May 10, 2018
By Arianne Robinson
At an announcement on Thursday about ongoing TTC service improvements that will affect the Dufferin bus (dubbed the Sufferin’ Dufferin owing to overcrowding), Toronto city councillors and the mayor had some notable advice for the candidates for premier about transit and politics in Toronto right now.
“No one understands these challenges better than TTC Chair [Josh] Colle and I,” said Councillor Ana Bailão, “because we represent the Dufferin bus, we ride the bus regularly, and we hear it from our residents.”
Bailão relies on the subway to get to city hall, and she says that along her five-minute walk to the nearest subway station she sees how crowded the Dufferin bus can get.
Asked about the importance of being a politician and riding public transit, and how that informs how the local councillor makes transit decisions, Bailão said the personal is political.
“It’s hard to get on the subway at 8:20 a.m. I know exactly what they are feeling because you have work to do, meetings to go to, and you feel it. You feel it when you get on the bus. You feel it when you get on the subway.”
Bailão said the reliability and predictability of the system is what’s at stake. “If I’m going to count on the TTC to get me to my meeting, that I know that I can get there. When you start having doubts about that, we’re in trouble… I think that all these improvements that we’ve been doing over the last couple of years, and all the investment from Eglinton Crosstown to the new buses, is crucial to make sure that more and more residents see the TTC and public transportation as the way to move them around.”
In response to the question of how regularly he rides the bus – a question that noted how Doug Ford has recently admitted he does not ride public transit very often – TTC Chair and Councillor Colle had pointed advice for the provincial party leaders.
“I would say that any of the party leaders right now who are running to be premier should ride the Dufferin bus. Councillor Bailão will take them on the south end and I’ll take them on the north end,” Colle offered.
“I think their policy planning is simple. Toronto has priorities and we’ve identified those priorities. Please fund them. If you want to add more dollars to fund those projects that we’ve approved, and that’s, I think, the plan, add some some operating dollars on top of that, and the city of Toronto, our residents and riders, would be happy with the leaders all promising that.”
Last November, then-Toronto mayoral candidate, now-Leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, Ford criticized prioritizing the speed of the King streetcar over cars and bikes who use the route, while admitting it had been “a little while” since he’d taken a streetcar.
On Wednesday, the PC’s released a statement about transit in the province that prioritized subway infrastructure. “…it is time the Province stepped up and treated the subway like the vital service it is,” Ford is quoted as saying in the statement.
Mayor John Tory also weighed in.
“All three party leaders – in fact four, if you include the Green Party, which I do – are all talking about transit in Toronto, they’re all talking about enhanced support for transit in Toronto in one form or another, and to me the issue is clearly on the radar screen of all the political parties, as well it should be.”