The Sigmund Serafin Subway Paintings

About 50 years ago, there was a housecleaning at TTC’s head office at 1900 Yonge Street. A room in what was then the Advertising Department stuffed with archival material was to be cleared out because they needed the space. A call went to the transit fans interested in preservating things that would otherwise be lost. This included a set of water colours by Sigmund Augustus Serafin who produced images of what subway station designs would look like long before the days of computer graphics.

These date mainly from 1957 when the Bloor-Danforth-University subway was still in the design stage. Few of the stations were built exactly as shown here. The quaint presence of the red “G” trains that ran on BD for only six months is a wonderful touch. Other vehicles include PCC streetcars and GM buses that predate the “New Look” era. Many buildings in the backgrounds no longer exist.

For decades these paintings lived in our family house, but in 2016 with what appeared to be a “friendlier” crew with Andy Byford in charge, I decided that it was time for them to go back to the TTC and the City Archives where they now reside. The TTC had thoughts of publishing them as posters, but that idea never bore fruit. The original mats around the paintings were in less than perfect condition when I received them, but the watercolours were and are almost like new.

Reproductions are on display at Bay Station, but they do not do justice to the originals. In anticipation of the TTC’s 100th birthday on September 1, 2021, here is a gallery of the paintings with photos I took while they were in my hands.

Click on any photo to open a gallery of larger versions.

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Ontario Line v Osgoode Hall

Metrolinx has an unerring ability, in the name of progress, to propose infrastructure that will not be friendly to its neighbours. Coupled with an organizational arrogance and the pressure to deliver on Ford’s transit dreams, this can produce unhappy relations with areas where they plan to build. It is convenient to portray those objecting to Metrolinx works as misinformed Nimbys, or to gaslight them by suggesting that nobody else in the known universe objects to their plans and to “progress”.

They are so confident that their copious output of publicity includes unintended double entendres such as:

Transit runs both ways. The conversation should too.

Once the progress train gets moving, there’s no stopping it.

The first is advice they could well take themselves, while the second implies that any “conversation” will slam into a brick wall of we-can-do-what-we-want enabled by provincial legislation.

Neighbourhoods along the eastern side of the Ontario Line have received most of the publicity regarding pushback on Metrolinx plans, but one appalling proposal, in the heart of the city, has gone unnoticed: Osgoode Station.

Queen & University, NE Corner, Aug 5/21, Photo by Steve Munro

The proposed Osgoode Station on the Ontario line will be an interchange point with the University Subway. To bring the combined station up to current fire code as required when any major change like this occurs, more entrance capacity is required. Metrolinx proposes to put a new entrance (sitting on top of an access shaft) right on that corner.

Here is another view looking south on University.

University Ave E Side Looking SE to Queen, Aug 5/21, Photo by Steve Munro

Here is a view from inside the park.

Looking SW Toward Queen & University, Aug 5/21, Photo by Steve Munro

This is not the only park that Metrolinx has in its sights (the grove of trees at Moss Park Station west of Sherbourne will vanish), but this particular forest is part of an historic site going back to the City’s origins. It stands in front of Osgoode Hall dating from 1829.

Looking West Across Osgoode Hall Courtyard, Aug. 5/21, Photo by Steve Munro

Before the Ontario Line was proposed, Osgoode Station would have been the western terminus of the Relief Line and it would have shared the entrance facilities of the existing station. The stairways on the southwest corner of Queen & University would have been replaced by a new entrance through the former Bank of Canada building on that corner.

The secondary entrance, required to provide an alternate exit from the new Relief Line station, would have been at York Street.

Osgoode Station Street Level Plan from Relief Line Design Documents, 2018.

The Ontario Line’s Osgoode Station is sited further to the west. This is the high level view showing the two proposed new entrances to the station at University Avenue (NE) and Simcoe (SW).

The station area, as seen in the satellite view:

Source: Google Earth

Metrolinx shows their property requirements in the drawing below, but this does not include lands required as a “lay down area” for materials for the station project. Note also that their tunnel appears to run under Campbell House (northwest corner, south of the Canada Life Building) when it fact it is supposed to be directly under Queen Street. This is at least partly an error in perspective, but it misrepresents the tunnel’s location.

Source: Metrolinx

A further entrance will be required on University Avenue somewhere north of Queen to provide a second exit from the existing Osgoode Station which does not meet fire code (it has only one path from platform to street level).

A related consideration in the station design is a proposed reconfiguration of University Avenue so that what are now its northbound lanes would shift to the median, and the east side of the street would be an expanded sidewalk and park land. If this scheme proceeds, then both the new entrance and any lay down area needed for the station should be co-ordinated with the reconfiguration of the area around Osgoode Hall. Tearing out part of the park is a quick-and-dirty approach to station design that is totally out of place on this site.

I asked Metrolinx about their planned design.

One of the outstanding issues about Osgoode Station is why or if it is actually necessary to locate an entrance building on the Osgoode Hall lands.

The original Relief Line Station lay between York Street and the west side of University Avenue. It had two entrances: one was at York Street, SE corner, and the other was through a new joint entrance to both stations on the southwest corner through the old Bank of Canada building.

With the shift of the Ontario Line station box westward, the west entrance of the OL station will be through the old bank on the SW corner at Simcoe. The new east entrance is proposed for the Osgoode Hall lands. Why, by analogy to the original design, is this entrance not simply consolidated with the existing station entrance on the NE corner rather than taking a bite out of the historic lands of the Hall?

I know that there is a need for two exit paths under fire code but must they be completely separate from the existing structure? Why would this not have applied equally to the original Relief Line design?

Any significant change in the use of an existing station requires that it be brought to current code. The existing Osgoode Station only has one exit path. Does the additional load the OL interchange represents trigger a need for a second exit from that station too (ie something surfacing in the median of University Avenue from the north end of the station)? There has never been any discussion of this as part of the OL project. Is the OL providing two completely separate entrances to its station to avoid triggering the need for a second exit from the existing Osgoode Station?

Email to Metrolinx July 28, 2021

Metrolinx replied:

Thank you for your email. We also know that transit is sorely needed in Toronto and the broader region. Building a subway through the heart of the largest city in Canada in some of the areas of greatest density was never going to be easy. We know it will have impacts for some, but the necessity of the Ontario Line requires us to make these difficult decisions to build the transit network needed for this region.

Osgoode Station is one of the four interchange stations the Ontario Line has with the TTC subway network, providing a direct connection to Line 1 Yonge-University. As you know, it will serve an estimated 12,000 riders arriving and departing Ontario Line trains during the AM peak hour alone in 2041, making it the third busiest station on Ontario Line.

The station will be located directly below the existing Line 1 station with a connection to the existing TTC concourse within the same ‘fare paid’ zone below ground. The existing Line 1 concourse level will also need to be expanded to meet fire code requirements as an interchange station. The major challenges involve constructing under, and connecting to, the existing station with minimal disruption to daily operations and minimizing any risk of damaging the structural integrity of the station itself. Within such a highly urbanized area, the work is further constrained by the limited availability of undeveloped land to construct a vertical shaft to access the deep below-grade construction site and for a suitably sized site to accommodate necessary laydown and staging activities on the surface.

In the case of Osgoode station, we know the passenger demand at this station necessitates the need for crowd management provisions and efficient surface network transfers. Two entrances, one at the west and one at the east end, of the new station are required to accommodate the anticipated passenger volumes and to meet safety and fire code requirements.

The TTC’s entrance for the existing Line 1 Osgoode Station does not provide sufficient capacity for the ridership expected when the Ontario Line is in operation. We also looked at various other location options for the Ontario Line Osgoode Station entrance buildings in this area. The proposed locations are the only ones where we can construct the station entrances and meet the necessary safety and code requirements.

We are working to minimize the footprint of Osgoode Station to the greatest extent possible. We will work with the Law Society of Ontario, the City of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Services and the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries to make sure we are not impacting more than we need to here.

Email from Caitlin Docherty, Community Relations & Issues Specialist – Ontario Line, August 9, 2021

Metrolinx is not known for “working with” affected communities preferring to bend any opposition to their predetermined plans. It will be interesting to see how they deal with this site and whether a better approach to Osgoode Station’s design and construction can be achieved that leaves the existing landscape intact.

The University Avenue redesign project appears to languish at City Hall while schemes such as the now-defunct Rail Deck Park soak up the political attention. This would be a chance to transform University Avenue from a suburban style arterial born of an era when much of downtown’s streets and built form were treated as expendable. City Council and Mayor Tory should seize this chance to make a grand street in the heart of the City.

The Richard F. Glaze 16mm Film Digitization Project

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I do not post commercial pitches here. Lots of people have things that they want to sell, but that’s not what my site is about.

Here is an exception.

Richard F. Glaze was a visitor to and later resident of Toronto for decades. He started shooting photographs and film of the TTC while I was still at the “look, a streetcar!” stage my evolution. He was a crusty guy who would show up on fantrips, and our paths would cross socially from time to time.

About 18 months ago, Richard’s vast collection of slides and six hours of colour film were passed on to James Bow who many will know for his site Transit Toronto. Images from Richard’s collection have appeared regularly there as James worked his way through scanning the collection.

The film material is another matter, though, and it requires professional handling for cleaning, high quality scanning, colour and exposure restoration. To that end James has mounted a Kickstarter campaign in the hopes of funding this work. The short term goal is $6,900, and this will pay for about one quarter of the work.

For those interested in the preservation of Toronto’s transit history, this is a worthy goal. You can visit the Transit Toronto website where there is a sample of restored video (streetcars on Rogers Road) and a link to the Kickstarter page. The cutoff date for the campaign is July 16, 2021.

Richard’s photos appear in many places on the Transit Toronto site, but there is a small selection and brief bio here.

To whet your appetite, here a few shots taken from Transit Toronto’s site.

Glen Echo Loop with a regular service car (3010) and a fantrip (2528) signed utterly inappropriately for the location
Lakeshore Road at Parkside Drive looking east to Sunnyside Amusement Park. The Gardiner Expressway doomed all of this.
Queen and Bay looking northwest. Today New City Hall would be in the background. Street decorations anticipate the coronation of Elizabeth II.

Metrolinx Gives Toronto the Finger, Twice

On the Toronto Executive Committee agenda for July 6, there is a report updating Council on the status of various rapid transit projects in Toronto. Notable by their absence are the Waterfront East LRT (study in progress as previously reported) and the Eglinton East LRT extension.

The truly galling part is found in two letters from Metrolinx, compounded by the abject parroting by City staff of Metrolinx creative writing in the City’s own report.

The documents are linked here:

  • Update on Metrolinx Transit Expansion Projects –Second Quarter 2021
  • Letter from Karla Avis Birch, Chief Planning Officer, Metrolinx, to Derrick Toigo, Executive Director, Transit Expansion Division, City of Toronto re the Ontario Line alignment
  • Letter from Phil Verster, CEO of Metrolinx to Derrick Toigo re the Ontario Line Maintenance and Storage Facility in Thorncliffe Park

The fundamental problem is that Council asked Metrolinx to consider alternatives to their design for the Ontario Line in Riverside (East Harbour to Gerrard Station) and in Thorncliffe Park (the location of the line’s storage yard).

Metrolinx chose to reply with analyses of options that were not those of concern to Council that addressed proposals from the affected communities. What Metrolinx did do was to trot out analyses of previously rejected options as if this somehow validated their position.

To give the impression that Metrolinx has “responded” to the city is a misrepresentation of what has happened, and it suggests that City staff in the Transit Expansion Division are more interested in buttressing Metrolinx’ case than answering Council’s request.

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A Discussion of In Camera Sessions

Correction November 21, 2020 at 12:17 pm: The mover of the motion to hold a special Board meeting was Chair Jaye Robinson, not Commissioner Shelley Carroll.

Near the end of the recent TTC Board meeting, Chair Jaye Robinson moved that the Board hold a special session to deal with the 2021 Budget. In the midst of the debate, the Board began talking about whether this should be a standard public meeting or if they could meet in camera.

Commissioner Ron Lalonde, chair of the TTC’s Audit & Risk Management Committee, asked whether his committee could meet in camera, a practice he is used to in the private sector. Because the TTC is bound by the City of Toronto Act and its provisions regarding open meetings, the Board and its committees can only go in camera for specific reasons listed in the act to deal with labour relations, security and other sensitive issues.

There is a way to get around this by meeting as a “working group” that does not make any decisions, but can act as a talking shop for management and the Board out of prying eyes. If there are any formal decisions to be made, they are agreed to in private and then reported out to a public meeting for the purpose of a rubber stamp approval.

What might have been discussed, what the positions of Board members and management might be, what options were even considered, even the fact that a meeting will take place, these are all cloaked in secrecy. Members of the public might depute to a public Board meeting before it ratifies any decision, but they will do so with no knowledge of what was actually discussed or the ability to present counterarguments. This is a convenient, but gaping, procedural hole.

The Board may find deputations tiresome, including those from “the usual suspects” (I was a regular among this group until I moved my commentary online), but this misses the whole point about public debate. We are in a period of severe social and fiscal constraints, and the public deserves to know about and have input into decisions on key services such as transit.

If the Board has specific issues it needs to debate in private, and for which the City of Toronto Act provides, then be my guest. As for “working groups”, they have no place in public decision-making. Toronto has a history of decisions that were made under cover, including money changing hands in the City Hall parking garage.

There is good reason to believe that lobbyists routinely talk to TTC Board members and Councillors about matters of public interest. These interactions are documented in the Lobbyist Registry, itself a product of an era in Toronto politics that many have forgotten.

The unseemly “deputation” by an eBus manufacturer that was little more than a sales pitch to the Board was probably only the tip of the iceberg. The stage management of a Board meeting was so lax that we actually got to see how the sausage gets made (to mix a few metaphors). That betrayed both sloppiness and a presumption that bending the rules really didn’t matter. I know that then-CEO Andy Byford was livid about this, but powerless to stop it.

Once upon a time, there were “citizen members” on the TTC Board, and this practice was ended because one of them had his hand in the cookie jar.

The TTC Board would do well to remember its history.

Updated November 22, 2020 at 4:40 pm: For further history of the attempt to have formal meetings of a Budget Committee at the TTC, please see my omnibus article on the board meeting.

How Much Service Can The TTC Run?

A lot of ink (some real, but much virtual) has been spilled in past weeks on the topic of crowding on TTC buses. This was compounded by less-than sympathetic responses from various places, including the TTC inself, suggesting the speakers/writers have no sense of the real world that transit riders inhabit.

Although there has been a recent plateau, ridership has been building through the summer and photos of crowded buses now appear commonly on social media. This co-incides with a second wave of infections and a selective move back to “stage 2” protocols. Just when concerns about personal safety are rising, the TTC gives the impression of shrugging its shoulders. This is not a recipe for confidence in rebuilding transit ridership.

That said, I must confess that I fall midway between camps that cry out for vast increases in transit (possibly with lower fares) and those who wring their hands wondering how we will even pay for what operates today. Trying to take the middle road is not easy.

Here I will attempt to put various issues and options on the table. Whether those responsible for the TTC act on them is out of my hands.

How Full is Full?

During the early days of the Covid recovery period (remember only a few months ago when we thought this was all going away soon?), the TTC produced charts showing demand levels and crowding configurations for its vehicles.

The degree to which they might achieve these levels depended on the overall level of ridership. This chart shows what happens if the TTC attempted to provide distanced service even though demand was low. At a 30% level, the service would have to match pre-pandemic levels to leave enough room for passengers to spread out.

This is not feasible from either a budgetary or operational point of view. The cost is very high, and there is no headroom for growth beyond that 30 per cent line.

Another variation of this chart foresaw a combination of increased crowding and service as ridership grew. On a system-wide basis, we are now at Level 2 with overall ridership at around 40 per cent and this translates to a crowding standard of 25 per bus, about three quarters of a seated load (see chart above).

The problem, of course, is that there is a big difference between system-wide averages and the conditions from route to route, location to location and time of day.

The TTC reported that as of early September demand on the bus system had reached almost half of pre-covid levels. About one quarter of all trips were running at or above the Level 1 standard of 30 per cent capacity, and almost a tenth were running at or above the Level 2 standard of 50 per cent.

The oft-cited figure that 92 per cent of TTC trips are not crowded comes from this chart. What it really means is that only 8 per cent are over the Level 2 standard, but it does not mean that the balance fall at or below Level 1. This distinction has been lost in translation by those who seek to put the best possible spin on the situation.

A major source of confusion has been the question of what would trigger resumption of full service. The chart above shows that 50 per cent demand would require 100 per cent service to provide some degree of distancing, albeit at Level 2, not Level 1 standards.

This was taken by TTC management to mean 50 per cent overall, but as we well know the recovery on many bus routes outpaces the system average. Many bus routes are likely to be well beyond this level before the system as a whole hits that target.

At the September 24 TTC Board Meeting, management made this point, that bus ridership was growing faster and would have to be dealt with but there is little real progress on this so far. The TTC does run some unscheduled extra service (about which more later) and claims that its effect shows up in the slight downturn in early September in the proportion of trips cresting the 50 per cent capacity line.

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StudentMoveTO: A Survey of GTHA Post-Secondary Student Travel

Almost every ridership study and projection, almost every major infrastructure and scheme looks at peak period, core focused commuting patterns. Huge efforts go into multi-decade plans to deal with growth, but much of these plans obsess on getting people to and from work downtown.

This leaves millions of trips unaccounted for outside of downtown and outside of traditional commuting hours. In the pandemic era, with that “normal” commuting load stripped away, we now see the importance of the local bus service – much of which does not serve downtown – where ridership remains strong. The subway may be quiet and GO Transit almost deserted, but the bus routes carry well, in some cases too well for comfort.

A major group of transit travellers is students, and in particular those at post-secondary institutions who can face much longer trips over a variety of hours than their younger colleagues in secondary and elementary schools. Many are now learning from home, but when they return to in-person classes, their effect on the transit system should be remembered.

In fall 2019, ten universities and colleges, Metrolinx, the City of Toronto and other organizations launched research into post-secondary student travel patterns. Preliminary results from this study have now been published and these are available on the StudentMoveTO website.

This survey, necessarily, reflects “before times”. It tells a lot about student travel patterns and shows how they differ from the classic transit model. This is interesting not just for students, but as an example of a group and their travel demands that are poorly understood and poorly served by core-oriented transit thinking.

Moreover, as a group who, relative to many others, are less likely to use or have access to cars, they show the problems of a so-called regional transit system that provides much less service at the edges than in the network’s core, Toronto.

The survey cast a wide net across the member institutions.

Source: StudentMoveTO 2019 Transportation Survey Findings

Collectively these institutions represent over 300,000 students and their travel. With a response rate averaging 6 per cent, there were over 18,000 responses with varying participation rates from each college and university.

An important caveat is that those who chose to participate do not necessarily represent the population as a whole, but as with any survey, one works with the data available. Cross-checks on these samples would be interesting (such as using the postal codes of all students to verify their geographic distribution), but that is work for another day.

Of the students who participated, about 40 per cent filled out a travel diary, and this gives us information about the types of trips they made.

Source: StudentMoveTO 2019 Transportation Survey Findings

It should be no surprise that trips related to education accounted for only 36 percent of total journeys. People do have other things to do with their lives, especially in the much more social pre-pandemic era.

A considerable chunk of the trip pie, 18 percent, consists of work-related trips as many students also have jobs. This might be a secondary demand pattern overall, but it is part of many students’ lives and commuting burden.

The overall location of students and the institutions they attend is shown in the map below.

Source: StudentMoveTO 2019 Transportation Survey Findings

Some people commute a very long distance to school in much the same way as many commute to work. Post-secondary institutions, however, are not clustered in a few nodes such as King & Bay Streets, but are scattered around the region.

The map above does not show campuses of other institutions that did not participate in the survey. Those located outside of the south-central part of the GTHA have commuting issues of their own.

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Meddling With Microtransit

Millions of dollars will flow to Toronto and other Ontario cities to support their transit systems through the COVID-19 emergency. A total of $2-billion will come from the federal and provincial governments with the first third, $666-million, in 2020.

For the balance, there is a catch. Ontario does not want to dole out subsidies next year without conditions that will affect how transit service is delivered and, potentially, what it will cost to ride.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney wrote to Mayor John Tory on August 12 saying that cities will have to “review the lowest performing bus routes and consider whether they may be better serviced by microtransit.” Within the GTHA there will be mandatory discussions about “governance structures” — bureaucratese for who gets to make decisions — and integration of services and fares.

Metrolinx has contemplated fare integration schemes on and off for years, but could never reach a conclusion because funding was not available to reduce the burden of cross-border travel and simplify the regional fare system. This changed, for a time, with a discounted GO+TTC fare, but that ended on March 31, 2020 thanks to a provincial funding cut.

Metrolinx proposed a fare structure where riders would pay based on distance traveled, at least on “rapid transit” lines, but the effect would be to raise fares within Toronto, particularly for longer trips, to subsidize riders coming into the city from the 905 municipalities. That scheme sits on the back burner, but it has never been formally rejected. Even worse, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster is on record musing that transit should pay its own way, a view completely at odds with the social and economic development role transit represents.

Governance brings its own problems. Metrolinx started out as a political board with representatives from GTHA municipalities, but these were replaced by provincial appointees who could be counted on to sing from the government’s songbook. The agency has evolved more into a construction company than a transit operator, and there is little experience with the needs and role of local transit on the board.

Who can cay whether a future consolidated GTHA transit governance model and provincial funding might bring its own service standards lower than those now accepted in Toronto and expected of the TTC, even with its problems?

Microtransit is a recent buzzword born of the assumption that there are efficiencies to be wrung from transit and it would not cost so much if only we would embrace new innovative ways to deliver service. Why run a full size city bus when an Uber or a van would do? Even Deputy Mayor Minnan-Wong has chimed in to defend taxpayer dollars against the cost of operating empty buses.

The TTC has service standards that dictate whether transit service should run at all and how much room should be provided for riders. During the pandemic era, these standards were relaxed to reflect the need for social distancing, but reports of crowded vehicles are common. Demand is growing, particularly on the bus network serving widely spread work locations in suburban Toronto.

Barring a major COVID-19 relapse and economic shutdown, transit could be back to a substantial proportion of its former demand by the end of 2021. Microtransit “solutions” that might appear appropriate for the depressed demand today could well be obsolete in a year or two.

The TTC has only thirteen routes that carry fewer than 1,000 riders per day. Five of these are the “premium express” lines, two primarily exist to serve TTC properties, and one is a peak hour shuttle to GO. Even the Forest Hill bus managed to carry 930 a day (in 2018), and that’s a lot of Uber trips.

Source: TTC 2018 Ridership and Service Statistics

Financially, offloading riders onto Uber sounds appealing, but this ignores the transfer of costs for vehicles and maintenance, not to mention the low effective wage rate, for Uber operator/drivers. Transit can be a great deal if someone else foots the bill.

An oft-cited example of microtransit is a scheme in Innisfil, Ontario, a town that is about forty percent bigger than Scarborough. Uber provides trips to local residents at a fare of $4 to $6 provided that one travels to or from specific locations. Otherwise, the deal is simply a $4 discount on Uber’s regular fare.

There is a 30 trip-per-month cap which Innisfil Transit implemented in April 2019 “to improve the Innisfil Transit service and make sure everyone can enjoy it”. In other words, to cap the total cost of the service. Low income residents can apply for a 50 percent discount, and they are not subject to a trip maximum.

These are not cheap trips for many riders, and the town’s subsidy for 2019 was about $8.25 per rider for just over 100,000 trips. To put this in a TTC context, the Forest Hill bus carries more than twice the ridership of the entire Innisfil system. [930 riders/day times 300 day-equivalents/year = 279,000]

Source: Innisfil Transit Update — April 22, 2020

Critics of buses running nearly empty through Toronto streets miss several key points including:

  • If demand requires a full-sized a bus for part of the day, there is no point in owning a separate smaller vehicle for the lightly-travelled hours.
  • No transit route has full vehicles over its entire trip, especially in the counter-peak direction.
  • Not all trips occur in peak periods, and off-peak service can make a full round trip by transit possible.
  • Riders who have to book a trip have less flexibility than if a bus just shows up on a reliable schedule.
  • The Innisfil model does not address a system where an Uber rider might transfer to a main line service to complete their journey and have to pay an additional fare.

In preparing this article, I wanted to understand the details of Minister Mulroney’s proposal to determine what the effect might be for Toronto and other cities, and I posed two questions.

What is meant by a “poor performing” route? What level of demand would determine whether a fixed route or demand-responsive service would be used?

The answer, from Christina Salituro, Senior Manager, Legislative Affairs and Issues Management in the Minister’s office was:

Our government will work with transit agencies across the province to evaluate low volume routes to determine whether there could be microtransit solutions, with the goal being to ensure similar or better service in a cost-effective manner, utilizing the best technologies available.

We also recognize that not every transit agency is the same, which is why we will work in a pragmatic way with agencies.

All proposals are subject to further discussions and engagement with municipalities as we explore a range of options to make transit systems more sustainable in Ontario.

What fare integration model is the government considering? Cross-border fare elimination? Fare by distance? Who would fund any new subsidies related to lower fares?

The government replied:

With the impact that COVID-19 has had on ridership, it is important to ensure we reduce as many barriers as possible to encourage the safe return of riders to public transit.

Transit is key to reducing traffic congestion, particularly in the GTHA.

Our government will be working with municipalities and transit agencies to ensure we are reducing fare and boundary barriers that may prevent some from choosing public transit due to cost, time, or unnecessary transfer.

It would be premature to speculate about the financial impacts of fare and service integration until we do further work with our municipal partners.

These are fine statements about government co-operation, but they give absolutely no sense of what the quid-pro-quo might be for cities to access the remaining $1.33-billion worth of pandemic subsidies.

Should provision of transit service depend on a business model that offloads costs onto vehicle owner/drivers and almost certainly does not pay a good wage compared to a transit company? Should demand-responsive microtransit service be operated by an Uber-like business, or as part of the local transit system in locations that already have one?

There may be a place for microtransit especially in areas of low population and dispersed travel demand, but operating this won’t be cheap for the cities and towns involved.

Microtransit, especially from the private sector, might fit Ontario’s political agenda, but it will not address transit’s much greater challenges to rebuild post-pandemic and to improve its market share for travel.