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In December 1904, a group of officials from six street railway companies met in Montreal, Quebec and formed the Canadian Street Railway Association. The Association grew quickly and the focus of its activities reflected the changing times. It was renamed the Canadian Transit Association in 1932. After several name changes, the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) was adopted in 1973.
In its early years, membership was restricted to privately-owned systems, especially on the prairies, and the rapid development of the bus (and its use by founding members) promoted changes to the Association's constitution. In 1920, municipally-owned systems were welcomed along with non-operating members (suppliers).
Many issues discussed by CUTA's predecessors remain topical today - traffic congestion, competition by the private automobile, vehicle design, transit marketing, relations with and regulation by government, and transit priority. New to the agenda in recent decades are the matters of achieving sustainable funding. Transit plays an important role in improving the environment. Urban sprawl and worsening air quality have today become issues of concern, not just by governments and local transit operators, but by the wider Canadian public.
The developments of the past century are testimony to the progress made by service providers and their suppliers. CUTA has vigorously defended the industry and actively promoted public transit across Canada. More recently, it has assisted government by laying the foundations of major transit funding programs that are bearing fruit. Since its foundation, Association members have benefited greatly from CUTA's vast resources and training expertise. Conversely, the knowledge and support offered by its diverse members have enabled CUTA to meet the spirit of its mission statement:
To strengthen public transit contribution to the quality of life, environment, health, mobility and economic development of Canadian communities, and to help members fulfill their mandates.
To mark the centennial of the Canadian Urban Transit Association in 2004, CUTA prepared a publication to document the many activities, achievements and challenges facing public transit systems since that 1904 winter day in Montreal when the Association was born. A Century of Moving Canada is their story.