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Americans mistakenly think Toronto is the model for good public transit

A new video about the state of the U.S.' public transit system was released by American publication Vox Thursday morning, and many local residents are perplexed as to why it highlights Toronto's system as a model worth emulating.

The video, titled Why American public transit is so bad, explains that the majority of public transit in the U.S. focuses on service oriented around downtown cores without connecting residential neighbourhoods. 

And considering the fact that the majority of Americans now live in residential suburbs outside cities — with a large percentage of those residents commuting to work in other suburbs and not downtown — many are left with no choice but to drive. 

The video also features an interview with urban planner and director of policy at the Toronto Regional Board of Trade, Jonathan English, who argues that "the absolute bare minimum of a transit route that you can count on" must include bus routes in residential neighbourhoods that arrive every 30 minutes until midnight, seven days a week. 

He says Toronto's suburbs are not unfamiliar to Americans in that they also contain big single-family homes with driveways and garages, but the difference is the accessibility of public transit.

"The difference is that bus goes past those single-family homes every five minutes and it runs 24 hours a day," English says of Toronto's system in the video, followed by a statement from the narrator indicating that "even car owners in Toronto ride the bus."

Since the video was first posted to YouTube earlier this morning, a Reddit thread filled with Toronto residents, who are genuinely confused as to why the city would be chosen as a model for public transit, has blown up. 

Countless Reddit users have taken to the platform to try and debunk some of the claims made in the video, including the idea that all Toronto suburbs receive bus service every five minutes

Others are meanwhile pointing out how long it takes to get from one suburb to another, such as from Mississauga to north-east Scarborough, due to having to transfer from a bus to a subway and back to a bus.

"Takes an hour to go 5 kilometers, very undeveloped rail travel, delays and late all the time. Hell we just got bus lanes in Toronto," wrote one local resident.

But others are also chiming in to mention that, while public transit in Toronto has its issues, it's still significantly better than in the U.S.

"How embarrassing for the United States that our meagre TTC service is - by comparison - excellent," remarked one user.

"Can confirm. From the States originally, and now live in Canada. Toronto's transit—while not perfect—is 10000x better than anything you'll find," wrote another. "Compared to Japan, where I also once lived, we're quite behind."

After the Vox video references Toronto's system, the narrator then explains that new riders will clearly come if the country simply invests in basic operations and improving basic local service, but the main challenge with this is a lack of federal funding.

She then outlines both the Democratic and Republican stances on public transit, stating (unsurprisingly) that a Democratic federal government would be far more likely to provide increased funding for the service.

Toronto residents, however, are also pointing out that a lack of federal funding is also an issue we experience here in Canada.

"Her argument is: Toronto is an example of decent transit in an auto dominated context, american cities can improve. But there isn't enough funding. If we flip the senate to democrat, they will spend more on transit and we can improve transit," wrote one Toronto resident.

"This argument makes no sense cause the TTC gets very little federal funding relative to all other sources of income and still is only used for capital expenses."

Lead photo by

Vox


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