Skip to content

Public Transit, Good Jobs

The Green Economy Network (GEN) has a comprehensive plan to address the current needs of public transit systems across the country and develop high speed rail travel between the nation’s most populous urban centres and along its busiest routes. This plan includes:

  • $30.75 billion over a 5-year period from the federal government to support the enhancement and development of inner and inter-city transit services.
  • $52 billion over a 5-year period from the federal government and other sources for the implementation of three high-speed rail projects along Canada’s busiest corridors.
  • In total, this plan will require $82.75 billion in spending from all levels of government .

A National Public Transit Strategy

For Canada to make the much-needed shift to a green economy, major investments will be needed to enhance our public transit and intercity rail capacity to reduce our dependency on private automobiles.

The transportation sector was responsible for 21 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. Just over half of the energy used in this sector is specifically dedicated to transporting people.

Because buses and trains are more efficient at moving people than personal vehicles and airplanes, increasing investments in public transportation will significantly reduce fuel consumption rates and carbon emissions. 

Transportation is also a quality-of-life issue. In comparison to transit passengers, those who get around by personal vehicle are more likely to suffer from traffic congestion-related stress, property damage, and even death. In a single year, public transportation has been estimated to save Canadians about $12.62 billion in vehicle operating costs and $3.17 billion in collision costs. There is an urgent need to rethink how we transport people.

Additionally, there are significant economic benefits that come with investment in public transit. Public transit has also been shown to contribute to at least $6.2 billion of economic output in Canada in a single year, all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 4.7 million tonnes.

 In 2017 alone, the transit industry directly employed 59,600 people, and investment in transit infrastructure created an additional 65,000 jobs.

In sum, public investment in transit is a cost-effective solution to improve lives, create good jobs, and reduce Canada’s carbon footprint.

Canada needs a national transportation plan designed to encourage Canadians to reduce their dependency on private automobiles as their main mode of transport.

We propose a National Public Transportation Strategy that involves a two-pronged approach:

      1. Improving transit within communities: the development and/or the expansion of public transit systems within municipalities across the country.
      2. Improving transit between communities: the development of high-speed rail systems in urban corridors and inter-community transit between rural and Indigenous communities.

To be effective, the Public Transportation Strategy needs to be accessible, affordable, and accountable.

Transit within Canadian communities: key issues

Canadians are less satisfied with the current state of public transit in their communities when compared to other public services such as healthcare and education. This should come as no surprise: for those who use public transit, average commuting times are nearly double what they are for those who use personal vehicles. This has environmental implications, as GHG emissions from the transportation sector have increased significantly over the last three decades: between 1990 and 2021, transportation-related emissions increased by 27%, a change partially attributable to a growth in vehicles on the road.

These issues stem from underfunding, as well as Canada’s piecemeal approach to the development of public transit which is overly dependent on private sector actors that often fail to produce optimal results. Fixing these issues to increase public transit use within communities will be key to cutting emissions in the transportation sector.

Canada’s public transit systems suffer from low public sector capacity to build and maintain major transit projects, as well a corresponding overdependence on private companies that are often ill-suited to meet the task of providing public goods. This diminishes the ability of public transit systems to provide Canadians with a viable alternative to performing day-to-day activities with a personal vehicle.

Transit between Canadian communities: key issues

Canada is behind the rest of the industrialized world in developing transit between communities. This gap can be primarily attributed to deficiencies that exist in our inter-community rail and bus services.

Canada’s transit networks fail to provide adequate rail and bus service between communities. This leaves Canadians with few options to traverse outside of their place of residence beyond personal vehicles and airfares.