Transit Inequity in Toronto Report

How can a transit system be an enabler of social mobility? We asked ourselves this question in conducting a system mapping exercise to identify the pain points in Toronto’s transit systems: GO and TTC. We zeroed in on transit equity, defined through either horizontal or vertical systems. Horizontal equity addresses challenges by maximizing the average access, whilst vertical equity goes a step beyond to additionally provide service proportional to needs.

Our analysis identified three areas of focus:

  1. The network: access to transit, impact and positioning of new routes;
  2. The service: quality of trips, user experience of trips;
  3. The costs: what fare should commuters pay, how is service funded;

A recent development is the Ontario-Toronto Transit Partnership (OTTP) finalized between the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario in February 2020. The deal addresses the challenges related to several planned projects (e.g. new subway lines, subway line extensions), and funding for the subway’s state of good repair. However, everyday communications, public participation, and customer service issues are not addressed by the OTTP.

Our report outlines a need for greater transparency in decision making, diversifying funding sources, and utilizing customer feedback to address transit inequity. The pandemic provides time and space for delayed improvements to be addressed. Solutions include a complaints ticketing system on the TTC modelled on York Region Transit’s, opening-up Metrolinx board meetings to the public (hyperlink), and replacing fines from transit enforcement officers with fare payments inspired by The Netherlands. 

Decades ago, Toronto’s transit system served as an enabler of social mobility for people of all backgrounds, I,e. students, immigrants, low-income, etc. Our system today is not perfect, but we have an historic opportunity to reimagine it. Our report provides suggested improvements. We hope you will let us take you there.

Jean-François Obregon

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