Move over, weather. Hit the showers, Maple Leafs.
Transit has become the new conversation starter in the GTA. Regardless of venue, company or context, it seems that every conversation touches on the subject of one’s commute. Yes, tales of lengthy, unpredictable commutes have usurped discussions about wind chill, humidity and playoff runs.
These anecdotes play out in the data, too. For the last five years, transit and transportation has topped the list of the most important local issue facing the GTA. In fact, it garners twice as many mentions as the next nearest issue, the cost of living.
As transportation has grown in significance to the GTA, residents’ views on the subject have evolved and coalesced. To start, residents are casting aside parochial interests in favour of systemic change. Perhaps a reflection of how many commutes cross municipal boundaries, a strong majority prefer a regional solution to our transit woes over piecemeal local efforts. Even a majority of those who only drive accept that they should shoulder some of the financial commitment required of a new transit system.
What is also increasingly clear is that high-profile debates about subways versus light rail versus other modes of transit are largely artificial constructs: superficial choices or wedge-issues of political campaigns. Sure, the new streetcars look sleek and modern. And when it’s -30° outside, a subway platform is relatively more comfortable than a bus shelter. However, when pressed, most residents don’t have strong feelings on transit modes.
What is important to residents is predictability. Sure, everyone would like a faster, cheaper commute in the most current, comfortable and Wi-Fi-enabled mode available. But what residents really crave is a predicable commute that takes the same amount of time, every time.
And, as our work in the field has uncovered, it’s because predictability leads to a better quality of life. A predictable commute – regardless of duration – helps residents better manage stress, plan their day, be more productive and, with the Leafs out of the picture, get home to watch their kid’s hockey team make a playoff run of their own.