Positive Engagement the First Step in Creating Sustainable Transportation
By Adam Giambrone, former chair of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)
Making transit more sustainable, both financially and environmentally, is no easy task. Not only is transit vital to ensuring the mobility of more marginalized communities, but the current gridlock is costing our economy billions in lost productivity each year. While Metrolinx has begun to expand the GTA’s transit system with new lines, such as the Eglinton LRT, much more work is needed for our city to catch up on 30 years of transit under-investment.
Transit infrastructure costs are huge. The subway extension to Vaughan alone will cost nearly $3 billion, and more funding will be needed to sustain any funding momentum. Fares only cover a portion of the costs—at the TTC, for example, fares cover around 70% of operating costs, so for every dollar brought in by new fares, about 40 cents of additional subsidy is needed.
Making a more sustainable transportation system will require innovation and creativity, and bringing more people into the conversation is an important part of the solution. The MOVE Expo at Evergreen Brick Works was a great example of engaging a diverse group of people, and coming up with creative ways to make transit better.
Leading up to MOVE, interdisciplinary “charrette” teams comprised of residents, students, designers, transportation experts, transit riders, cyclists, architects, and urban planners came together to tackle current transit challenges—presenting some of their ideas to key stakeholders. Through this sort of engagement, people of every background can make a valuable contribution to help us adapt to 21st century realities.
In particular, it is the creative process of moving these discussions along that really interests me. Having people’s ideas discussed, combined, documented and preserved through this sort of process is a key element to ensuring stakeholder engagement at both the grassroots and institutional levels.
It also helps to preserve Toronto’s historical collective memory, something that various communities, as well as the municipal government, have always worked to acknowledge. It allows regular people to access information about how we can create our own sustainable futures, as well as engage with it to share their ideas and to do their part in the process.
From recycled car parts to city bike lanes, it truly seems this process of engagement and consultation is just what the city needs, especially with major transit projects now underway and many more planned for the future.