Ask Your Candidate: Transit

By Lauren Atmore

TTC Ettiquette // Photo: MEHRIN HOSSAINCourtesy of the Undergound.

Discussions on transit development and funding seem to have reached a fever pitch in Toronto over the last few years. It’s no wonder that many council or mayoral candidates establish a position on transit as the first or primary leg of their platform. Like many Torontonians, these candidates have had years to watch the sometimes heated debates cover many different areas on transit, though it hasn’t always been clear if their plans focus specifically on the needs of women and families.

When considering a candidate’s thoughts on transit solutions, we should think about the following:

  1. What do the candidates in your region think about time-based transfers? Since many women are charged with errand-running and making sure young children get to school, having to pay twice for one trip can weigh especially heavily on women. It’s important to remember that offering time-based transfers could mean a loss of a projected $20 million in annual revenue for the TTC. But who’s to say the TTC wouldn’t gain additional fares from people who would otherwise choose to run their errands using another mode of transportation?
  2. Have your ward’s candidates expressed any thoughts on getting additional transit funding from upper levels of government? Almost 60 per cent of transit riders are female, so when riders cover approximately 70% per cent of the TTC’s operating budget, women effectively pay disproportionately into TTC revenue streams. This is an increasing burden, considering how little funding the TTC gets from federal and provincial governments.
  3. LRT or subways? While our current council has all but sealed the deal on this debate, favouring subways over light rail transit (LRTs), seeing where your candidates stand on the issue could provide insight to their priorities. While subways can serve a higher volume of riders, it’s certainly the more expensive option. LRT is also the slower of the two and can sometimes impose restrictions on road traffic. LRT stops are typically much closer together than subway stops which makes it a more accessible option for those with disabilities, and a safer option as women won’t have to walk as far from their stops to their houses.
  4. Retrofitting for accessibility? With GO to be fully accessible by 2015 and the rest of Toronto Transit to be fully accessible by 2025, all of the Baby Boomers cohort will be over 65. What would you do to speed up retrofitting the system. (Thanks to @SharkDancing for the suggestion, via Twitter).

When it comes down to it, transit is just one element a voter should consider when evaluating a candidate, though we all have to take measure of our priorities. If your commute includes riding on the subway and the streetcar, for example, transit should rank high. Alternatively, those who aren’t well serviced by the TTC could also be interested in this issue – the squeaky wheel gets the oil, after all. Finally, transit decisions impact all road users, because more effective and accessible transit means less congestion for everyone.


 

Facts to consider:

  • Premier Kathleen Wynn has announced $29 billion in new funding “over the next decade to build transit and transportation infrastructure in Ontario.” While details will be released with the provincial budget later this spring, Wynne says that the additional funding will come from the existing gas tax, “a redirection of the HST charged on gas and diesel fuel, money from “provincial assets” and the Green Bonds program” – this is in addition to the lane tolls announced last year.
  • According to the Toronto Women’s City Alliance, 28% of women with paid employment primarily use public transportation for their commute, compared to 17% of men.
  • The TTC’s fleet is comprised of: about 700 subway cars; 247 streetcars, of which 52 are higher-capacity articulated streetcars; 1800 buses of varying ages and types; 135 fully-accessible buses; and contracted accessible and regular taxis.
  • 1.6 million passengers use the TTC on an average weekday, or about 460 million customers annually while “Wheel-Trans carries 1.5 million trips per year, or about 5000 trips on a typical weekday.”
  • In Canada, seniors whose main form of transportation is transit rather than car show decreased “participation in various social activities (family activities, physical activities with other people, community activities, volunteer work, etc.)”. Considering women are more likely not to have their license and to use public transportation instead, access is a critical issue.
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