Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans Wednesday for the federal government to spend $14.9 billion over the next eight years on public transportation projects across the country.
Part of that funding will go toward a permanent transit fund of $3 billion per year starting in 2026 and meant to provide stable and predictable funding so municipalities can plan future projects, Trudeau said.
“We need efficient and modern public transit systems that make our communities more connected,” he said at a virtual announcement ahead of a meeting with the mayors of Canada’s largest cities.
“While these investments are good for the economy and crucial to our recovery from this global crisis, they’re also helping us achieve our climate goals.”
Trudeau said the funding could be used for subway extensions, electrifying transit fleets with zero-emissions vehicles, and for walkways and cycling pathways, as well as rural mobility needs.
Public-transportation ridership in urban areas has declined precipitously since many Canadian workers started working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest data from Statistics Canada for November 2020 show ridership down 64 per cent when compared to November 2019.
Lower ridership has also led to major revenue decreases for many transit agencies, adding additional pressure to municipal and provincial budgets already beset by falling revenues and increased spending on pandemic-related priorities.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, who chairs the big city mayors’ caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said the announcement satisfies a key demand the country’s mayors have been asking for for years.
“Permanent transit funding offers cities long-term predictability to finally be able to deliver transformational system expansion and drive durable economic growth across our country,” said Iveson. “The recovery support here can be massive. It can be the centrepiece of the job-creating, emissions-reducing recovery that Canadians are looking for.”
In a news release, the Prime Minister’s Office said the federal government has spent over $13 billion on more than 1,300 public transit projects across Canada since 2015. That funding has helped build more than 240 kilometres of subway and light rail lines, purchase 300 zero-emission buses, and create almost 500 kilometres of trails, bike and pedestrian lanes, and recreational paths.