Yes, Public Transit is a gender issue; and a climate issue too

Yes, Public Transit is a gender issue; and a climate issue too
Posted on February 12, 2019 | Shawn Menard | Written on February 12, 2019
Letter type:

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

Paul Medard is the City Councilor for Capital Ward 

When I raised my concerns, I wasn’t seeking to single anyone out (on the contrary, I sought to have the entire list of potential public board members sent back for additional consideration by the selection committee). My intent was to ensure that two issues, gender equality and climate change, were properly considered when assessing candidates for Transit Commission.

When it comes to abortion, this isn’t strictly about religious beliefs. This is about ensuring that an individual’s political views do not hinder them when reviewing matters relating to transit and gender. If a candidate is on the record as opposing women’s rights, it is imperative that we probe further to see if he or she will be willing to consider gender issues as they pertain to transit.

Because this is the key: Transit is a gender issue.

It may not seem like it at first blush; it’s not necessarily an obvious link, but transit services – and transit decisions – tend not to meet the needs of women to the same extent they do the needs of men.

Acknowledging these facts does not mean that the Transit Commission will have an easy job. Decisions will be difficult and they will require different perspectives. But if transit commissioners are not prepared to apply a gender lens to transit decisions, they will be doing a massive disservice to more than half the population.

And in case it’s been forgotten, city council has decided that these sorts of issues are significant enough that we will be applying a gender lens to our decisions, and significant enough that we have created the role of Liaison for Women and Gender Equality.

Yet, when the rubber hit the road, this standard seemed to be ignored.

The link between climate change and transit should be much clearer. If we are to make the necessary changes in our society to stave off further climate damage and ensure this world is livable for future generations, those changes must include both reducing our reliance on single-occupancy vehicles, moving towards greater modal share for sustainable transportation, and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

To address these issues, transit is key. We need a better, more responsive transit system that becomes desirable to more and more residents. Instead, we’ve lost eight million riders annually since 2011. Further, we will have to evaluate switching our transit fleet away from gas-powered vehicles.

Transit commissioners should be clear about whether they accept the scientific consensus that human-caused climate change is a real and existential threat.

It is unfortunate that this has turned into such a personal issue. That was never my intent. My intention was to ensure that we have a Transit Commission that is willing and able to apply a gender lens and a climate lens to transit decisions. It is only by applying such lenses that we will be able to shape the transit system in a way that best serves all Ottawa residents.

About The Author

Shawn Menard's picture

Shawn is a passionate civic organizer, currently serving as the Public School Board Trustee for Capital Ward with a track record of voting against school closures and keeping neighbourhood schools accessible. He is... More