TTC vs. Cars vs. Bikes: Where Do You Stand?
Yesterday marked the first event in our brand new Civic Engagement Series: Where Do We Start?! Every Tuesday from August 28 – Oct 22, the Gladstone Hotel will be hosting a local government bootcamp to get Torontonians educated and ready to cast their votes on October 22. Topics will range from simple 101’s on how Canada’s municipal, provincial and federal governments work, to issues that matter right now like public transportation, development and gentrification, Toronto’s court battle with Ontario, dollar beers and more!
Each event begins with a panel discussion with experts in their fields, leading into an audience Q&A, and will end with specific actions you can take to engage in local politics. The first topic covered in this series was transportation featuring author and transit advocate Steve Munro; author, founder and cycling advocate Yvonne Bambrick; and city transportation project manager Adam Popper.
Here are our top takeaways from the night:
Why is the TTC Frozen in Time?
1. Have you ever wondered why our subway system lacks in comparison to other major cities (NYC, London, Paris… even Montreal)? Subway systems (also known as the Metro) were built at the dawn of 20th century, before cars were invented. At the time Toronto was still relatively small in population. Other major cities had higher populations and an excitement to adopt this new technology, resulting in intricate subway systems built before major development happened (roads for cars, underground water systems, hydro etc.). Montreal was expected to grow much faster than other Canadian cities and the Quebec government decided to invest heavily in it’s own subway system. Toronto on the other hand developed at the same time as another major technological advancement: the car. Hence our infrastructure favours the car.
2. Agree or disagree, our speaker Steve Munro thinks there are more forces at play when it comes to divisive issues such as the Scarborough subway line. Munro views many of the decisions by our government as rooted in our institutions inherent biases and reflections of how our society tends to overlook the populations most in need of our transit.
3. Do you think too much of your taxes are going to a failing TTC? Well roughly ⅓ of the TTC’s operating budget is paid for by municipal taxes (that’s property tax only), the other ⅔ is paid for by fares. It’s very unlikely that the TTC will improve without raising property tax, or getting help from our provincial government. It’s up to the municipal government to create a tax plan or lobby the provincial government to get additional funding for the TTC.
The Politics of Cycling in Toronto
4. Our city currently has a 10 year plan to improve the bike lane network network in the city. Bambrick let us know that NYC was able to accomplish something similar in just 4 years! We need to pressure our city to work faster. If you care about safe cycling, contact your City Councillor, and/or discuss the issue with candidates during election cycles.
5. Bikes and public transportation are good for the economy. They move more humans around in less space, allowing larger quantities of people to get around town, get to work, and spend money! Learn more cycling advocacy here.
6. We have two cycling resources that everyone on the road in Toronto needs to review: Cycle Toronto’s Cyclist handbook which breaks down the rules of the road to their simplest form and Yvonne Bambrick’s comprehensive and essential book, The Urban Cycling Survival Guide: Need-to-Know Skills and Strategies for Biking in the City.
What if we all co-exist?
7. You may love to hate the King Street Pilot Program, but the data doesn’t lie. According to Popper, the two leading candidates for mayor are both claim credit for the project. A recent study has proven that the project is successful based on its goals of facilitating movement (with an increase of streetcar riders) and creating place (increase in spending along this strip). With no cars we can literally fit more humans on this street, and this is good for the economy! Click here to read the full report.
8. Famously quoted by urbanist Jane Jacobs: “When you think of a city, you think of its streets.” Streets in Toronto carry more than 5 million trips a day. Mobility is a major part of what makes a city. Did you know 25% of Toronto’s land mass is streets? Streets are places that need to take into account drivers, cyclists and pedestrians–and this is done through design! The city has come up with Complete Street Guidelines to encourage inclusive design. Read more about the Complete Streets Guidelines here.
Want to attend our next Civic Engagement Event? RSVP here.