It's time for a National Transit Strategy

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Canadians spend an average of 32 days going to and from work every year. Eighty-five per cent of all employees are unhappy with their commutes - that's a lot of people.

Being stuck in traffic or waiting for overcrowded buses is daily routine for millions of Canadians. It's high time we have federal leadership to cut commute times and seriously invest in public transit.

Congestion and long commutes are not just about the loss in quality of life; our mobility woes also mean billions in economic damages.

And what do the Conservatives do? Essentially nothing. As the new budget shows, they refuse any active role in getting Canadians the rapid, accessible transit that we need.

That's why, as the Official Opposition Transport Critic and together with my New Democrat colleagues, I am calling for a National Transit Strategy - NTS for short. We need clear federal leadership and dedicated, long-term funding. And it's not just us: transit experts, mayors and organizations across the country have endorsed the call for the NTS.

The key elements of the NTS encompass a continuous dialogue and coordination between the different levels of government with the federal level taking a coordinator role, dedicated and stable, predictable funding and a long-term investment. By having the federal government report to the House of Commons on the progress and spending, we create transparency and accountability.

Before we tackle transit on the federal level, there will continue to be a lot of frustration. But there is also already a lot of creative thinking, a lot of imagination of what good transit could look like with proper transit funding. That's why we kicked off a Twitter campaign to get people involved and talking about the need for better transit.

Under the theme 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Transit', we are asking people across Canada to share their commute stories and impressions with photos and comments. We are encouraging everyone to flag their tweets with the hashtags #GoodTransit, #BadTransit and #UglyTransit and address them to @GetCanadaMoving.

The response so far has been very positive. Commuters from coast to coast are participating - as are MPs and organizations like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. To emphasize our call for the NTS, a number of MPs took to the streets today: we talked to transit users and the media about the need for federal funding and coordination.

Rapid and reliable transit is the right of every Canadian. Commuters have had enough of empty promises and delays. It's time to take transit seriously; it's time to have a national plan.

Join us in our push for the NTS.

Olivia Chow is the MP for the riding of Trinity-Spadina. 

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