On the frigid morning of March 11, Moya Beall handed out flyers to students at UTSC’s bus loop. She spoke on behalf of TTCriders, a grassroots advocacy group of TTC users, about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s subway plan.
“We’re here at U of T talking with students because public transport, especially rapid transit, is so important,” said Beall in an interview with The Varsity. “Students here really depend on public transit. I’ve talked to people who commute from as far away as Mississauga, and a lot of people here don’t have cars, so they’re utterly dependent on public transit.”
Ford wants the responsibility of the TTC’s subway infrastructure to be transferred from the city to the province, in a plan referred to as “uploading” the transit system. However, the premier also wants the City of Toronto to remain responsible for buses and streetcars.
“If the Ford government is successful uploading… the subway system, then Toronto loses control over where it plans and constructs,” said Beall.
Beall said that there will be a “huge delay” in Toronto getting an improved transit system. If the city and province keep negotiating over small details, people will be “waiting years” until new lines are established.
Response from provincial government
Bob Nichols, Senior Media Liaison Officer of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), told The Varsity that the MTO believes the “province can build subway lines faster” and that they have been discussing with city officials the best way to go about the upload.
Nichols noted that uploading the TTC will provide benefits to public transit riders and residents. Some of these benefits are faster delivery of priority regional transit projects, better implementation of key policy initiatives that promote an efficient regional transit network, and more funding for current and new transit projects.
“In moving forward with the upload, we will turn priorities into projects, and deliver an expanded, modern, and integrated transit network of which we can all be proud,” he continued.
Beall was also worried about the increased fares that Toronto would face if Ford’s plan pushes through. She said that Metrolinx, the provincial government agency that manages road and public transport in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is considering charging fares by distance instead of keeping the two-hour fares that let commuters transfer between buses, subways, and streetcars in a span of two hours.
“That would really penalize people in Scarborough, because we’re so far out… if you want to get downtown. It could cost a lot of money,” said Beall.
TTCriders suggested that Ford fund the TTC instead of “stealing” it. According to TTCriders, Ford’s plan will result in “less say for residents” and will lead to privatization and the consequences that come with it.
Since the TTC implemented its Proof-of-Payment fare enforcement system in 2015, TTC riders have learned to live by an unofficial rule: if you evade your fare, you do so at your own risk. But what exactly does a rider risk?The Varsitytakes a look into how Toronto transit operates so that you can know what rights you have while riding the TTC.
Fare inspection is upheld by fare inspectors and Transit Enforcement Special Constables, whose duties include conducting routine fare inspections onboard transit vehicles and overseeing TTC security, respectively.
The regulations concerning fare payment enforcement are enshrined in TTC By-law No. 1, which gives the TTC the authority to pass its own by-laws.
TTC By-law No. 1 was passed in October 2009 and accompanied by a comprehensive list of fines, both of which are publicly available on the TTC website.
Monitoring fare evaders was made somewhat more difficult with the implementation of the Proof-of-Payment system, since people were no longer barred from entering a streetcar or a bus through the back doors and could then potentially avoid the notice of the TTC vehicle operator.
TheToronto Starreported in April that, to combat a foreseeable increase in evasion with the new system, the number of annual fare inspections had increased from 938,000 to 3.7 million between 2015 and 2017.
According to the bylaw and corresponding fines table, refusal to pay a fare, and therefore failure to comply with provision 2.1 of the bylaw, could land you with a ticket of $235 and removal from the vehicle. Failure to provide a fare inspector with a piece of photo identification when requested costs $425.
What would happen, then, if a person did not have photo ID on them?
According to Mike DeToma, Senior Communications Advisor at the TTC, “They could face a fine if it was in relation to misuse of fare, or they might just be let off with a warning. It really depends on the circumstance.”
These special constables are distinct from fare inspectors in that they have been sworn in by the Toronto Police Service and have the same powers as a police officer to enforce the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Liquor Licence Act, and the Trespass to Property Act.
Earlier this year, the TTC came under fire when a video surfaced online showing two fare inspectors pinning a teenager to the ground, under circumstances that witnesses noted to be outside the bounds of self-defence.
In response to the incident, Ombudsman Toronto announced that it would be completing a full review of the TTC’s investigation file concerning the conduct of the inspectors involved.
Information concerning transit fare enforcement, TTC By-law No. 1, and a detailed fines list are available on the TTC’s website. For questions or complaints, students can contact the Transit Enforcement Department directly or the Human Resources Transit Enforcement Unit Complaints Coordinator.
Mayoral debate at Scarborough campus focuses on transit issues
TTCriders, an organization of transit users, and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) hosted a mayoral debate focused on transit on September 26.
Three candidates — former Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, lawyer and activist Saron Gebresellassi, and safe streets activist Sarah Climenhaga — took the stage at the Scarborough campus. The debate was moderated byThe Globe and Mailcolumnist Marcus Gee.
John Tory, the incumbent mayoral candidate, was invited but did not attend. At the end of the debate, candidate Dionee Renée, who spells her name D!ONEE Renée, was invited to give a two-minute speech. She claimed ownership of the idea of free transit and underscored accessibility needs, which she felt had been lacking during the debate.
A Mainstreet Research poll released on September 26 put Keesmaat at 20.3 per cent, nearly 30 points behind Tory, who remains in the lead. Gebresellassi and Climenhaga both polled at around one per cent and undecided voters made up 27.4 per cent of the survey. The same poll found transit to be the most pressing issue in the mayoral election — overtaking concerns of housing affordability, crime and safety, and accountability.
Uploading the TTC to the province
All three candidates were asked about their stance on the provincial governments’ moves to take over Toronto’s subway system.
The proposal, made by the Progressive Conservatives during the provincial election, aims for the province to adopt major capital maintenance fees and control any expansion planning. Tory showed slight interest in the plan, however City Council voted 30–6 in favor of maintaining public ownership of the TTC. Premier Doug Ford, who campaigned on uploading the TTC to the province and whose party guaranteed the upload under a majority, became the centre of the candidates’ discussion.
Keesmaat proposed that any projects to upload the TTC should go through the mayor and the city council. She also emphasized the need for the TTC to remain a “public asset,” refuting any claims that turning the TTC private would raise capital funds or improve the transit system.
Agreeing with Keesmaat, Climenhaga commented on Ford’s ability to “do things even if we don’t agree with them” and supported the need to work with the premier on this issue.
Gebresellassi criticized Tory for his lack of strong leadership and underscored the need for mayoral leadership that would “stand up against Doug Ford,” particularly on the issue of uploading the subway to the provincial government.
ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY
The first candidate to mention free transit was Gebresellassi, whose campaign is largely based on the idea of making Toronto the first metropolis in Canada to maintain a free public transit system.
Placing heavy emphasis on the idea of “transit as a fundamental human right,” Gebresellassi proposed eliminating corporate loopholes and using federal funding to finance her proposal.
Climenhaga took a moderate stance on the issue — labeling it a goal to be achieved through long-term investment in the transit system and a gradual reduction of fares.
Keesmaat heavily opposed the idea of free transit, criticizing not only Gebresellassi’s funding plans for the proposal, but also pointing out the resulting issues of overcrowding and the loss of the TTC’s operating revenue. She further underscored the need for more investment to develop transit expansion over the development of free transit.
“I thank [Gebresellassi] for putting the idea of free transit on the table, and I have to say it is a ridiculous idea that would ruin our transit system.”
During an interview withThe Varsity, Gebresellassi pushed back.
“I think her position says it all. This is why we keep saying Jennifer Keesmaat is not a champion for working-class people,” a sentiment that was not brought up during the debate.
Additionally, Gebresellassi argued against claims that the plan would be difficult to fund: “As the 13th wealthiest city in the world, we could have free transit if we wanted to.”
Transit affordability for students
After the failure of the U-Pass referendum last year, postsecondary student fares for transit and the development of a student pass has been the focus of the debate on transit affordability for university students.
SCSU President Nicole Brayiannis opened the question portion of the debate by asking about affordable transit for students, especially those who commute long distances.
Keesmaat responded to the question by calling out the provincial government for stalling fare integration with GO, which would allow transferring from the TTC to GO without having to pay multiple fares. Inter-municipal fare integration as well as transferable regional fares were proposed for commuting students.
Taking a similar stance, Climenhaga agreed on the need for fare integration but also emphasized the need to work with the province on affordable student housing, zoning to make student housing development easier, and increased employment opportunities.
In her response, Gebresellassi proposed expanding the low-income transit pass, also known as the Fair Fare Pass, universally. Differing from the other candidates, she also highlighted the need for job opportunities and engagement outside of the downtown core and called for a multitude of plans that would encourage local hiring and youth training.
Audience members, SCSU executives, volunteers, the event photographer, and Campus Police stand in front of protestors holding signs. ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY
In the middle of Climenhaga’s opening statement, protesters in the audience began shouting, “Where is Faith Goldy?” Picketers with signs that read, “Let Faith Speak,” stood in the back of the room.
Faith Goldy, a controversial mayoral candidate associated with white nationalists, was not invited to speak at the event.
The commotion prompted multiple audience members to stand up, resulting in loud protests both against and in support of Goldy.
A chant began from the protesters demanding: “We want Faith.”
The protesters were eventually asked to leave and were escorted out of the room. Goldy herself interrupted a debate just two days earlier, where she was escorted off stage by police officers.
The Toronto municipal elections will be held on October 22, and advance voting will take place from October 10–14.
Scrutinizing the new TTC two-hour transfer policy
While the policy seemingly benefits low-income folks, the PRESTO-only condition threatens structural violence against homeless people
PRESTO users can now leave and enter the TTC, within a two-hour window, on a single fare. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
While riding on the TTC is fairly straightforward, it is not necessarily enjoyable. Compare our transit system, for example, with Vancouver’s aesthetically superior SkyTrain system, which is a joy to ride and affordable for University of British Columbia students at just $41 a month. Meanwhile, U of T students are stuck with failed U-Pass deals, unaffordable transit costs, and transit officers with multiple complaints filed against them.
With the arrival of the two-hour transfer policy, however, it may seem that the future is bright for the TTC. In fact, we are receiving a benefit that is long overdue, and according to the only comment about the policy in Rocket-Riding Memes for Toronto-Oriented Teens — a Facebook group of over 1,000 members dedicated to TTC memes — the TTC finally “joins the civilized world.”
Discussing the policy, Mayor John Tory comments, “You can get on five times if you want to make five different stops, as long as it’s within the two hour period.” On the one hand, my immediate response is to ask where one could possibly go to make it to five different stops in two hours. On the other hand, I understand how being able to go to multiple stops in one transfer will lower the cost of living for low-income folks and students.
In this way, the policy is clearly a good thing: we no longer have to pay for briefly leaving a transit vehicle. For students, the main advantage is being able to commute to and from a one-hour class while only paying one fare. The more adventurous students could add extra tasks to that journey.
However, I’m opposed to the fact that the policy requires the use of a PRESTO card and is embedded in a plan to get rid of tokens by the end of 2019. This is not only because I’m suspicious of the increasing domination of technology in our lives, but also because I worry that the dominance of PRESTO is a manifestation of structural violence towards the homeless.
Simply put, phasing out tokens results in phasing out easy access to warm places to sleep for the homeless during winter. Being forced to have a PRESTO card, with its $6 start-up cost plus a minimum $10 initial deposit, puts a hamper on homeless entry into the TTC. Compound that with the difficulty in registering and confirming lost PRESTO cards when homeless, and we begin to see the insidious ways structural violence functions.
The policy, with its PRESTO-exclusive benefit, will not be the cause of these problems, but uncritical support of PRESTO-focused policies will normalize the structural exclusion of the homeless under the mask of progress. Fundamentally, the transfer pushes an ideology of individualism. While tokens can be and are distributed to those in need, PRESTO cards are not shareable. We would not drop our PRESTO cards into the cups of the homeless.
While the arrival of the transfer and the growth of the PRESTO system indicate that we’ve gained entry into “the civilized world,” we have lost the opportunity to share that world with others. If two-hour transfers are here, why can’t they be here for everyone? PRESTO users and non-PRESTO users alike would benefit from two-hour transfers, so why exclude service to one group of people?
In one sense, it’s not the TTC’s responsibility to take care of the homeless, but in another, a fundamental part of being human is to care about others. The two-hour transfer expresses the ideology that we are only responsible for ourselves. Public transit is in danger of becoming less and less public. So while the two-hour transfer improves serviceability, whom exactly the TTC provides their services to remains a vital question.
Eddy Wang is a fourth-year Cinema Studies and Computer Science student at Innis College.
Commuting across campuses as a Varsity Blues athlete
U of T athletics can be difficult for students situated outside UTSG — one UTM athlete details her experiences
As a third-year student athlete, I compete for the Varsity Blues field hockey team while studying Communication, Culture, Information & Technology and Professional Writing and Communication — majors only offered at UTM.
When people ask me what being a Varsity Blues athlete at UTM is like, my answer is simple: I love it. Every now and then I might envy the simplicity of school and field hockey being in the same place, but overall, I view my unique situation as an opportunity to experience the best of what both UTSG and UTM have to offer my athletic and academic careers.
There is no such thing as a ‘typical day’ for me, as my daily routine changes based on my class schedule, commute times, and training requirements. As a student living in downtown Toronto, I catch the UTM shuttle bus in front of Hart House to get to classes, then I take the return shuttle downtown to lift weights, go to practice, study, and sleep.
Sometimes, especially during our off-season, I spend more hours per week on the bus than I do at practice. Depending on the day, I make use of my time on the bus differently. I might do readings, work on assignments for class, catch up on sleep, or rest before practice. I try to make my commute either productive or enjoyable so that I’m less likely to dread it.
Organization is key. I fill the pages of my planner and constantly receive updates from my Google Calendar. In order to perform my best on the field and in the classroom, I focus all of my energy on the task at hand. At training, I think about field hockey; in class, I think about my coursework. These responsibilities — along with my job at the Munk School of Global Affairs, writing for The Varsity, and working with the UTM Innovation Association — are ordered so that I can complete everything I need to. This way I never get too overwhelmed.
My team has always been supportive and accommodating of me. If I’m late to practice or if I have to skip a lift, everyone understands. Our schedule can be flexible, so I miss as little as possible.
But given the difference in UTM and UTSG’s academic calendars, I commonly face logistical challenges. For example, this year I started classes earlier than my teammates, and I had a different fall reading week and a slightly different exam period.
I always look forward to spending time with my teammates on and off the field. In my first year, as I navigated two unfamiliar campuses, my teammates immediately made me feel at home downtown. We like to eat meals, work at the library, and watch other Blues games together. Sometimes I find myself envying the way they help each other study, compare notes, and share textbooks, but I never feel excluded.
Though I don’t have classes in common with my teammates, my small classes and the opportunity to work closely with students and professors are my favourite aspects of UTM. I’ve collaborated on writing pieces, design projects, and assignments with bright and talented individuals who have become my close friends. This year, some of those friends and I founded the UTM Innovation Association to provide students with access to local startups.
Overall, my student athlete experience combines the best of both campuses. I train and compete downtown in a big city, but I attend class surrounded by forest and the occasional deer roaming around campus. I belong to a massive Varsity athlete community, but I study in a tight-knit program. I’m surrounded by traditional brick buildings downtown, but I see my reflection in the brand new glass buildings in Mississauga.
TTC board votes unanimously in favour of U-Pass
U-Pass seeks to make public transit affordable for students
Photo by NATHAN CHAN Courtesy of the UTSU UCommute
More affordable transit may become a reality for students on the St. George campus after the TTC Board unanimously voted in favour of the U-Pass Initiative during a meeting on December 11, 2017.
The Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass), advocated by representatives from the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), Student Association of George Brown College (SAGBC), and the Ontario College of Art and Design Student Union, aims to provide an affordable means of transportation apart from the postsecondary metro pass offered by the TTC.
A staff report from the Chief Executive Officer of the TTC states that the U-Pass offers greater savings than the 20 per cent discount offered by the postsecondary student metropass, priced at $116.75.
Moreover, the initiative also proposes fare integration between several public transit systems in the Greater Toronto Area, such as Brampton Transit and York Region Transit. According to the report, it is estimated that more than 15 percent per cent of commutes by postsecondary students involve more than one transit system in addition to the TTC.
“The TTC is eager to make the U-Pass program work, everyone is in agreement on this,” said TTC Senior Communications Specialist Stuart Green. “A report is being prepared for our board in the first quarter of this year that would outline the specifics of the pass in terms of price and availability. If it is agreed to, it would be introduced in September.”
Anne Boucher, Vice-President External of the UTSU, spoke of an increased ridership during the TTC board meeting as a result of a U-Pass and how it will improve off-peak travel times.
“Creating a long-term transit reliance is key to the sustainability of transit into the future. By securing the student ridership now, students are more likely to be committed users leading into their professional lives,” said Boucher.
“A U-Pass encourages students to travel at off-peak times. Currently 76.6 per cent of our students say their commute affects how they schedule classes. They’re compressing their schedules into two to three compact days to avoid paying fares, which means they’re travelling in the morning rush and the evening rush,” continued Boucher.
In a survey administered by the students’ unions in late August, 95 per cent of commuter students voted in favour of the U-Pass. Students cited financial burdens as a reason, saying they spend upwards of $100 per month on transportation alone.
“U of T is a commuter school, so most students will benefit if this comes to fruition. Currently, I spend nearly $1,400 on transit. The blow was softened a bit by the tax deduction for Metropass, but since that is no longer in effect, I think more affordable transit is all the more necessary,” said Mayar Sashin, a commuter student at Victoria College.
“Other Canadian universities and cities are ahead of us in terms of providing transportation to students,” said Avneet Sharma, a student at Trinity College. “Though I don’t necessarily have the longest commute, the U-Pass would definitely be beneficial for all commuters at U of T.”
However, not all commuter students can depend on a U-Pass for their daily commute, using other methods of transportation besides public transit.
“Frankly, the UPass won’t be very helpful to me, since I bike to school everyday, so the increase in tuition will negatively impact me, personally,” said Benjamin Liao-Gormley, a commuter student from Victoria College. “Nonetheless, I support it, as it will save many of my friends some money, especially since commuting isn’t cheap if you don’t live in the downtown core.”
In an email to The Varsity, Gabriel Calderon, Co-Chair of the Victoria College Off-Campus Association and Commuter Commissioner on the Victoria University’s Students’ Administrative Council, wrote on how a U-Pass would counter the prohibitive costs of commuting, saying the U-Pass would provide an opportunity for students to come to university when they otherwise wouldn’t.
“I mean this in the context of extracurricular involvement,” Calderon said. “Often, a student will want to attend some sort of club/student society meeting, or go to office hours, etc., but they will choose not to because the cost of commuting will be prohibitive.”
Tory tackles transit, housing at UTSC town hall
Mixed housing, Scarborough subway extension main talking points
Mayor John Tory speaks at the “Vision for Scarborough” event at UTSC. ALEX TOUGH/THE VARSITY
Transit and housing were the main topics of discussion at a student town hall held at UTSC’s Meeting Place, which featured Mayor John Tory. The forum was organized to discuss a collective vision for Scarborough and to discuss the major issues that affect the UTSC community, including transit, housing, and policing.
The event, titled “Vision for Scarborough,” was organized by the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) in collaboration with the Centennial College Student Association, Inc (CCSAI) and the Scarborough Community Renewal Organization.
During the town hall, Tory campaigned for the Scarborough Bloor-Danforth subway extension, explaining his belief that it will stimulate investments and create jobs in Scarborough. “If you said if I thought it was kind of any strange notion that we would have a subway that has been extended to the east before,” Tory said, “No I don’t.”
Tory has faced widespread criticism over the choice to build a one-stop subway that is estimated to cost north of $3.35 billion. Critics have argued that the same amount of money could go toward a series of LRT lines that would serve more residents in Scarborough and beyond.
Tory believes that transit is the key to converting Scarborough into a job hub. He stated that the main reason investors may not find Scarborough attractive for establishing their business is its poor accessibility via transportation. He said the solution is the construction of “higher-order transportation.”
The mayor also said that safety barriers for subways are not part of any immediate transit plans in the city, as the billion dollars needed to install these barriers is currently being put “into building new transit and improving transit.”
When asked about affordable housing for students, Tory emphasized finding a way to step “up the pace” on mixed developments, including monetary subsidies to incentivize developers to build and operate affordable housing. He also spoke of shelter subsidies, where students would be able to find an apartment of their choosing and receive monetary support from the city.
Ravneet Kaur, President of the CCSAI, also expressed satisfaction with Tory’s proposals but “wanted to know more about the subway system.” Sitharsana Srithas, President of the SCSU, told The Varsity that she was satisfied with Tory’s answers in the town hall but felt that “there was still a lot of work to be done in terms of investing in Scarborough.”
A total of 16,597 students filled out an online survey for U-Commute, a joint campaign of Toronto student unions that seeks to make the U-Pass — an affordable transit pass for Toronto students — a reality.
The survey, which ran from August 28 to September 28, was shared on the UTSU’s social media pages. It sought to determine if the U-Pass was popular among students and to detect student transit trends essential for future negotiations. Preliminary results of the survey are to be released in the near future.
After the results are in, the next steps for the U-Commute initiative will be meetings with TTC chair Josh Colle and Metrolinx. “Realistically, we need to get the TTC on board first for this pass to work for the majority of our students. We’re working on including GO (Metrolinx) as part of the U-Pass too,” Boucher wrote to The Varsity.
U of T, Ryerson University, OCAD University, and George Brown College — the schools that make up U-Commute — are among the few Ontario post-secondary institutions without transit passes included in their tuition costs. McMaster University, Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, Durham College, and UTM all have transit passes included in their ancillary fees.
The last attempt at securing a U-Pass was in 2008, when a $60 per month, $480 per year, no opt-out plan proposed by the TTC was rejected by the UTSU, after which talks stalled. Since then, there has been willingness on both sides to negotiate. The UTSU has been actively pursuing the U-Pass option, and TTC Head of Customer Development Arthur Borkwood stated that a U-Pass could increase ridership by 20 percent.
As part of this latest push, U-Commute recently held a transit panel discussion that aimed to offer different perspectives on current transit issues that may affect the U-Pass.
Boucher expressed confidence that the current push for a U-Pass will be more successful than the last. “At the end of the day, all [that the TTC] is interested in is ‘will a U-Pass cost us money or will it be profitable,’” she said. “So we’re set to show them how a U-Pass benefits them, not how it benefits us.”