Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government is promising billions of dollars in permanent funding for public transit systems in Canadian cities, but most of the money won’t come for several more years.
The prime minister made the announcement on Wednesday, pledging $14.9 billion to cities and their public transit infrastructures amid the financial struggles created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of the nearly $15 billion dollars being provided by the federal government, about $6 billion will be made available to municipalities immediately for projects that are ready.
Trudeau says the remaining money will go into a $3 billion per year permanent fund that will be divided out to cities on a project-by-project basis, beginning in 2026.
“When we invest in public transit infrastructure, we are supporting good middle-class jobs, creating better commutes, fighting climate change, and helping make life easier and more affordable for Canadians. We will continue to do what it takes to ensure our economic recovery from COVID-19 and build back a more resilient country for everyone,” Trudeau said on Wednesday.
Trudeau notes that the investment in public transit is part of the Liberals’ wider-scale plan to create jobs, fight climate change, and “rebuild a more sustainable and resilient economy.”
“As we build back better, it is time to ambitiously invest in modern and sustainable public transit across our country, to reduce congestion, to help create a million jobs, and to support cleaner and more inclusive communities,” added Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, in a statement.
During Trudeau’s announcement, concerns were presented about the uncertainty of what long-term transit needs will be required by municipalities after the pandemic and how much work-from-home situations will replace traditional commutes to the office.
The prime minister acknowledged these uncertainties, however, emphasized that he believes the need for transit will continue to grow rather than diminish.
“There will be no question that cities will still be incredible, vibrant places for economic growth for jobs,” said Trudeau. “Yes, there will be more working from home, but people will still want to be getting around and there may actually be less need for certain single-occupant vehicles, and more use of better quality, cleaner, and safer public transit.”
According to the federal government, the transit investments will:
- Help Canadians move around easier and create new jobs by building major public transit projects, providing dedicated planning funding to accelerate future major projects, and supporting the expansion of large urban transit systems that Canadians rely on daily.
- Reduce pollution by enhancing and switching transit systems to cleaner electrical power, including supporting the use of zero-emission vehicles and related infrastructure, complementing the work of the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
- Support healthy lifestyles in communities and meet the growing demand for active transportation projects by building walkways and paths for cycling, walking, scooters, e-bikes, and wheelchairs.
- Help Canadians living in rural and remote areas travel to and from work more easily
- Support cities and communities by making a permanent and stable federal commitment to funding public transit, facilitating partnerships between all orders of government, Indigenous communities, transit agencies, and other stakeholders to develop an approach to permanent public transit funding in a manner that offers the greatest benefits to Canadians.
The government said in a statement that since 2015, it has invested more than $13 billion in 1,300 public transit projects for communities across Canada.