By Hayley Tubrett—
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Monday that $4 billion of funding will be put toward municipalities and transit services in Ontario.
After months of negotiations, Ford said the municipalities have come together to secure funding from the federal government. About $2 billion of the funding will be put into transit, and the other half will be put to various services and programs in municipalities that are financially unstable.
“I fought for transit, I fought for municipalities, and in a show of unity, the federal government stepped up to the plate. We secured billions of dollars for transit under this agreement,” said Ford.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has put tremendous financial strain on public transit systems,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation. “Ensuring safe and reliable transit is key to Ontario’s economic restart, and that is why half of the funding being announced today will support our critical municipal transit systems.”
A London Transit Commission (LTC) bus driver of three years said he thinks substantial funding would be useful to create more consistency within the London service. He asked to remain anonymous because the LTC does not allow drivers to speak to the media.
He said it’s difficult for people because there are gyms, hospitals, businesses and factories that run 24/7, yet the LTC does not.
“I know lots of people who have actually not been able to apply for certain jobs because there either is not a bus service that goes to the area where that job is, or the bus service does not run at a time of day that they need it in order to work at that particular place,” he said.
For example, he said hospital workers might be more willing to use transit instead of their cars if they knew they could reliably come and go on busses more efficiently.
“We could definitely use some additional routes. For example, if you live in the Huron and Oakville area, there is no direct route to Argyle Mall. You’ve got to take a minimum of two buses to get to Argyle,” he said. This adds an extra hour to many people’s bus rides, but he said an easy solution would be to go directly down Clark Road to Argyle Mall.
These are transit issues he thinks could be greatly improved with this federal funding. London is a big enough city to implement more direct bus routes and more buses running consistently throughout the day and night, he said.
For the other $2 billion set aside for municipalities’ social service funding, some will be accessible with an application, and others will be accessible on a per-household basis, said Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. They will be “rolling out the dollars” in the coming weeks.