When Your New Prime Minister Rides a 40′ Limo

Photo source: CBC http://www.cbc.ca/news/thenational/behind-the-scenes-with-justin-trudeau-on-his-1st-day-as-pm-taking-the-bus-1.3306276

Justin Trudeau rides the bus to his first meeting as Prime Minister.  Photo source (and full clip): CBC http://www.cbc.ca/news/thenational/behind-the-scenes-with-justin-trudeau-on-his-1st-day-as-pm-taking-the-bus-1.3306276

Working as I do in the field of transit, it’s been an interesting few weeks since Justin Trudeau won the Canadian national election to become the leader of our country.   Transit and spending on civic infrastructure that could help sustainable transportation of all kinds were two big themes of his campaign, and a bus was also part of his first day on the job.

Since the election, I’ve felt a palpable shift in terms of how my colleagues and my friends and family talk about transit (and no, I don’t think they’re just deliriously high on “statistics anticipation” over getting back the long form census).  It’s like there is hope that after many years of auto-focussed “nope, no greenhouse gases here, bub” business as usual, people believe there could be the level of investment that might really make a difference in the quality of transportation choice we can offer our communities.

Wondering what the federal ministries responsible for transportation have been asked to do?  You can check out the mandate letters here to the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Infrastructure & Communities(With thanks to Gus The Bus Driver (Twitter: @busdriverlife) for research).

Now, to be clear, federal transit dollars tend to be focussed on capital funding, which is the kind of funding that typically adds infrastructure and vehicles to a transit system but not necessarily the operating dollars that make it go.  (And for folks reading along from BC communities outside of Metro Vancouver, you should know that in our case those transit system operating dollars require both the local and provincial funders to step up hand-in-hand otherwise any shiny new buses really ain’t going anywhere).

Nevertheless, having someone in power who not only says that they are going to invest in transit and cities but who also repeatedly says that the investment is worth it (and demonstrates it by his personal actions) has been a welcome change.

While the inner cynic in me wonders how long it will last before some other reality comes crashing in, for now I’m going to celebrate that sense of change I’ve been experiencing recently by passing on three related links:

  • The first is by Eric March at Upworthy.com, who muses on reporter reactions to the fact that Justin Trudeau and his newly sworn in cabinet ministers took a bus to their first meeting.  While I don’t quite agree entirely with his take on the perceptions of transit–since from what I’ve observed there tends to be some generational differences in those perceptions–he captures the moment quite nicely.  (And much thanks to Jim Ramsay and Bob McKechnie for sending me the link).
  • The second comes by way of commentary from Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in the National Post, who writes about how we should keep our new federal government accountable for the infrastructure promises they’ve made.  This will be something to think about as the honeymoon wanes and the business of government kicks in.  (And much thanks to The Sidewalk Ballet for tweeting that one).
  • Finally, it only seemed fitting to end with something that reflects the little bit o’ gladness in my heart from Burton, Randy and the boys. (Although, of course I’d change the last line to say that “I’m so awful gosh darn glad I AM in your shoes”).

And really, what could be more Canadian and transit-y than that.



(Video source: Richard Jenkins, with much thanks, of course, to The Guess Who as source for the music).

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