04 Sep TRANSIT – LET’S MAKE IT A BETTER WAY
When I ask people across Toronto what they would most like to see improved in our city, they often say transit. People point to crisis level overcrowding, unaffordable fares and infrequent and unreliable service. I grew up using the TTC, and I know it has the potential to be a world class transit system, but the lack of investment in day to day operations and the failure to use evidence to expand the system means that service is worsening and tax dollars are being wasted.
We must have high quality transit for transit users, but what politicians too often fail to realize is that we also require good transit for the benefit of those who need to drive. Our road system can not accommodate Toronto’s growing population if the car is the primary mode of transportation. We already have North America’s longest commute times. Future population growth will only make conditions worse, and even more costly for GTA households, if we don’t provide good choices for moving people rapidly and efficiently.
My vision is of a city where we treat roads as public space for all Torontonians who want to get around. We must re-allocate how we use it so we move the greatest number of people as smoothly, rapidly, safely and reliably as possible. The only way to do that is to prioritize transit and active transportation.
I pledge to improve the ability of Toronto residents to move around our city by investing in transit using these three principles:
1. Improve transit in the short term
If we rely on subway expansion alone to meet our transit needs, Toronto is more than a decade away from any relief. Our population can not wait the years required for massive infrastructure projects like subways. While we must expand our system, it is a mistake to pin our hopes on projects which are decades down the line. We must act now. I pledge to:
- Increase the operating budget of the TTC to improve service levels
- Improve the efficiency of existing surface transit lines by giving signal priority to transit vehicles throughout the city
- Improve the functioning of the system through better operational efficiency
- Increase bus service wherever feasible
- Make the King Street pilot concept permanent and expand it to Dufferin and Parliament
- Apply the lessons learned from the King Street pilot and expand the approach of giving transit priority through low cost, easy to implement design measures on east west and north south routes throughout the city, including in Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York. This will be done by working with TTC and Toronto Transportation staff as well as local residents and businesses along potential priority routes.
2. Expand Transit for the Long Term
Along with improving transit for today, we need to build for tomorrow. It’s time to stop the politicization of transit, and make decisions on how to spend transit dollars using solid evidence. As mayor, I would work with council to:
- Bring rapid transit to under-served Scarborough. The Scarborough subway vs LRT debate has been a highly politicized debacle for far too long, resulting in acrimony across the city while failing to give Scarborough residents better transit. The province has stated its intention to proceed with a subway for Scarborough and to finance it, and has the authority to do so with provincial tax dollars. While the province proceeds with this subway expansion, I will apply city tax dollars to providing cost effective rapid transit to Scarborough through a comprehensive, linked LRT system along the previously planned and approved Sheppard East, Eglinton East and Scarborough lines.
- Make network wide improvements and proceed with funding existing transit plans in order of the degree of transit relief they will offer, particularly moving ahead with the Downtown Relief Line in coordination with the province. I will also move ahead with the Finch LRT, the Jane Street LRT, and the Waterfront LRT.
- Pressure higher level governments to ensure adequate levels of investment in our system, but show leadership by adequately funding transit with city tax dollars.
3. Make Transit Equitable and Affordable
In Toronto, 28% of households do not have a car. In downtown wards, this number is as high as 55%. Many of these residents are low income and rely on mass transit. Toronto also has the 5th most expensive pass in the world. We are penalizing the poor through expensive fare evasion measures, while at the same time experiencing higher than expected costs with the Presto system.
I believe we must do more than offer administratively difficult to administer discounts to people on social assistance. Transit users benefit the rest of Toronto by using far less road space, reducing resource use and pollution, therefore saving tax dollars. I believe the city needs to look at dramatic changes to the fare structure of the TTC.
As mayor, I would work with council to:
- Freeze TTC fares for the next four years
- Support a per-ride subsidy of $1.50 to ensure transit affordability to all Torontononians.
- Allocate sufficient funding to the TTC to allow free fares for seniors
- Take steps towards being a true leader in transit on the global stage by examining how to offer transit freely to all who wish to ride.