Cash for rural transit may be en route

TROUT‘Communities can’t wait another year,’ Hendsbee says   

Those living without a car on the outskirts of Halifax Regional Municipality usually have to rely on their feet, a bicycle or the kindness of friends and strangers to get around.

And with the suggestion of an urban transit boundary in the regional plan, it is unlikely bus routes will pull into those rural communities any time soon.

Instead, Metro Transit has suggested rural communities come up with their own transit solutions, something the municipality may help pay for if council approves the funding scheme that went before the grants committee Monday. Continue reading →


Our Economy Needs Public Transit To Tackle Gridlock

Ontario has followed the same basic transportation strategy for decades. We build more roads, traffic congestion increases. The result? Longer commutes. Less farmland. Frustrating traffic jams. Soaring asthma rates.

Clearly, the status quo isn’t working. Ontario needs change. Gridlock costs $6 billion per year in the GTHA alone. If we continue with the status quo, congestion will cost $15 billion per year by 2031. There are clear economic costs when we can’t move goods and people efficiently. There’s also a cost to our families and communities when we spend more time in the car than at home.

We need a strategy that will take Ontario’s economy out of gridlock and into the fast lane. Continue reading →

A bigger tax break for those who take public transit

About 2.7 million families will benefit from the tax break for taking mass transit. Bebeto Matthews / AP

Transit riders will get a bigger tax break this year, thanks to a provision tucked into the legislation that averted a fall off the fiscal cliff.

As part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2013, Congress decided that for 2013 people who take mass transit to work will get the same pretax benefits as those who drive and pay to park their car. Both can set aside up to $245 a month to cover these expenses, if their employer offers such a plan.

That’s a big change from last year, when employees could set aside up to $240 a month to park, but only $125 a month for transit expenses. In 2011, the tax savings had been the same for parking or public transportation.

Now parity is back and that could mean more savings for transit commuters.

“Someone in the highest federal tax bracket – 30 to 39.6 percent – could save about $570 a year. Someone in the 15 percent tax bracket could save about $260 a year,” explained Lisa Greene-Lewis, lead CPA at the American Tax and Financial Center at TurboTax.

According to Bloomberg News, about 2.7 million families will benefit from this tax break.

“It’s not so much the dollar value; it’s the parity,” said Jon Martz, a vice president at vRide, which provides vanpool services in about 60 different urban areas in the country. “Why give people an incentive to commute in single occupancy cars? Give them a benefit of equal value for choosing to take public transportation, if they can do it.”

And there’s more good news. Congress made the change retroactive. It’s as if the higher limit of $240 had been in effect for transit riders all last year. The IRS already gave employers guidance on how to put that money back into their employees’ paychecks.

If you used this program last year and didn’t see an adjustment in your paycheck to cover the reimbursement, talk to your employer. If you haven’t been told about the higher limits for 2013 and want to put more aside, contact human resources.

Moving forward

The fiscal cliff deal only guaranteed an equal tax break for commuters who drive and those who take public transit for 2013. Those who support public transportation want this provision to be permanent.

“We need Congress to act to finally make the transit and the parking benefits equal so that all commuters are on a level playing field,” said Steven Higashide, a senior planner at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit watchdog group that serves New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. “This will create an incentive for transit riders and take more cars off the road.”

Frank Linkchorst, an aerospace engineer in California, agrees. He rides a vanpool weekdays from his home in El Segundo to work in Los Angeles 38 miles away. It’s cheaper and faster than being in a car.

“Anything that encourages people to rideshare is helpful,” he told me. “With 10 of us in that van, that’s nine fewer cars on the road at any given time – and that helps everybody.”

More Information:

Authour: Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebookand Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.

Source: LifeInc

McCallion blames poor planning for transit woes


Hazel McCallion.

Mayor Hazel McCallion told last night’s meeting of the Toronto Region Board of Trade thattransportation issues have caused a crisis across the GTA.

The mayor cited poor planning, communication and arrogance on the part of the provincial government, City of Toronto officials and other members of government, including herself, who neglected to make transportation the focus of land use. “It’s not been the basis of land use planning and that’s why we’re in the mess that we’re in,” said McCallion at the meeting, billed as a “fireside chat” by its sponsor, the Urban Land Institute’s Toronto chapter.

“One of the greatest things that we did not do well, and all municipalities are guilty of this, was that transportation should have been the basis of all decisions back then. When we look at the GTA, we say ‘why are we in this problem?’ Transportation is one of the things that should be a land use decision, but it’s never been that way and it still isn’t. Continue reading →

Public transit safest mode of transportation, study says

Vancouver – If you wanna be safe, take the bus – and leave the motorbike on blocks.

That’s the conclusion from a new study on the relative safety of the car, bicycle, and motorcycle as opposed to walking and public transit.

Buses and public transit are the safest, while motorbikes are the most dangerous. Continue reading →

Could Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne reboot a national transit strategy?

Ontario’s new premier is vowing to put transit planning back on the federal radar, a call to arms that could succeed where others have failed.

The Globe and Mail reports that freshly-crowned Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week and spoke about the need for a national strategy to fund transit projects in Canada.

“Infrastructure is one of the issues that I’ve said very clearly that I’m going to be raising with the federal government – particularly infrastructure and transit funding. I think that it’s extremely important that those two go hand in hand,” Wynne told the Globe.

Wynne’s focus would certainly be Ontario systems, specifically the overburdened and aging Toronto transit grid, but it is a message that could help across the country.

The last formal bid to start a national public transit strategy came in 2011, when NDP MP Olivia Chow introduced Bill C-305, intent on tackling the fragmented transit planning approach.

The National Public Transit Strategy Act aimed to build a game plan to ensure fast, accessible transit across Canada.

The keys were to reduce commute times, alleviate congestion and establish a permanent funding system, rather than one-off funding promises issued piecemeal. It was officially rejected in 2012, as the Conservative government elected to maintain the status quo.

Canada is also the only G8 nation without a national transit strategy. This says something about how serious other nations are taking the issue, or perhaps how much we are not.

The University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance considered the proper role of the federal government in a transit strategy, and suggested the current funding arrangements lacked transparency and actually “has a negative impact on public transit.”

It recommended a dedicated, long-term commitment that funds regions and projects based on a clear allocation formula.

So how would a national transit strategy actually work?

In the United States, 0.067 per cent of the GDP goes toward transit through the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA).

SAFETEA was signed into law in 2005, guaranteeing $244.1 billion in funding for highways and public transportation systems. The one-stop shop for transit funding streamlines construction and safety improvements, allows states to react quickly to issues causing congestion and ensures each state receives an equitable share of funding.

So, you know, something like that would be a start.

Whatever the end result, it is progress that the issue is being discussed. The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) wrapped up a two-day conference today, focused on the economic benefits of investing in transit.

“It is important to put transit at the centre of communities across Canada and to keep transit at the forefront of urban development and growth” CUTA President Michael Roschlau said. “These meetings are an opportunity to reinforce that message with government and industry stakeholders.”

Yes. More talking, please. Maybe something will be said that spurs action.

Author: Mathew Coutts

Source: YahooNews

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