Toronto has the third most heavily used transit system in North America after Mexico City and New York City. Yet we rank the lowest for commuting times compared to other major cities. This points to the fact that we have a long way to go in transit investment for an urban region of our size.
A delay in spending on public transit is not just a delay, it puts the entire system in jeopardy. We’ve seen this before when the Mike Harris government stopped the Eglinton line and here we are so many years later delaying it again. The budget freeze may appear to be saving us money in the short term, but it will end up costing us more later, when new transit lines will become improbable to afford and simply won’t happen.
But this delay is not only a setback for commuters, it is a setback for our economy, environment and even our public health. Ironically, as the province was announcing the cuts to transit in one breath, they were setting off alarm bells on the rising cost in public health in the other. I would suggest that there is a direct correlation between the two.
Delaying transit is like delaying a health initiative. Since transit begins and ends on foot, where there’s transit, there are people walking. Walking and transit use is the easiest way to begin to chip away at our sedentary lifestyles brought about by our car-dependent cities. In the end transit helps makes cities more socially, economically and environmentally viable and healthier places to live. Investing in transit is an investment in our public health.