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Canadian Cities wrestle with rapid transit woes. What is your solution?


How does transit impact Tourism?
While Ottawa stands aloof, Canadian cities are falling behind in providing the public transit services that are critical to growing the economy and sustaining prosperity, Pollution Probe and the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) said today.

On the eve of the federal government's Throne Speech signaling its intentions for the next year, public transit across Canada gets minimal financial support from Ottawa. "Canada has the only big-city public transit systems in the industrialized world not to receive financial support for operations from upper-level governments," said Dr. Michael Roschlau, President of CUTA.

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In the USA, federal and state financial support averages 24% of the cost of operating their public transit systems. The European G7 countries provide between 15% and 30% of the operating costs. "Canadian cities are competing at a tremendous disadvantage with other cities around the world,." Dr. Roschlau said.

"Our federal and provincial governments should be providing the kinds of support for urban transit that our foreign competitors enjoy,"he said. CUTA and Pollution Probe today released the report Trans-Action 2001, http://www.cutaactu.on.ca/index2.htm based on the Transit Summits sponsored by the two organizations last April. "Public transit means cleaner air, a healthier city and a city that works better," said Ken Ogilvie, Executive Director of Pollution Probe.

"Transportation capacity does create a natural limit to growth. The way to remove that limit is to improve transportation services," said Brian Bourne of KPMG in a report to the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton. He pointed to Manhattan as an example of a city with an extensive public transit system that facilitates tremendous economic activity. Long commutes to work are wasteful, and are a disincentive to attracting skilled workers. Efficient movement of goods is necessary for today's businesses in an era of just-in-time delivery.

Business investment is at stake. "When companies decide to locate to a city, they are considering factors such as transportation infrastructure and the quality of life for their employees Ö If we want to sell head offices, if we want call centres, if we want to be a company's transportation hub / transportation infrastructure is critical,î said Elyse Allan, President and CEO of the Toronto Board of Trade.

Canadian tax law and government policies actually now encourage inefficient, highly polluting automobile commuting, while discouraging efficient, cleaner public transit. An example would be that most employees get free parking at work, but if an employer provides transit passes to their workers, it is a taxable benefit. Overall transit funding in Canada has declined 25% over the past five years. Recent comments by Transportation Minister David Collenette give cause for hope.

"The federal government really does have a role in making sure that goods get to market, that our cities do not become overly polluted- the federal government wants to be part of the solution," the minister said earlier this month. "It's time to end the neglect of public transit. It's time for Ottawa and the provinces to start thinking big about public transit," Mr. Ogilvie said. "In Toronto, the TTC is already facing potentially insurmountable financial challenges. Our health, our environment and our prosperity are at stake."

"Public transit funding is a win-win for the environment and the economy," he said. Mr. Ogilvie and Dr. Roschlau outlined the following first steps the Government of Canada should take in its Throne Speech: Share fuel tax revenues with municipalities to fund public transit Direct financial grants for transit service expansion. Level the taxation playing field to give transit users equality with car drivers.


"We're hoping Ottawa will show leadership and signal its intention to step into the transit void with some positive announcements in the Throne Speech," Dr. Roschlau said.

For further information:
Michael Roschlau, President & CEO, CUTA
(416) 365 9800 x104

John Wellner, Director, Air Program, Pollution Probe
(416) 926 1907 x236