Students at a TTC subway station. NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

Transit investment: a concern that students, especially commuters, can get on board with. A clear consensus exists that transit funding is too low, especially for the TTC. Due to inconsistent bus and streetcar arrival times and ineffective regional connections, commuters from all four major universities in Toronto (U of T, OCAD, Ryerson, and York) have expressed serious concerns regarding their travel situations. This especially came to light on Monday, September 21 during the StudentsMoveTO Symposium for the GTHA region, held at Toronto City Hall.

Despite shared sympathies between the student panellists and transit leaders, the discussion quickly narrowed from the fundamental issue of infrastructural investment to what minor changes can be made in order to ease the quotidian pains of commuter life.

This tightened conversation may have occurred simply because there were no provincial or federal representatives to discuss more effective big scheme strategies, but in my view, it is also because we’ve learned to accept that this is as good as it gets. The implication is that we as Torontonians, or even Canadians for that matter, simply have to work within our means, however limited they may be.

Here lies the problem with transit. We need to start looking at the bigger picture, believing things can change, and demanding more from our elected representatives. The bigger picture, of course, is the fact that transit reform will not come from changes within the management of transit firms, but from strong leadership by the provincial, and especially federal, governments. While there are certainly small improvements that the TTC can make within its existing budget to make commuting a little easier, transit as an infrastructure project simply needs much more from governments in order to improve substantially.

As such, our disgruntlements shouldn’t be channelled at the TTC, but at the provincial and federal governments — they are the ones who allocate funding for large infrastructure projects. The ‘lost decade’ under Stephen Harper’s federal government has greatly contributed to our transit problems, leaving us with an infrastructure deficit of approximately $200 billion, and with cities that remain unable to keep up. As such, it would be unreasonable to expect the TTC to solve this problem on its own.

Fortunately, there is a way that students can make change. With the federal election underway, students can defy low voter turnout forecasts and vote for a new government. With both the Liberals and NDP pledging to increase both short-term and long-term funding for transit infrastructure, students have the option of electing governments that will listen to their concerns, instead of having to direct their frustration at the already underfunded transit agencies. Not once was the election mentioned during the symposium, and the lack of representation by the federal government only adds to our ongoing despair.

While there is no doubt that the forum was an important opportunity to discuss the specific needs of the city and region, the discussion was unable to address fundamental change. It was an excellent public consultation on the needs of the GTHA region, which is important in determining where money should go. With no more money to manage, all this talk is wishful thinking. It is time for students to demand better from our political leaders, and to show their desire to improve transportation by going to the polls.

Stanley Treivus is a third-year student at Innis College studying political science and human geography.

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