Ottawa, Ontario – A new survey conducted for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) shows that rising gas prices are prompting Canadians to consider taking public transit, but the two groups say that most transit systems don’t have the capacity to handle the demand.
“Canadians are at a tipping point,” said Jean Perrault, president of FCM. “They are feeling pain at the pump and willing to consider switching to transit. The problem is they’ll find most transit systems are already operating at or beyond capacity.”
Of those surveyed, more than 40 per cent said they will consider transit if gas prices continue to rise; 83 per cent of those surveyed believe high gas prices are here to stay, and 30 per cent said that their personal financial situation has worsened in the last six months. The response suggests that transit ridership could triple as a result of gas prices.
“Transit providers welcome new riders, but without new funding, this kind of increased demand would overwhelm urban systems, many of which are already at or beyond capacity during peak hours,” said CUTA chair Steve New. “The ability to respond to a surge in demand resulting from higher gas prices will require major investments in additional service.”
The survey suggests that high gas prices will be an issue in the next federal election, Perrault said. “These are issues that must be debated during the next election. We’re looking at an unprecedented opportunity for government to help Canadians deal with high gas prices while jump-starting a shift from cars to transit. Ultimately, the country needs a properly funded national transit strategy. But the federal government can get things rolling now by adding a dedicated top-up to the existing federal gas tax fund for transit. The fund is in place, it works, and we all understand it.”