Management & Operations

Canadian transit ridership strong despite strikes

Posted on July 1, 2002

Despite lengthy strikes in Calgary and Vancouver, Canadian public transit ridership remained strong in 2001. According to figures released by the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), 1.47 billion trips were taken on transit systems in 2001, a 0.9% decrease from 2000. Aside from Vancouver and Calgary, ridership increased more rapidly than population did in 2001. CUTA’s preliminary data indicate that per-capita ridership increased from 83.5 rides in 2000 to 83.9 rides in 2001. “Removing the effects of the two major strikes, ridership increased 2.6% on the other transit systems in 2001, continuing an impressive five-year growth record,” said Michael Roschlau, CUTA president and CEO. The numbers for 2001, showing a less than 1% dip nationally, represent a continued trend in ridership growth, which in total has amounted to 10% since 1996. Canada’s two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec, both set 10-year transit ridership records, with Ontario reaching 680 million trips and Quebec counting close to 475 million trips last year. Although ridership growth is good news for public transit in Canada, long-term investment solutions must be implemented to sustain it, said Roschlau. “To a large degree, the economic competitiveness of Canada’s cities will depend on our ability to expand public transit’s role in improving mobility, air quality and alleviating traffic congestion.” CUTA estimates about $13.6 billion is needed over the next five years for renewal and expansion of Canada’s public transit system. Compared to other governments, such as the United States and Japan, which contribute two-thirds of transit’s capital, Canada’s contribution is less than 10%. Recent discussions indicate that Canada’s investment in public transit may change for the better. Canada’s Minister of Transport David Collenette suggested committing a portion of the federal gasoline tax to this end, which is consistent with proposals from CUTA.

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