Canada needs national transit plan, says MP

Canada is overdue for a national public transit strategy, says New Westminster-Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly.

Donnelly has endorsed the National Public Transit Strategy Act, which would compel the federal government to work with all levels of government to maintain and expand pubic transit across Canada.

Olivia Chow, an NDP MP in Ontario, introduced the private members bill.

"For me, it's relevant because it is really connected to the issue with the Evergreen Line," Donnelly said.

"Olivia's bill is exactly what we need. We need an emphasis on a national transit strategy, including the funding that will go along with it. That's what the act would do. It would provide a permanent investment plan to support public transit."

According to Donnelly, the bill would also establish federal funding mechanisms, coordinate sustainable, long-term funding and establish accountability measures to ensure that all governments work together to increase access to public transit.

"Responsibility for transportation has been offloaded to many local jurisdictions around the country, including TransLink, and they just can't keep up with the demand," Donnelly said. "I have been calling for the federal government to take a leadership role."

Donnelly said the idea is to ensure that adequate and predictable funding is provided to transit.

"The main issue is there has been a downloading to local and regional governments," he said.

"We are the only G-8 nation that does not have a national public transit strategy. That is pretty shocking in itself."

Donnelly said projects like the Evergreen line demonstrate the need for a coordinated and far-sighted approach to transportation planning and financing. He noted the project has experienced countless delays.

Donnelly said transit planning isn't done in a comprehensive way across Canada.

"There are piecemeal projects that come along," he said. "If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you may be lucky."

Donnelly said the issue exists nationwide and urban centres are struggling to cope with growing transit needs.

If government wants to get away from using single-occupancy vehicles, he said, they have to help provide alternatives.

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