Rock to Road

News
Commute times underscore infrastructure deficit


May 27, 2010
By Andy Bateman

May 27, 2010 – In “Gridlock
jeopardizes recovery,” today’s Vancouver Sun quotes a report which says that federal
funding is needed to fix transit woes in Canada's largest urban centres.

“Gridlock
and lack of federal funding for public transit is jeopardizing Canada's
economic recovery, say mayors from across the country.

Heading into an annual conference this week in Toronto, the Federation of
Canadian Municipalities is hoping the Harper government addresses some of their
transit woes that have left some of the country's largest urban centres at the
bottom of a recent international ranking on traffic gridlock and the daily
commute.

"Ultimately, it comes down to sustainable funding
for transit because the federal government has been very good, along with the
provincial governments across the country and in our region, at building
infrastructure," said Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender. "But our
challenge is the operating funds to ensure that we will meet the transit needs
of the future."

Advertisment

Fassbender said the three levels of government in Canada
need to come up with a long-term plan that addresses not only the movement of
passengers, but also the transportation of goods and services.

"That is going to feed into the economic strategy
for the country, for the provinces and for each of the municipalities
involved," said Fassbender, also the chair of the mayor's council for
TransLink, Metro Vancouver's regional transportation authority.

Meanwhile, a 19-city analysis by the Toronto Board of
Trade concluded in April that five Canadian cities had some of the longest
average commute times to and from work.

While Barcelona was on
top with an average daily commute time of 48.4 minutes, Montreal
and Toronto
were at the bottom with commute times estimated at 76 minutes and 80 minutes
respectively. Halifax was 10th in the analysis,
with a 65-minute commute, while Calgary and Vancouver took both the
13th and 14th places, each with an average trek of 67 minutes.

The survey showed that Canadians in these cities were
facing longer commutes than people in the busy centres of Milan,
Los Angeles and Berlin.

Claude Dauphin, the mayor the Montreal
borough of Lachine, noted that his region has
one of the highest proportions of transit users for its population, but he said
that cities across Canada
all have enormous needs to upgrade and operate their services and reduce
congestion.

He added that Canada is the only G8 country
without a national transit strategy.

"Congestion is causing a lot of problems to our
economy and that's not the kind of thing we'll solve tomorrow morning,"
said Dauphin. "All the leaders of the different (federal) political
parties will have to address this question, or we will have to ask them this
question."

The mayors, who are expecting to hear from Prime
Minister Stephen Harper during their conference on Friday, said a new long-term
strategy with funding for transit issues would also address pollution and
climate change concerns.

While they acknowledge that federal and provincial
governments have started to reinvest in infrastructure after a period of cuts
in the 1990s, the municipal politicians say they need a long-term solution for
revenues that goes beyond property taxes.”