CANADIAN prime minister, Mr Justin Trudeau, has announced plans to spend an additional $C 14.9bn ($US 11.8bn) of federal funding on public transport projects over the next eight years. 

The allocation includes $C5.9bn in short-term funding to be disbursed on a project-by-project basis from this year, and $C 3bn per year to contribute to the creation of a permanent transit fund from 2026. 

Money from the permanent transit fund will be earmarked for specific projects following consultation with regional, municipal and indigenous governments. The fund is intended to provide stable, predictable funding for projects that support improvements to public transport systems, such as metro extensions, electrification, cycle paths and rural mobility projects. 

The Canadian government has already committed $C 13bn in federal funding across 1300 transport projects since 2015. A further $C 10bn is set aside for transport as part of the Canada Plan infrastructure strategy. 

“We need efficient and modern public transit systems that make our communities more connected,” Trudeau says. “While these investments are good for the economy and crucial to our recovery from this global crisis, they’re also helping us achieve our climate goals.” 

The new funding is intended to address the strain on municipal and provincial budgets, which have been impacted by low revenues caused by the fall in ridership due to the pandemic, as well as increased spending in other areas due to the crisis.  

Unlike previous infrastructure commitments, the funding will not be divided between provinces but will be part of a centralised pot which can be accessed whenever a project is ready, with the aim of accelerating project development across the country independent of provincial transport budgets. 

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), an advocacy group for mayors, councillors and other elected municipal officials, has expressed support for the new funding plans. 

“Permanent transit funding offers cities long-term predictability to finally be able to deliver transformational system expansion and drive durable economic growth across our country,” says Mr Don Iveson, mayor of Edmonton and chair of FCM’s Big City Mayors’ Caucus. “The recovery support here can be massive. It can be the centrepiece of the job-creating, emissions-reducing recovery that Canadians are looking for.” 

The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) also welcomed the move. The association’s president, Mr Marco D’Angelo, saying that the permanent fund will help expand transport systems and ease congestion in cities, removing many hurdles which currently hinder infrastructure development. However, CUTA says that further operational funding is needed to reduce impact on transport operators during times of low ridership.