit infrastructure.
Communications and Public Affairs Specialist
Canadian Urban Transit Association