Arushi Nath. Grade 8 Student.

Youth groups are one of the strongest users of many city-provided public services. These include public parks, transit, libraries, community centers, city-run recreational programs, and museums.

Thus they are affected by decisions made by city governments. And disproportionately, too. Young people must bear the long-term consequences of all decisions made by current policymakers: the good ones, the bad ones, those made with foresight, and those made with little foresight that focuses on short-term gains over long-term costs.

Arushi Nath delivering a Depute at the TTC Board Meeting. 9 January 2023.

Youths: Cannot Vote. But Can Voice Concerns

With the voting age set at 18 years, most school-going youths cannot vote. But the inability to vote should not mean – not having a voice, or having a voice but suppressing it until you are 18. Youths of today are passionate, engaged, and civic-minded. Thanks to the power of social media and online communities, youths can find or create platforms to voice their concerns.

I am a daily Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) commuter. I use it to attend school in the morning, reach home in the afternoon, get to swim classes on some weekdays, and visit libraries, museums and friends on weekends. As a daily user, I have first-hand experiences with public transit and have views and suggestions for its improvement.

Reading the news, I came to know that the City of Toronto government would be:

  • Reducing the TTC services
  • Increasing the wait times
  • Introduce more crowding in the transit
  • Expand the enforcement team, and
  • Charge the commuters more for reduced services

This would be the wrong direction to take in the era of climate instability, the densification of cities, and growing diversity and inequality in Toronto. For short-term gains, it would push the social and environmental costs of transit reduction and deterioration in public services to youths who are now tasked to solve more demanding challenges with minimal resources.

TTCriders: A Grassroots Organization to Voice Citizen Concerns on Public Transit

I started looking for avenues for sharing my views. My experience as an Ontario Legislative Page for the 1st Session of the 43rd Parliament of Ontario taught me to keep a keen eye on those wielding power and making decisions. In this case, the City of Toronto, headed by the mayor, holds majority power and determines the funding for different public services.

And this is when I came across the TTCriders group through Twitter. It was the first time I heard about this group. Going through their website, I learned about the organization and its objectives.

TTCriders is a grassroots transit advocacy organization that gives TTC riders a voice. The organization focuses on transit funding, fares, services, dedicated transit lanes, accessibility issues, and unique issues faced by the people of Scarborough.

My Depute in Progress at the TTC Board Meeting on 9 January 2022. City Hall. Toronto.

I joined the group and signed up for updates. Through these updates, I learned about an upcoming TTC Board Meeting on 9 January 2023, which was open to presentations by the public. The public was allowed to submit written comments or register to speak to the TTC Board in person or by video conference.

Preparation for my First Depute to the TTC Board Meeting

I decided to present my views to the TTC Board and registered to speak at the meeting. To support the general public in making deputations to the Committee, the TTC Riders had also organized an online training session the day before. It would allow anyone to understand how the deputation process goes, how to prepare your intervention, the time available to present (3 minutes) and what to expect.

As this was my first deputation, I registered for the TTCRiders online training session and found it very useful. I also learned that 30 people had registered to make a depute in person or online, and I was number 18th on the list.

TTCriders Training Session in Progress on 8 January 2023

My Depute: Expand, Do Not Cut Public Transit

As the TTC Board Meeting was during school hours, I decided to make my depute from my school. The TTC Board Meeting will be happening at the City Hall, Toronto, in Committee Room 1, and the following TTC Board Members will be present to hear the deputations:

Board Members Chair – Councillor Jon Burnside, Councillor Paul Ainslie, Joanne De Laurentiis (Citizen), Councillor Stephen Holyday, Fenton Jagdeo (Citizen), Ron Lalonde (Citizen), Councillor Nick Mantas, Councillor Chris Moise, and Julie Osborne (Citizen).

While I was told my turn would be at around 10.45 am, there was a delay, and I got to speak at 12.03 pm. My school was kind enough to accommodate my request to take time off from a class to make my intervention.

I enjoyed delivering my intervention. While there were no questions from the Committee Members, I was glad I had taken the initiative to register my opinions and suggestions about TTC services and put them on the record. I am absorbing the learnings from this experience. I hope to build upon them as I advocate for better public transit for all.

Online Link to the TTC Board Meeting: Watch my Depute (video)

Intervention by Arushi Nath

2022 Operating and Capital Budgets. Monday. 9 January 2023

Location: Committee Room 1, Toronto City Hall

https://www.ttc.ca/public-meetings/board/2023/Board-Meeting-Jan-9?tab=0

Hello, Bonjour. I am Arushi, a Grade 8 student from the Spadina Fort-York area.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on school-going kids. The schools became virtual for a year and a half, and all after-school and extracurricular activities stopped for over two years.

Now that school life is returning to normal, TTC services have become unreliable. 

  • There are: long wait times for Bathurst, College and Dundas street cars in the morning and the afternoon
  • There are frequent route changes
  • Often, part of the streetcar route is replaced by a bus doubling the wait times
  • And bunched up “Not in Service” street cars have become the new short turns

Many schoolkids do not have phones. Electronic displays on bus stops that showed timings of the next few TTC vehicles have either been removed, are broken or do not show the correct information. Most bus stops are in a terrible state, providing no shelter from the elements.

For most city kids, TTC is the only mode of transportation. Some days, it takes over 40 minutes to cover a few kilometres by streetcar. It impacts every aspect of our lives, such as being late to school in the morning, reaching home late in the afternoon, or the inability to reach swimming classes in time, even when starting earlier. 

There is an urgent need to expand the TTC services and make them more frequent and reliable. The direction TTC is taking in having TTC service levels below 2022 levels for 2023 through 2025 by reducing services is plain wrong. 

In the era of climate instability and the increase in density of our neighbourhoods: affordable, fast, frequent, clean, safe and reliable public transit should be the primary mode of transportation. 

I suggest 3 things:

  1. Public Transit should have dedicated lanes to make it faster.
  2. Existing technology should allow TTC drivers to record and report drivers of vehicles passing open doors to make street cars safer.
  3. Fare hikes should be rolled back to keep TTC affordable for all.

Please make that happen, as the school-going youths of today could be your largest and most dedicated group of TTC riders tomorrow.


References:

2023 TTC Conventional and Wheel-Trans Operating Budgets

Stop the TTC Cuts! TTCriders’ Guide to the 2023 Budget

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