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Letter to Kinga Surma – July 22, 2020 – Re: Funding for Toronto transit projects

“St. Patrick’s Day Parade GO Bus” by Zirocket is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Voice for Transit
350 Victoria Street
Toronto, ON M5B 2K3

July 22, 2020

RE: Funding for Toronto transit projects

Dear Associate Minister Kinga Surma, MPP,

In May 2020, we published our Transit Inequity in Toronto report, which calls for improved
transit governance and transit service. A key recommendation was for greater transit access
for individuals who need it most, a concept called vertical transit equity. At a time when your
government has placed a priority on getting transit built, there is a historic opportunity to
make it work for people from racialized communities, particularly at this moment in time.

We request that the province provide capital funding for projects like the bus priority lanes
proposed by the City of Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission on Eglinton East, Finch
East, Steeles West, Jane, Dufferin, and Lawrence. As a group composed of young people in
the suburbs, we are supportive of this idea since it is relatively low-cost and a quick-to-build
solution to serve transit riders. COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting racialized front-line
workers in suburban communities. Funding these bus lanes would help provide riders with
rapid transit at a time when we are facing the possibility of multiple waves of this virus.

The co-fare between the TTC and GO Transit systems was an example of excellent transit
policy that was recently retracted. The co-fare created a low-cost solution to addressing
transit system redundancies of Toronto, providing sparse suburban citizens a cost-effective
way to travel around the city–especially into the downtown core. The removal of this co-fare
especially impacted students and young professionals in our city, raising a question of social
economic inequity between those that are able to live closer to downtown and those who live
in the suburbs. As such, I’m sure your constituents in Etobicoke can sympathize.
We are asking for the immediate reinstatement of this co-fare. Doing so would be a quick
and easy solution to reduce the load on the TTC and provide the GO Transit system with
more ridership.

According to the Ontario government’s fiscal update in March 2020, revenue is expected to
decrease by $3.5 billion next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As funds are scarcer
than ever, emphasis should be put on making every dollar count by reprioritizing on transit.

Instead of Yonge North, we must focus on the Ontario Line and Eglinton Crosstown.
Currently, Scarborough is in desperate need of transit solutions, including the replacement of
the ageing RT with the seven-stop LRT proposal. It is the opinion of our group that the best
option to replace the RT is with an above ground LRT option. This would allow for a cost
effective and quick solution to the transit issues that Scarborough is experiencing, as laid out
in the Scarborough Subway Extension Preliminary Design Business Case developed by
Metrolinx.

We would also like to highlight that prior to procurement of a tunnelling contract, to reassess
the need for Eglinton Crosstown West extension’s underground versus an at-grade LRT
solution. According to the initial business case for this project released in February 2020, an
at-grade option (Option 1) will have significantly lower capital costs than an underground
alignment (Option 4). (Eglinton Crosstown West Extension Initial Business Case, 2020) The
same report states that an LRT solution would be approximately half the cost of an
underground option. (Draft), p.5)) This should be enough to reconsider this project.

While the underground construction projects along the LRT projects have been ongoing,
several community members who have been affected by said constructions have come
forward to our group. Their concerns have been that they are being expropriated without
compensation as tenants of a rental property that has been rent controlled. As a result, they
fear that they might face unaffordable renting alternatives, or worse, homelessness. We urge
to promptly address problems of housing affordability along with the tenant expropriations
from transit projects.

We are encouraged by your government’s proposal to build affordable housing projects next
to transit, however we are concerned about how affordability is being defined. Transit
development can cause gentrification that displaces long-time residents. We urge that the
administration considers prioritizing inclusionary housing surrounding transit instead of
luxury condominiums.

Thank you for your consideration of our suggestions. As a transit advocacy group based at
Ryerson University, we would like to have a video meeting with you to discuss our concerns.

Sincerely,
Faizan Ahmed, Ozora Amin, Sherwin Lau, Devan Moura, and Jean-François Obregón
A Voice for Transit Team

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