When it comes to transit Stephen Shang prefers the system “the way it is.”
That may come as a surprise to transit riders faced with daily overcrowding and congestion-related delays, but the 34-year-old financial services analyst, who lives near Bayview and Finch Avenues, insists he likes the way his local transportation hub Finch station integrates TTC, GO and Viva service.
Shang’s positive review for local transit was not shared by residents like Val Capuani, who like Shang was at Metrolinx’s Big Conversation transit roundtable at the North York Central Library auditorium, the latest in the planning agency’s series of public consultations taking place in February throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
More than 100 people attended the event, divided into smaller smaller working groups there to discuss various transit issues.
“Just build the system for the love of God,” exhorted Capuani to the group of 10 residents gathered around a table covered in a large Metrolinx Big Move map, and a “conversation kit”, containing information on future transit projects to served as nuggets for a passionate transit discussion facilitated by a green polo shirt-clad Metrolinx staffer.
“I think everyone here is willing to pay more,” she continued.
After the meeting, Capuani, a daily TTC user and sometimes driver said she trekked north from the Annex to give her opinions to Metrolinx, which is polling residents as part of its investment strategy for funding its Big Move plan to be presented to the premier June 1.
“We’re over capacity and and most of us are willing to a pay a little more,” said Capuani.
She said she preferred a payroll tax increase to pay for transit since “everybody works.”
Alex Krolik, a board member of the Eglinton 2020 community engagement group which has consulted in the past with Metrolinx on the Eglinton-Scaborough Crosstown light rail transit line currently under construction, said there was no question residents need to pay more.
“At this point, I don’t think we have a choice,” said Krolik, who identified himself as a conservative. “Transit is urgently needed because our region is growing at a very fast rate.”
Cycling advocate Jared Kolb said he was disappointed Metrolinx had not prepared any discussion items pertaining to the role of cycling in the Big Move.
“There’s no doubt cycling will be part of the solution when it comes to enabling people to get out of their cars to fight congestion,” said Kolb, who is the director of campaigns and membership for awareness group Cycle Toronto.
“Cycling needs to be at the forefront throughout those discussions and Metrolinx could play a really important role making that happen.”
Paul, who didn’t want his last name to be used, said he was in favour of expanding transit with tax money but felt transit fares are lower than other areas and more revenue should be derived from them for transit.
“Frankly, people don’t pay enough for transit,” he said.
After the session, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig said the meeting was one of the “most engaged and intense” of the roundtables which have already taken place. A second Toronto date is scheduled for Feb. 9 at Metro Hall downtown.
City councillor Shelley Carroll was also at the meeting.
For more information about the Metrolinx Big Conversation roundtables visit www.bigmove.ca