Alberta will match the federal transit cash being made available to help funding-strapped transit systems recover from plummeting Covid-19 ridership.
According to information provided to LiveWire Calgary, Alberta was the first province to signal their intention to take part.
The feds first announced the funding in February, and at that time the province didn’t say if they were going to match. Calgary Transit was projecting an $89 million shortfall in 2022, provided ridership met the 60 to 75 per cent pre-pandemic target.
Previous years’ shortfalls were $93 million in 2020 and $106 million in 2021.
Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney said Friday that $79.5 million would be made available to help cities with their deficits.
“It’s no secret that municipal transit systems suffered losses during the pandemic with people working and studying remotely and using transit less,” Minister Sawhney said in a prepared statement.
“As people start returning to work, public transit is a critical component to economic recovery.”
It was in part due to advocacy by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, who lobbied on cities’ behalf.
“Transit systems thank Minister Sawhney and Premier Kenney for their support. Every day, about 300,000 Albertans rely on transit to get to work, school, and for daily life. Today’s announcement means buses and trains will keep running as they have throughout the pandemic,” said Marco D’Angelo, CUTA’s president.
“Public transit is essential to cities, and Alberta’s support is needed and welcome.”
City was hopeful funds would come
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek had expressed hope that the province would match the funds. In the recent Alberta budget, no mention of the matching funds was announced.
When reached on Friday, Mayor Gondek said this was great news for the city.
“This funding will allow us to not only regain some of the lost revenue but also to provide better servicing for Calgarians who need it so much,” she said.
Specific numbers are yet to be ironed out, but Mayor Gondek said any help is welcome.
“I’m very happy that our advocacy efforts and our calls to the minister paid off. She’s clearly aware of how desperately these funds are needed and I’m very happy to see progress,” the mayor said.
Sawhney said they recognize the need to support transit services as they emerge from the pandemic.
“Public transit is an essential service, in particular for students who are returning to on-campus learning, seniors and other vulnerable populations who may be re-entering the workforce to get to and from work or re-engaging in social activities,” she said.