toronto ttc

Does Toronto need a TTC university?

When mayoral candidate Ari Goldkind released his surprisingly complex (and expensive) "More than a Map" transit plan earlier this week, one of the proposals that stood out among the tangle of light rail and bus rapid transit was the idea of a TTC "UniverCity," "the world's first post-secondary institution dedicated to transit." But what exactly would that look like?

Goldkind says the $50 million educational institution would develop innovations in transit that could be marketed outside Canada, as well as advocating for better planning and helping to shape public opinion.

"We need to create a culture of transit that takes people away from the lowest common denominator, which is what the top three [mayoral candidates] are obsessed with," Goldkind says.

"Those are legitimate factual concerns ... but we need to stop tripping over dollars to pick up dimes, we need a complete paradigm shift to rise above these kinds of questions and we need to stop looking at transit, or taxes, or spending, or investing in infrastructure as a drain rather than a gain."

In its first years, TTC UniverCity wouldn't be a "bricks and mortar" institution (that would come at a later date, depending on the level success) but Goldkind suggests it might start out of the MaRS Discovery District.

Classes would focus on economics and finance, environmental studies, systems design and engineering, and urban planning. There would be diploma-level qualifications, maintenance and repair programs, and input from Canadian engineering firms like Bombardier and SNC-Lavalin.

"At its core, the TTC UniverCity idea is meant to serve as a catalyst for turning Toronto into a world-leading transit innovation hub," Goldkind says. "I think Toronto should pioneer this kind of idea ... in so many industries like IT, medicine, and aerospace, education is the largest driver of innovation."

Most importantly, the "UniverCity" would attempt to take transit out of the hands of politicians, a problem that the mayoral candidate says has led to a "cult of everything is free."

Unfortunately, the transit plan comes extremely late in the campaign, just days before the city goes to the polls. After being shut out of the final round of debates, Goldkind's chances of winning are minuscule, but he says he would consider pursuing his ideas in some form during the next term of council.

"I'm not prepared to give up on something I'm so passionate about."

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that TTC UniverCity would generate 400,000 jobs. That figure should have referred to Goldkind's entire transit proposal, not just the educational facility.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Chris Bateman/blogTO

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