Declare Public Transit essential in Ontario during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Public Transit is an essential service.

It is necessary to get health care workers to hospitals, to get personal support workers to clients, to get cleaners to essential services, to get retail workers to grocery stores.  It is also essential to provide a lifeline for people who do not or cannot drive - to access food, domestic abuse shelters, and mental health services at a minimum.  

While some people will have family who can step up to help, others - especially in cities - may not have family close by or not have a family member with a car.  Taxis are expensive, and are impractical for vulnerable populations.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association acknowledges the risks of running transit while social distancing but the essential nature of public transit makes it vital to ensure workers get to essential services jobs and the most vulnerable also have access to food and even food banks.  

British Columbia and Quebec have declared public transit as essential services as has Nova Scotia.  The directive from Nova Scotia’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, effective Friday March 27th, states:

“That any municipally operated public transit system, including in the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, is an essential service required to operate during this state of emergency and the municipality must continue to provide at least the minimum level of public transit system service necessary for employees to continue to work and people to continue to have access to services and goods.”

If individual cities and towns shut down transit services in Ontario the impact on other essential services would be immeasurable, in particular the ability to keep hospitals and healthcare operating. Hospital administrators must be focused on saving lives, not trying to get workers to work.  Municipal government has the ability and authority to ensure that transit remains accessible and available during this crisis.  

We are asking you to declare public transit essential in all cities and towns across Ontario using your powers under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and further that you declare that any public transit systems which have been closed due to COVID-19 to be reopened immediately.