(Source: CP24) — The federal government must make a long-term financial commitment to building public transit if it is indeed serious about reducing gridlock in cities like Toronto.
That’s the message that NDP MP Olivia Chow delivered to a group of about 75 students at a forum on public transit Thursday night.
The event, “End Gridlock; Get Canada Moving: A Plan For Action” was held at Vanier College on the York University campus.
In terms of GTA gridlock, Chow said that the greatest problem is finding “long-term, predictable funding.”
“It’s not just about how much – it’s about how it’s given out,” Chow said following the forum Thursday night. “Short-term funding just doesn’t work. So the federal government needs to take the leadership and partner with different levels of government so that we can solve the gridlock problem together.”
Chow said she is currently waiting for a response from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on the strategy.
“What is exciting, is that the [Federation of Canadian Municipalities] and mayors from across the country are joining together and saying that a long-term plan is what’s needed,” she said.
Traditionally the federal government has funded public transit infrastructure on a project-by-project basis, but Chow said they should make at least a 20-year financial commitment so city’s like Toronto can plan for the long term.
A similar commitment was made by the Government of Ontario in 2010 when it pledged to complete five major transit projects within 10 years at a cost of $9.5 billion.
“It should really be about a 20-year commitment that is predictable and that grows with the economy and grows with the ridership,” Chow told CP24 earlier Thursday. “As you know, more and more people are taking the TTC, but as a result we are packed. There are times you can’t even get onto the streetcar or get into the subway because the cars are packed. We need more [transit].”
Chow, the NDP’s transport and infrastructure critic, has publically called for a national transit strategy in the past, however to date she has not had any success getting the Conservative government on side with her private member’s bill.
Speaking with CP24 Thursday, Chow suggested the problem is reaching a boiling point.
“We desperately need a national transit strategy because, on average, Canadians are spending almost a month a year trying to get to work, or classes, or to visits friends,” she said. “Here in the GTA, it’s even worse. We spend about 82 minutes a day commuting and that’s time that we could be spending with our families.”
Chow’s meeting on public transit comes in the wake of the City of Toronto rolling out a campaign to solicit ideas from the public on how it can improve its transit network.
The “Feeling Congested?” campaign was unveiled Monday with the launch of an interactive website and the announcement that four public consultations will be held on transit over the next two weeks.