Scarborough resident and post-secondary student Nawar Tarafdar faced a dilemma: she wanted to join a gym that was a five-minute drive away, but without a car she would have to take a 53-minute train and bus trip to get to there.
“That is just how disconnected the bus networks in Scarborough are, and there are really no other options,” said Tarafdar, who used Google Maps to calculate the commuting times, including time spent waiting for the bus, which she says is rarely on time in her area.
Results of a 2019 poll conducted by the Toronto-based firm, Forum Research, suggest that the average commuting time for Torontonians was 42 minutes, and for Scarborough residents, 46 minutes.
Toronto residents using public transit as their primary method of transportation faced an average commuting time of 52 minutes, according to the poll. Respondents aged 18-34 reported the longest commuting times, averaging 46 minutes.
Tarafdar is a member of TTCriders, a Toronto-based transit advocacy organization that aims to make the voice of transit riders heard. The group’s members advocate for an improved transit funding model by engaging local, provincial and federal leaders.
TTCriders successfully campaigned for emergency transit funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
TTCriders asked all provincial candidates to invest in improving public transit in Scarborough at a May 7 rally. Members raised concerns with the closure of the Scarborough RT next year, and the replacement buses which will run between Kennedy Station and Scarborough Town Centre until the subway extension opens eight years from now.
The group says that stable operating funding from the province is needed to improve service and prevent a sudden future increase in fares.
TTC fares were frozen this year and last, after a 10-cent increase on all fares (except adult cash) in 2020.
The impact of fare revenue losses in 2021, due to lower ridership during the pandemic, were “primarily addressed through the Safe Restart Agreement (SRA) funding” — a collaboration between the province and the federal government.
“The Liberal party is getting a lot of attention for its promise of reducing fares to one dollar,” Tarafdar says. “We’re really happy that affordability is on the agenda, but we need more stable funding because that dollar fare is only going to be in place for a year and a half.”
Let’s look at what four Scarborough candidates competing in the June 2 provincial election had to say about transit.
Increased ridership needed to fund transit improvements, Liberal party candidate says
Lisa Patel, Ontario Liberal Party candidate for Scarborough Southwest, said in a phone interview with Toronto Observer, that the proposed buck-a-ride (or $1 per ride transit fare) will help increase ridership and therefore help to fund transit improvements.
Buck-a-ride would mean that every ride on any transit system in Ontario (municipal transit and GO Transit) would cost only $1, and monthly passes would cost only $40 until 2024.
As for the plan after 2024, Patel said the party hopes “to have completed the work needed to move to a one fare integration system.”
“For students and young people, this is an opportunity to not only put some more of their money into savings, but to consider using transit on a regular basis,” said Patel.
The party also pledged $375 million annually in transit operating funding for the entire province – to support “more routes, extended hours of service, improved accessibility and more intercity connections.”
Green Party of Ontario candidate Cara Brideau is also running in the riding of Scarborough Southwest. Brideau said in a virtual interview that the party’s promise to increase dedicated bus lanes will help transit users who will be affected by the closing of the Scarborough RT in 2023.
If elected, the party has promised to triple the number of dedicated bus lanes in the province by 2025. They also pledged to support 2-way all day GO service (every 15 minutes during peak periods).
Brideau also says that the Green Party will emphasize the electrification of transit, by adding 4,000 electric busses by 2030.
As for fares, the party has said they will cut them in half for at least three months across the province. They say this will incentivize people to use transit and “avoid the soaring cost of gas.”
If elected, the Green Party would fund “50% of costs for transit systems” (including the TTC) to ensure that transit improvements aren’t funded by fare increases for passengers.
This would work out to $1 billion per year in funding over the next four years.
Ontario NDP Party promises flat rate fares and transfers between GO and TTC at no extra cost
The Ontario NDP Party platform also promises to share 50 per cent of the cost of local transit operating funds to improve service and prevent fare increases for riders. This would work out to $898 million per year in provincial funding.
Here are some other proposals they have made on transit:
- Flat rate fare, valid for two hours across the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area – transit riders could transfer from GO Transit services to the TTC “at no extra cost.”
- A 10-minute-or-better service guarantee for the TTC at a low, single flat-rate fare
- A commitment to work with municipal transit systems (like the TTC) to improve service and reduce wait times
- Make Metrolinx meetings open to the public for decision making on projects like the GO Expansion
Toronto Observer reached out to Scarborough Southwest NDP candidate Doly Begum, but did not receive a statement in time for the publication of this article.
Conservatives Pledge $61 billion over 10 years for public transit in Ontario
The Scarborough Subway Extension would add three new stations northeast of Kennedy station: Lawrence, Scarborough Centre and Sheppard stations.
It will eventually replace the Scarborough RT after it is shut down in 2023. Bus routes are proposed to replace the RT after it is closed, until 2030.
Metrolinx says the extension will create “quick and seamless transit” and “reduce travel times and improve access to jobs, schools and other key destinations throughout the city.”
It will connect to the Eglinton Crosstown and the Sheppard Subway Extension.
Toronto Observer reached out to Scarborough Southwest Conservative party candidate Bret Snider for input, but did not receive a statement in time for the publication of this article.