As a preliminary round of public transit consultations gets underway this week, Toronto’s chief planner hopes an overflow of residents take the time to provide feedback on future priorities for public transit.
More than 1,500 people have shared their opinions online via a website launched as part of the Feeling Congested? city-wide consultations, said Jennifer Keesmaat. The consultations are intended to give residents the chance to provide feedback on transportation priorities and future transit funding.
“We want as many people to attend as possible and I would be totally thrilled if we had too many people and had to troubleshoot to accommodate everyone,” said Keesmaat on Monday, Feb. 4.
She said the sessions will allow the city to get a sense of what residents deem to be important priorities when it comes to transit, as well as gain feedback on their willingness to pay more in dedicated taxes or fees to pay for transit expansion.
At the consultations, attendees will be asked to form working groups in order to answer a series of questions and afterwards share their responses with the group as a whole.
The process is commonly used to ensure a maximum level of feedback compared to a more traditional town hall structure, Keesmaat said.
“This is a way a lot of people can contribute in a relatively short period of time,” she said. “If 100 people show up and they talk in groups of 10, all of those people will get a chance to really talk.”
She said her hope for the first round of sessions, which take place in various locations across the city over the course of the next two weeks, starting with the York Civic Centre on Monday. Feb. 4, was to gain a clear understanding what residents expect from a transit system and how much they would be willing to pay to ensure such a vision is realized.
Following the consultation period, Keesmaat said the city’s planning department will take the feedback received and create recommendations regarding transit funding to be debated by city council. Those recommendations would then be forwarded to Metrolinx for considerations in its investment funding strategy for transit it must present to the premier in June.
Over the course of the next nine months, she said more city consultations will take place based on the feedback generated from this first round. During that time, transit professionals representing municipal transit agencies other than Toronto will speak on special panels of their cities’ experience organizing and funding transit.
“My hope is a really clear set of priorities begins to emerge, not in terms of projects, but a valuable conversation that goes two ways,” said Keesmaat.
“As city planners we have an obligation to talk about what works and what doesn’t work.”
For a full list of meeting dates, visit www.feelingcongested.ca