Commuter transit service remains frustrating issue

When she was a York University student, Victoria Cooling coped with the idiosyncrasies of public transit only so long.

“While in school, I used to commute from Richmond Hill to York University,” she said. “That required three busses and if the connections were not aligned, I’d automatically be late for school. Public transit is not reliable, especially in areas that are high traffic or require frequent stops.”

Although she graduated last year, Cooling is still faced with the annoyance of dishing out extra funds to drive into Toronto for work, because the public transit system between both Richmond Hill and Toronto is simply not compatible. She’s decided to commute by car instead.

“I drive purely because it is convenient. Not to mention that even GO Transit has gotten ridiculously expensive,” Cooling said. “A one way trip on the train to Toronto is close to $20 for me. That amount of money in my 2014 Civic, when gas prices are relatively good, can get me two round-trips to Toronto with less of a headache.”

All transit issues – whether infrequent service, expensive service or no service at all – often hurt students on a tight budget most of all.

Bruce Kidd, vice-president and principal at the University of Toronto, Scarborough (UTSC) attributes transit problems in Toronto to a gap in the city’s commitment to infrastructure.

“It’s a long story of indecision, poor planning, and neo-liberal refusal to invest,” he said. “We thought we had a LRT right for the door with Transit City but the Ford-led city council killed it. Toronto was a North-American leader a generation ago, but now we’re way behind.”

Mike Palmer was recently recruited as the TTC’s new chief operating officer. He has promised to add more busses to the service. However, transit advocate Steve Munro argues that the TTC continues to make unrealistic promises to its riders.

“Compounding the situation has been the attitude of the past Council regarding subsidies and service levels where loading standards were changed to pack on more riders and to avoid a round of new vehicle purchases,” Munro said.

He added, not only does this annoy riders, but it also sends a message to front line staffers that they really shouldn’t try harder to provide better service.

“As long as the attitude is that ‘efficiency’ means stuffing more riders into larger vehicles with fewer operators, but not providing a net increase in capacity, all riders will see from the new cars is less frequent service,” Munro said.

Former student Cooling acknowledges that unless the election changes the commuter picture, many in the GTA will resort to driving as she has.

“Unless you have time to leave an extra hour or two early, (transit) simply isn’t worth it,” she said.