Public transit demands to soar: Study

By Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service

OTTAWA — Public transit ridership will nearly double over the next three decades requiring comprehensive national planning to support economic growth and an aging population, says a study released Friday.

The report, Transit Vision 2040, says government must take action to put transit at the centre of communities and ensure sustainable development that will reduce congestion or mobility within small towns and large cities.

“The path ahead, however, is not free of risks,” said the report, released by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, which represents public transit agencies across the country. “The costs of providing transit services are rising inexorably. Pressures on government finances are leading to higher transit fares, which in turn reduce the competitiveness of transit as the most significant alternative to car use in our cities.”

The report was produced following extensive consultations with former provincial premiers, federal cabinet ministers, scientists and other experts. It urged the federal government to take a lead role, in co-operation with provincial and regional governments, in developing a national framework policy for public transportation.

The report noted that average public transit fares have increased by 25 per cent over the past decade while the cost of auto ownership has decreased by 33 per cent.

It said priorities for the future would include improving services, reducing environmental impacts, doing more research to improve knowledge and practice, as well as ensuring financial stability for future operation and infrastructure needs.

“By 2040, Canadian society will look very different than it does today. Canada’s population is projected to grow to 40 million, and our population will be growing older as well,” says John King, CUTA’s vice chair of small transit systems. “Transit Vision 2040 takes a proactive approach to enhancing our quality of life and ensuring that we make the right choices today to build a sustainable future for tomorrow.”

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