What Ontario’s major political parties are promising on public transit

Munro Watters uses public transit almost every day to and from his government job in downtown Ottawa. A round trip costs him more than $7 a day.

Is she interested in the Liberal promise to offer $1 public transit passes for the next year and a half? You bet.

“It’s something I’m extremely on board with,” Watters told CBC. “I’ve noticed how much more expensive public transit is for me, especially per trip…And public transit is supposed to be the cheapest and also the greenest option.”

But if her boyfriend is in town with his car, they often drive because parking and gas only cost a little more than the $15.80 it would cost them to take public transit.

On the other hand, Jamie Pudwell doesn’t think cheaper fares will make more people leave their cars.

“The reason a lot of people aren’t taking public transit is that it’s not really convenient right now,” Pudwell said. “It’s not super integrated and it’s not particularly comfortable in many places.”

Ontario’s political parties are promising to expand GO Transit service, and some parties are promising to reduce fares. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

He would like to see more intercity travel by train – something GO Transit provides to some extent largely in areas surrounding the GTA – and also expanded transit within communities, instead of systems that direct riders to a central downtown corridor.

“If we had a fully integrated circular route, like you see in many cities, something like this would be a much better system,” Pudwell said.

“I’ve used them. I’ve been to cities in Japan, I’ve been to cities in Europe. You can go to any neighborhood you want. What if they were to actually incorporate plans like this there, using taxpayers’ money – totally behind it.”

He’s more interested in the NDP’s plan to pick up half the costs of running city transit — something the province was doing before the PC Mike Harris government of the 1990s shut down.

Ottawa voters speak out on what it would take to increase transit ridership

Ahead of the provincial election, Ottawa residents say public transit needs to be faster, more reliable and better connected.

Of course, the two perspectives are not mutually exclusive – a cheaper transit fare only helps riders if there is a bus or train that takes them where they want to go – but those are the major differences in how the province’s major political parties frame their transit plans.

Here’s what each of the major parties promises to do for municipal transit, if elected on June 2, and what it would cost.


In its budget released late last month, the Progressive Conservatives pledged to spend $61.6 billion over 10 years on public transit, including the Ontario line in Toronto, the expansion of GO Transit from Oshawa to Bowmanville, the London GO Rail Service, which will provide weekday GO train trips between London and Union Station in Toronto.

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford is pledging billions of dollars for transit infrastructure spending, including the Ontario Line, but has made no specific promises to subsidize city fares or transit budgets . (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

There are also plans to eventually connect the Eglinton Crosstown West extension to Toronto Pearson International Airport, and PCs are “advancing planning work for the Sheppard Subway Extension”.

In short, CP’s plan for transit involves capital expenditures – investing money in expanding infrastructure, but not directly in municipal transit operations.

All the other major parties have pledged to fund transit infrastructure projects already underway.


New Democrats pledge to spend $3.6 billion over four years on transit operations — they have earmarked $898 million a year to cover half of municipal transit operations.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has pledged to spend $3.6 billion to subsidize municipal transit operations to help cities improve service and lower fares. (Gino Donato/The Canadian Press)

However, there would be conditions attached to this funding.

Chandra Pasma is the NDP candidate in Ottawa West-Nepean. She says an NDP government would expect the money to go towards improving transit service in terms of coverage and accessibility, as well as reducing fares.

When talking to people in her riding, Pasma says it’s not necessarily the cost that keeps them from using public transit, although she admits it’s getting more and more expensive.

“It’s that the bus never goes through their neighborhood or getting downtown is a 15-minute drive, but it’s a one-hour transit ride that requires two buses and a train — and that’s is if the train is running,” she said.


One of the Liberals’ first campaign promises is their money-for-a-ride promise: Any ride on public transit, including GO Transit, will cost $1 from September 2022 to January 2024. Monthly passes would be capped at $40 per month. .

They say it will cost $710 million in 2022-23 and nearly $1.2 billion in 2023-24. According to party officials, the cost is based on an average provincial rate of just over $3. The plan starts with ridership numbers starting this winter and assumes a 3% increase in fare numbers each month, reaching pre-pandemic levels by early 2024.

Since the start of the campaign, Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca has kept his promise of cash-in-transit. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

The plan is being touted primarily as a way to help Ontarians save money — ‘affordability’ is the main issue in this election — and as a way to encourage greater use of public transit , which fell during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Liberals say they estimate their rate plan would take 400,000 cars off the road.

Asked what would happen to tariffs after January 2024, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said late last week that he would do everything he could “to make sure we continue to make life more affordable, especially when it comes to public transport”.

The Liberals also pledge to subsidize municipal transit operations to the tune of $94 million in the current fiscal year and $375 million for each of the following three years.

Along with a promise to give veterans free tickets starting next year, the Liberals are pledging a total of $3.4 billion on fares and transit operations over the next next four years.

green party

Unsurprisingly, the Green Party promises to spend the most on transit operations and “prioritize transit in all transportation planning decisions.”

Like the New Democrats, the Greens would also fund half of municipal operating costs, but spend $1 billion a year, which is more than the NDP estimated.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner promises to spend the maximum of any party to “put transit first in all transportation planning decisions.” (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

The Green Party promises to spend $300 million to immediately halve transit fares for at least three months, and would spend $1 billion a year to buy thousands of electric buses, tripling the number of lanes reserved for buses.

Transport promises aimed at urban voters

While public transit is a huge cost to municipalities and fares can be a barrier for some who rely on it, it’s not an election issue, according to David Coletto, CEO of polling firm Abacus Data.

Out of a long list of issues, only 6% of respondents place public transit or reducing congestion among the top three issues that will determine their vote. One reason, suggests Coletto, is that many people are still working from home and travel costs are not a priority.

The Green Party promises to spend $1 billion over each of the next four years on electric buses, like this one used by Ottawa’s transit agency, and to increase dedicated bus lanes. (Frédéric Pépin/Radio-Canada)

But of the touted plans, the Liberal dollars are perhaps the ones getting the most traction. A recent Leger survey reported that more than half of respondents had heard of the $1 ticket promise and thought it was a good idea. The poll did not ask about the NDP or Greens’ plan to subsidize municipal transit operations.

While the NDP’s platform promises more money for public transit, it takes more effort to explain than the Liberals’ one-line slogan.

“Any time you can take a problem that people perceive and come up with an easily digestible solution, it’s going to be more memorable,” Coletto told CBC. “Now, is that going to be enough? Is that the thing people are going to vote Liberal for? I think it’s still unclear.”

Transit promises from the NDP, Liberals and Greens are clearly aimed at urban centers with larger transit systems, Coletto said, especially younger voters who “may not own a car or don’t not live in a condo in the center of town and lower-income households who depend on public transit to get around. »

Looking for more details on the platforms of the four major parties in Ontario’s June election? Head to this story where you can read the platforms for yourself.

You can also use electoral compass to compare your political views to those of the major parties.