Earlier this month, in Our Times, James Hutt presented a cogent argument for universal transit as a fundamental part of a strategy for combating climate change and inequality. “2020: The Year of (Free) Transit” is a short piece, but it packs in inter-city buses, long distance rail and sustainable jobs into a vision for how we will start to build a better country.
Fare-free transit is an essential part of the solution to the combined crises of climate change and inequality. But, we can and should dream much bigger. A Green New Deal could provide the framework within which to demand the transit system we deserve: everything from nationalized electric bus companies, to the return of inter-city transit, to high-speed rail and, of course, free transit.
Fare-free transit in every city should be a cornerstone of a Green New Deal. We could point to how every dollar invested in transit returns three dollars in economic growth. But, frankly, mobility should simply be a right. Fare-free transit would fundamentally transform our cities and the lives of the working class. When everyone has the ability to move throughout their city, to get to and from work, to visit family and friends, to go to classes or appointments, to get groceries, or to get to nearby parks — then we create a city where everyone has the chance to thrive (and organize!).
Improving Canada’s rail system requires less imagination and more of a look at history. Japan built its first high-speed rail in 1964. The “bullet train” took passengers from Tokyo to Osaka at speeds of 210 kilometres per hour. Since then it has expanded routes and increased speeds to 300 km/h. Meanwhile, in Canada, Via Rail passenger trains currently max out at 160 kilometres per hour. In Korea, China and in other parts of Japan, trains that use magnetic levitation (maglev lines) can reach up to 430 km/h. Going that speed, you could leave Windsor at 7:30 a.m. and be in Quebec City by 9 a.m. or Halifax by 11a.m. Trains emit approximately 10 times less greenhouse gases than flights, so reducing air travel between those cities would have a drastic effect.2020: THE YEAR OF (FREE) TRANSIT