Race, the ’burbs, and transportation
In one of the most diverse communities in North America, any discussion about public space and policy needs to include race.
By Perry King
Since the magazine’s inception, Spacing has extensively covered issues of transit and transportation. For this issue, we’re partnering with The Ethnic Aisle, which since 2011 has been exploring multiculturalism, diversity, and issues of ethnicity in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). For our joint venture we decided to interweave two contentious topics that mine both of our areas of expertise: transportation and race.
Transit is a huge issue in Toronto. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is the third largest transit system in North America and has grown dramatically in recent decades — at least 500 million trips are made on it every year. And it is inextricably linked with GO Transit and suburban providers beyond the city’s borders. Transit and transportation is a passionate topic for many people, one way or the other.
For many communities across the region, the GTA’s public transit growing pains have never been more clear and present. There is the crowded Yonge subway line, the stumbled Presto rollout, the political posturing, and the ubiquitous unreliability of service. Plus, there’s the constant drama over transit visions and plans: the Downtown Relief Line versus Smart Track versus the Scarborough Subway and more.
In the GTA, one of the most diverse communities in North America, any discussion of public space, or public policy, needs to be one about race. Transit in Toronto’s prosperous, increasingly white urban centre is far from great, but the further one travels from downtown, the more racialized our communities grow and the more pathetic the transit options become.
People who live in neighbourhoods like Rexdale and Malvern — areas with high levels of poverty and also many people of colour — spend far more time in transit than the city’s 32-minute average commute. Hours spent getting to work on circuitous bus routes, where vehicles sometimes simply don’t show up, are hours taken away from earning a living, not to mention family time and leisure. That experience is only made worse by the fear of racist or sexist slurs and violence: the failings of our transit system are ones that put vulnerable people at even greater risk.
These stories are a cross-section of experiences from across the region, individual experiences that reflect members of various communities who use multiple modes of transportation to get around. They reveal that people in the GTA think obsessively about how we move — in both negative and positive ways.
We hope that the following package of stories takes you on a new and unexpected reading journey. We are moved to write about the things that move us. Every person in the lineup trying to squeeze onto a busy bus has a story to tell.
Banner Photographs by Jalani Morgan
Perry King is a digital editor and freelance journalist based in Toronto.