Why Public Transit In Canada (Mostly) Sucks
Free Lunch by The Peak
Tue, September 26, 2023
Podchat Summary

Improving Public Transportation in Canada: A Conversation with Reese Martin

Welcome to another episode of Free Lunch by The Peak! In this episode, host Taylor Schollin sits down with Reese Martin, a public transport expert and the creator of the popular YouTube channel RM Transit. Together, they delve into the state of public transportation in Canada and explore why it lags behind other parts of the world.

The History of Inner-City Transit in Canada

Reese Martin takes us on a journey through time, tracing the origins of inner-city transit in Canada. He explains how private companies like Canadian Pacific and Canadian National once ran passenger train services, but due to poor performance, the government eventually took over, leading to the creation of VIA Rail.

However, the decline of passenger train services in Canada was driven by a shift in focus towards freight and a desire to avoid the high costs associated with maintaining passenger infrastructure.

Comparing Canada to Europe and Asia

One of the key points of discussion revolves around the stark differences between public transportation in Canada and that of Europe and Asia. Reese highlights how public transportation in Canada is slower, less convenient, and more expensive compared to many European and Asian countries.

He attributes the success of public transportation systems in Europe and Asia to factors such as more established networks, less reliance on cars, and compact cities that are better suited for public transit.

The Need for Policy Changes and a National Agency

Reese suggests that Canada should adopt policies similar to those in Europe, such as implementing open access, where infrastructure ownership is separated from operations. This would allow for competition and a more balanced approach to infrastructure development.

He also advocates for the creation of a national agency responsible for overseeing transit projects across the country. This agency would have an in-house team of experts to plan and engineer projects, leading to better cost control and efficiency.

Challenges and Solutions

During the conversation, Reese highlights some of the challenges faced by Canada's public transportation system. He discusses the significantly higher costs of transit projects in Canada compared to other countries and the lack of transparency in project specifications and costs.

Furthermore, the decision to build subways versus other forms of transit is explored, with factors like density, capacity, and cost being taken into consideration. Reese suggests that a strong subway network with connecting bus services may be the most effective approach for Canada.

Success Stories and Future Projects

While discussing success stories, Vancouver's transit system is highlighted as an example of a Canadian city that has done well. With a larger system than Toronto and Montreal, Vancouver serves as an inspiration for other cities.

Finally, Reese mentions the Eglinton LRT in Toronto, which is expected to open in the fall of 2024 after completion of infrastructure and testing.

Overall, this episode sheds light on the need for better governance, transparency, and expertise in planning and executing transit projects in Canada. Join Taylor Schollin and Reese Martin as they delve into the intricacies of public transportation and explore potential solutions for a brighter future.

Original Show Notes
If you want to make yourself mad about the state of transportation in Canada, all you have to do is go to Europe.  Anyone who’s made the trip can tell you that in almost every European country, it’s faster, more convenient, and more comfortable to take public transportation than it is here.  And the same is true now in many parts of Asia—places that not long ago were much poorer than Canada, with much less well-developed infrastructure.  So why is public transportation in Canada so far behind these other parts of the world? Why does it seem to take forever to get anything built here (and cost way more)? And what would we need to do differently to fix it? To answer these questions, we’re joined by Reece Martin, who is a public transport expert, consultant, and creator of the wonderful and fascinating YouTube channel RMTransit, which has 250,000 subscribers and hundreds of videos all about different transportation systems around the world.  ----- More episodes of Free Lunch by The Peak: https://readthepeak.com/shows/free-lunch Follow Taylor on Twitter: @taylorscollon Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahbartnicka Subscribe to The Peak's daily business newsletter: https://readthepeak.com/b/the-peak/subscribe
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