Earlier this week, Scarborough Discourse rolled out our transit series, which focuses on issues that our community members — folks like you — told us matter to them. Whether it was in person at our second Story Circle and other transit-themed events, or online via email, this newsletter and Scarborough Discourse’s Facebook group, my colleagues and I listened. Our goal is to provide coverage that reflects your daily lives, and leads you to possible solutions for community problems, so I hope we succeeded.
Our transit series launched Tuesday with my story, “Better bus service could help solve Scarborough’s transit troubles.” It was based on my conversations with residents, many of whom reel off bus numbers when discussing their lengthy commutes in and out of Scarborough. Yet, the humble bus is rarely mentioned by policymakers or other media whenever they debate and report on local transit, respectively. As you know, their focus is typically on subway vs. LRT — long-term projects with billion-dollar price tags attached.
Transit experts say that Scarborough is, in fact, quite well-served by buses. That’s also been my experience when travelling to some of the suburb’s more accessible areas to conduct interviews and attend events. I can often rely on two buses — some of them express — to get to popular destinations such as Scarborough Town Centre, University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) and McGregor Park Community Centre, in an hour or less.
Getting to more far-flung parts of Scarborough, such as the Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park community or Malvern Town Centre, is another story. If I’m not in a rush and am in the mood to explore, I’m happy to travel by bus. But I’m privileged in that this kind of exploration is part of my job. Many people living in these areas have one — or more — jobs they have to commute to, and often must transfer multiple times to get to their final destination. Missing one bus can wreak havoc on their carefully scheduled trips.
Still, all the experts I interviewed agree that buses matter. They’re the lifeline of public transit in Toronto, connecting passengers to the subway and LRT. Solutions like bus rapid transit could help address some of the ongoing problems in Scarborough, such as overcrowding and transit deserts. In a suburb that’s car-dependent, however, bus-priority lanes are a political hot potato. So what can we do about it? Scroll down to the “In the community” hub for an interesting take that I heard at a community forum.
Our transit series also features an app created by Discourse data journalist Caitlin Havlak with research from Uytae Lee, which community members can use to determine if their bus route is “among the most delayed in Scarborough.” Caitlin and Uytae analyzed publicly available data from the TTC for 40 bus routes that served Scarborough in 2018, and found that the average delay per bus was 15.25 minutes. Does this match up with your experience? Compare your bus with other routes using the app. We’d also appreciate if you completed the short survey below the app, which will help us better understand your commuting experiences.
In addition, my team and I published a video featuring Michael Manu, a Scarborough resident who studies at the University of Waterloo. There aren’t many local jobs related to urban planning, his field of study, so Michael must travel to places like Mississauga and North York — trips that can easily take up to two hours each way via transit. Finally, this morning, we published a piece on Scarborough’s transit deserts, which reflects experiences of residents in neighbourhoods such as West Hill. These Scarberians say their transit options are insufficient and under-resourced — and the data backs them up.
Tell me what you think about our transit series by shooting me an email. I’d also love to hear more about your commute, within and outside of Scarborough. Finally, as the transit debate continues, please send me your ideas for possible solutions to local transit issues.
This type of community-powered reporting takes a lot of time and resources. If you value journalism that reflects Scarborough’s culture and resilience, please contribute to our campaign — whether that’s a monthly, annual or one-time commitment. Help us spotlight real stories.
Scarborough Discourse only has one week left in our spring campaign, and we’re less than halfway to our goal of getting 1,000 supporters by June 15. Your contribution — whether that’s a monthly, annual or one-time commitment — will help my colleagues and I tell real stories that actually matter to the people of Scarborough. We don’t believe in putting our journalism behind a paywall, so if you find value community-powered stories, support us now. I’d also love if you shared this page with your friends, and told them why you support Scarborough Discourse.
Given her own experience as a refugee coming to Canada, Regini David, 47, is all too aware of the systemic challenges confronting racialized and low-income communities in Scarborough. Now working at West Scarborough Community Legal Services as an outreach and law reform coordinator, Regini regularly advises clients who are grappling with poverty, unaffordable housing and workplace rights, such as minimum wage and the right to refuse unsafe work.
“The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer,” she says. “More and more, people who are facing poverty are people of colour, women, people with language barriers. These communities are being pushed further into poverty. And one of the main reasons is that the policies are not addressing the issues.”
The Ontario government’s recent cuts to legal aid services will exacerbate this growing divide, Regini adds: “Many low-income people don’t have money for lawyers. They fight injustice through legal aid. Cutting legal aid is denying justice to the most vulnerable community.”
In the community
On Tuesday, I attended a community forum organized by the Scarborough Civic Action Network, a local grassroots organization that brings together individuals, community groups and other agencies to advocate for those who are most at risk of “social exclusion.”
The forum featured five panellists who discussed the cuts recently introduced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government: UTSC geography professor Andre Sorensen, West Scarborough Community Legal Services’ Regini David, Rosewood Taxpayers’ Association president Alura Moores, community organizer Sean Meagher and Lisa Salamon, family doctor and emergency physician at the Scarborough Health Network’s Birchmount site. They spoke about cuts to housing, transit, health care and education.
To fight these cuts, Meagher said the government needs to be better informed about the “robust conversations” going on in Scarborough. “You have to push back. When moms spoke about [the Ford government’s changes to] autism funding, they spoke about their kids, and the government [backtracked],” he explained. “You have to build alliances with people this government sees themselves as serving.”
As part of Scarborough Discourse’s ongoing investigative series, we want to highlight your transit experiences. In my conversations with residents and attendees at our second Story Circle, you told us about some of the barriers you face while commuting, so my colleague Anita and I would like to reflect these challenges in our coverage.
Please send us your photos of delays, crowding, bus bunching and other frustrations from your daily commutes. If you want to showcase your love for Scarborough transit, that’s cool, too! Either way, share your stories on social media using the hashtag #ScarbTransitTales, and be sure to tag @TheDiscourse.
Let’s meet up
- June 7, 10, 13, 16. Toronto Raptors vs. Golden State Warriors. You don’t need to travel downtown to enjoy the majesty of our basketball team crushing the competition. (That game-two loss was just a bump in our path to victory, right?!) Come to Scarborough’s own Jurassic Park and cheer on the Raptors! Albert Campbell Square. 9 to 11:30 p.m.
- June 8. Scarborough Food Truck Festival. Enjoy tasty treats and give to a great cause at this fourth annual festival. There’ll be more than 10 food trucks, offering crepes, spring rolls with a twist and more, to sample from. All proceeds from this event will go towards programming for children and youth at the Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough. University of Toronto Scarborough, Parking Lot H. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.