With its municipal election now just weeks away, Toronto’s growing pains -- the good, bad, and ugly -- are central to campaigns and conversations.
Naturally, transit plays a key piece of the puzzle in the future of an efficient and sustainable Toronto.
Yesterday, Toronto transit advocacy group TTCriders made headlines for a 28-question survey it sent every mayoral candidate running in the upcoming municipal election. Candidates were asked to select “Yes,” “no,” or “other” when it came to four main categories: bus and streetcar lanes, fares, funding for the TTC, and a short-term solution to the 2023 Scarborough RT closure.
The easy-to-digest Mayoral Transit Promises Tracker is accessible online.
Each candidate was graded a score out of 28 potential points. And at the very bottom was no other than current Mayor of Toronto, John Tory, who is seeking re-election. However, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Mayor Tory's low score could be due to the fact that he opted not to complete the survey in the first place. Instead, Mayor Tory’s team sent TTCRiders a detailed statement that outlined the moves made by the mayor and his views on transit.
So, the group says it used that statement to grade the politician on his views, giving him a mere two out of 28. The two points were given for supporting greater investments in TTC operations and pledging to champion the expansion of Scarborough’s rapid transit network. The remaining 26 questions were not addressed in the mayor’s statement to TTCriders, says the advocacy group.
Meanwhile, fellow mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa answered “yes” to all 28 of 28 questions. The next highest-scoring candidates were Philip D’cruze and Ferin Yusuf Malek, who answered “yes” to 27 of 28 questions.
So, why didn’t Tory simply answer the survey like his counterparts? Well, we're not exactly sure, to be honest. While his campaign team stopped short of answering that specific question, they did highlight Tory's transit wins in an email to STOREYS.
“We provided a fulsome answer to this group outlining that under John Tory’s leadership, Toronto is undergoing the largest transit expansion in North America in decades, including new subway lines and extensions as well as new and enhanced LRT lines and surface routes across the city and investments in our streetcar and electric bus fleet,” Jenessa Crognal, John Tory’s campaign spokesperson, told STOREYS.
It’s safe to say that -- while some projects may take longer than planned -- Mayor Tory has made major moves on the transit front as the city only increases in density with each shiny new condo tower that dots the skyline. There's no denying that.
“The Mayor has secured a historic $28B transit plan for Toronto that is agreed to by all levels of government, with funding committed, and shovels already in the ground,” says Crognal. “This plan will deliver the Ontario Line, Scarborough Subway Extension, Yonge North Extension, and Eglinton Crosstown West Extension. He has also committed to pushing the Eglinton East and Waterfront transit lines forward.”
Crognal highlights how Mayor Tory has invested in the TTC’s bus network, restoring 200 km of bus routes that had been cut before he was elected and making sure the busiest routes were maintained during the pandemic.
“He also led City Council in approving RapidTO, which rolls out dedicated bus lanes where they make sense and, where reserved bus lanes aren't practical, and will do everything possible to speed up the busiest routes,” says Crognal. “The Mayor also brought in the first ever Fair Pass for vulnerable residents, Kids Ride Free, the hop-on-hop-off two-hour transfer, and a TTC fare freeze during the pandemic. Mayor Tory is the only municipal candidate who will make sure these mega-transit projects get completed as soon as possible, and he's the only one with a track record of investing in and protecting the TTC.”
In the meantime, TTCriders is calling on all mayoral candidates to commit to rebuilding transit ridership to pre-pandemic levels by installing at least 10 bus and streetcar priority corridors in the next term of Council, funding the Fair Pass TTC discount for low-wage workers, and supporting bus-only lanes for Scarborough RT replacement buses. TTCriders is asking candidates to protect the TTC from service cuts by making up transit revenue losses with City of Toronto revenue tools.
“The TTC needs a champion who will rebuild ridership with bus and streetcar lanes, better service, and lower fares,” said TTCriders member Khasir Hean. “It’s not too late for candidates to improve their score.”