Talking TTC: Story Circle surfaces transit challenges and solutions in Scarborough

Attendees shared their frustrations with specific bus routes and Toronto Transit Commission employees’ poor customer service, among other issues.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who expressed an interest in Scarborough Discourse’s second Story Circle: Transit edition — my colleague Anita Li and I are grateful for your support. We were delighted that many of you made it out to our event, braving the bitterly cold weather that’s become representative of what seems to be Toronto’s never-ending winter. It was especially lovely to meet so many of our community members in real life, after our frequent interactions via Facebook and email.

More than 30 people attended our Story Circle, including three local city councillors: Jim Karygiannis, Cynthia Lai and Jennifer McKelvie. Everyone participated in small breakout group discussions, describing their daily experiences using public transit, before we reconvened in a large circle to share our thoughts.

Participants vented their frustrations with specific bus routes, debated proposed plans for the one-stop subway to Scarborough Town Centre and shared observations about TTC employees’ poor customer service, which ranged from unfriendly behaviour to racist interactions targeting children of colour.

Some Story Circle attendees debated Scarborough-Agincourt city councillor Jim Karygiannis (far left) over his stance on the Sheppard subway extension.

One of my major takeaways from this Story Circle was that many of you feel Scarborough residents are left out of transit policy-making conversations that almost exclusively take place at City Hall. Several attendees spoke passionately about the need for better community consultations that account for linguistic, economic and other barriers many locals face when sharing their views on public transit.

“The city can place employees to ride each bus [and] LRT line for the term of one year for eight hours a day, and measure for specific results,” Tessrah Baptiste wrote during our Story Circle’s solutions journaling period, during which attendees suggested solutions to transit issues in Scarborough. After analyzing the results and releasing a comprehensive report, she added, planners should be better positioned to “build transit for users based on those results.”

Solutions to deal with transit issues in Scarborough, as suggested by our Story Circle attendees.

Tessrah also recommended empathy training for TTC employees. “That would make my experience happier in my everyday life. ‘Hello, how are you? Good morning!’ It’s a customer-service job. I’m tired of being stereotyped or racialized because of where I live,” she said.

The team and I are now planning coverage of Scarborough transit based on the conversations and suggestions that emerged from our Story Circle. If you have more ideas for navigating the public transit system in and around Scarborough, I’d love to hear from you. Email me your thoughts.


Leon Tsai, a UTSC student, is interested in investigating the intersections between faith-based groups and gender identities and sexual orientations in Scarborough. “I also have been trying…to start those difficult conversations about what is it like if you are Christian and queer, what is it like if you’re Muslim and transgender.”

Leon Tsai, 19, is a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Leon, who immigrated from Taiwan seven years ago, also identifies as a trans woman, activist, educator and artist. “I came to Scarborough for university and I think in my two years here, I’ve been falling in love with Scarborough, as cheesy as that might sound,” she says.

However, Leon feels that the local LGBTQIA+ community and culture isn’t as prominent as it is in downtown Toronto. “Let’s do better [when it comes to] ways of how we connect here. Because it’s not accessible to say, ‘Oh, you want people to understand you? Go downtown to the Village.’”

With files from Kateryna Bandura

Discourse in the news

From left to right: Canadaland founder Jesse Brown, Laval University professor Colette Brin, The Discourse’s director of communities Anita Li and Postmedia CEO Andrew MacLeod on the set of The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

Our very own Anita Li appeared on this CBC panel to discuss some media outlets’ irresponsible reporting of an alleged hate crime that was committed against actor Jussie Smollett when news of the incident first broke. “There was a lack of fact-checking, there was an almost knee-jerk willingness to feed into a really polarizing narrative without corroborating the facts,” she said.

Media coverage continues to be irresponsible now, with some outlets treating Smollett as if he’s already been convicted, though he’s only been charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report.

Anita also recently appeared on TVO as part of a panel discussion about the future of Canadian media and digital disruption. She described how The Discourse’s community-driven approach to reporting is filling in coverage gaps in underserved communities like Scarborough.

Let’s meet up

  • March 9 to 10. Indig-U-KnowBilled as the first Indigenous conference and pow wow at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), this two-day event features ticketed workshops, panel discussions and artistic performances. It ends with a traditional pow wow, which is free to attend. UTSC. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

  • March 12. Kin & Kool. This Scarborough Arts workshop, which focuses on the “three means of care” — food, love and art — invites attendees to eat a Sri Lankan bouillabaisse-like dish called kool, and to share stories from their communities. The event is open to all ages and free for those under 25, but there’s limited space, so please pre-registerEast Scarborough Storefront. 5 to 7 p.m.

  • March 13. Growing Food on Balconies, Small Spaces and Elsewhere. This presentation by Lara Mrosovsky will show attendees how make use of whatever space they have to grow food. Lara has years of experience as a community gardener, which includes facilitating gardening workshops for high-rise residents in St. James Town. She’s also an artist and author of An Illustrated Guide to Growing Food on Your BalconyScarborough Village Recreation Centre. 7 to 9 p.m.[end]


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