Free Transit in Ottawa

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1791 ... March 25, 2019

Free Transit in Ottawa:
Fighting Against Climate Change and for Social Justice

Free Transit Ottawa

Ottawa’s public transit system has many shortcomings. Too often buses are congested and/or infrequent. Few stops have shelters and many users face lengthy trips to get where they want to go. ParaTranspo is often inaccessible to those most in need. And the system is expensive! OCTranspo’s (Ottawa-Carleton Transportation Commission) fares are among the highest in the country. It is lower income people who depend on public transit to move around the city who are most affected by these shortcomings. There is an urgent need, and a question of social justice, to improve the quality and accessibility of the public transit system.

This need is powerfully reinforced by the reality... of climate change -- an issue that affects all of us irrespective of income or personal capacities. Rising temperatures, increasingly severe weather disturbances, mass pollution, collapsing fish stocks, loss of biodiversity and other changes associated with it could extinguish humanity by the end of this century. Our fossil-fueled capitalist economic system, with its pursuit of endless growth, is driving these changes and stands as the principal obstacle to meaningful measures to halt and reverse them. Meanwhile, working people, and especially the poorest among us, bear the brunt of these changes due to their living and working circumstances.

If we look at greenhouse gas emissions, the main cause of climate change, we see that despite all the hype, governments have not adopted the necessary policies. According to the United Nations, the current plans of the G-20 countries will produce only one third of the reduction in emissions needed to limit the rise in average planetary temperatures to below 2°C. The Trudeau government’s ‘carbon taxes’ or ‘cap and trade’ schemes, like all market-based approaches, will not significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and their costs can fall disproportionately on low income people.1 They are really an attempt to avoid creating the regulatory framework and directly interventionist policies needed to reorient the economy and society toward a sustainable, low-carbon future based on renewable energy resources.

What we need are policies that would make public transit free and accessible to all, just like public schools, healthcare, fire services and sidewalks. A fare-free and radically improved public transit system which would be a major step toward fighting poverty and social exclusion would also be the biggest single measure we could take to combat climate change.

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