Improving Toronto’s Bus and Streetcar Network

Context

Toronto’s youth rely on public transit for 48% of all travel within the city (TTS, 2016). Bus and streetcar routes account for 60% of annual TTC rides. Given these statistics, the quality and quantity of TTC surface routes significantly affect the lives of young Torontonians on a daily basis. Further, the bus and streetcar network is essential for the most disadvantaged communities in the city. At present, 24 of Toronto’s 31 Neighbourhood Improvement Areas rely solely on the bus and streetcar network for public transportation. The most frequent transit concern brought to the attention of the Toronto Youth Cabinet is the reliability of the surface transit network. 14 bus and streetcar routes carry over 30,000 passengers a day with little or no separation from general traffic (TTC, 2017). This leads to buses and streetcars delayed by heavy traffic, turning vehicles or parked cars.


Toronto needs to improve the experience of bus and streetcar passengers, including both improving service and redesigning roads to prioritize transit. The TTC’s surface network is essential from an equity perspective as it allows young people who do not have a car to access education and employment. The TTC has stated that increasing traffic congestion is negatively affecting its ability to deliver service. Council has the ability to make the necessary investments and set transportation priorities that can improve the experience of Toronto’s 317 million annual bus and streetcar passengers.


TYC’s position

The Toronto Youth Cabinet suggests the following actions to improve surface transit service:


Transit Priority Measures

  • Make the King Street Pilot permanent

  • Expand surface transit priority to additional routes with a citywide plan that includes additional transit lanes


Customer Experience

  • Ensure all surface routes are within crowding standards

  • Make basic scheduling information available at transit stops for customers who do not have access to a smart phone with a data plan

  • Begin implementing all door boarding on express routes, approved by the TTC Board as part of the Express Bus Network Study

  • Explore expanding additional rush hour express routes to all-day

  • Remove double fares on Downtown Express routes to increase access

Capital Investments

Ensuring Financial Sustainability for Toronto’s Youth

Context

In the previous City Council term, the Executive Committee was presented with a framework to implement a long-term financial plan for the City of Toronto. The former City Manager presented "The City of Toronto's Roadmap to Financial Sustainability" in March 2018. This document outlined various alternatives for Council to consider as they not only set strategic directions for the City but also their ability to deliver on these commitments. One of the key findings in the report highlighted the growing funding gap between the amount of investment required for Council approved initiatives and the amount of money available to fund them.

Based on status quo revenues and expenses, the magnitude of the funding gap for Council approved programs, initiatives, projects was clearly communicated. Using the 2018 Budget as a reference, an estimated $30 billion in unfunded capital costs over 10 years as well as an estimated $900 million operating budget funding gap was forecasted over 5 years. These findings are consistent with the 2019 budget. For example, as proposed, key city assets such as the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) have extensive capital backlogs and a large amount of unfunded capital investments. In a recent Budget Committee meeting, TCHC noted that the backlog may lead to unit closures as early as 2020, and the TTC's 15-year capital plan notes that approximately $24 billion of the $33.5 billion plan to maintain the system in its current format (i.e. no expansions) is unfunded.

With many youth relying on the City's social housing stock, and even more relying on transit to get to and from school, work and home, it is necessary for the City to be proactive in maintaining these vital assets and others, as well as programs that youth rely on. While the report was presented to the Executive Committee towards the end of the previous term of Council, the item was not debated among the full set of Councillors. It is expected to be discussed early in the upcoming term.

TYC’s position

The Toronto Youth Cabinet (TYC) supports the implementation of various revenue tools as necessary to sustainably fund City operations and capital investments.

  • Ultimately, the funding gaps highlighted in the Long-Term Financial Plan as presented to the Executive Committee in 2018 should be reduced.

  • Specific to the Long-Term Financial Plan, the TYC endorses the Broader City Building approach to City operations. Regarding the operating budget, taking this approach would reduce funding gaps for key programs related to youth development and well-being, as well as proactively address broader city issues such as child and youth poverty.

  • The effects of capital backlogs and funding gaps are not experienced on a daily basis, however, these costs continue to increase. Future generations are slated to be overburdened to catch up with the increase in capital investment requirements. Additionally, there is always the risk that a failure caused by disrepair could negatively impact key city assets and the people that rely on them.

TYC calls on City Council to address recommendations outlined in the Long-Term Financial Plan.

  • Recommendations that call for the implementation of additional revenue tools requiring City approval under the City of Toronto Act, including but not limited to the vehicle registration tax, commercial parking levy, etc. should be implemented. Taking this approach will ensure that programs youth rely on will not only be maintained, but also expanded to be accessible to a larger amount of youth in Toronto. It will also ensure Toronto’s city-building efforts will be adequately supported.