Transcript: Can Transit Be Better Post-COVID? | Sep 17, 2021

Jeyan Jeganathan sits at the Agenda news desk. He wears a blue suit and a striped blue tie. A monitor behind him reads “Ontario Hubs”. Jeyan clasps his hands as he rests them on the desk. Papers and a cell phone sit in front of him.

Jeyan says,
TRANSIT RIDERSHIP
TOOK A SUBSTANTIAL HIT DURING
THE PANDEMIC.
AS WE LOOK TOWARDS SOMETHING
LIKE A NEW NORMAL, ADVOCATES SEE
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT.
JUSTIN CHANDLER COVERS THE
HAMILTON-NIAGARA REGION FOR OUR
ONTARIO HUBS AND HE JOINS US
FROM THE HAMMER WITH MORE.
HI, JUSTIN

Text reads, "Can Transit be Better Post-Covid?”

Justin wears headphones and a grey suit jacket. Books fill the shelves of his apartment.

Justin replies, HEY, JEYAN.

Jeyan states,
ALL RIGHT. AS WE MENTIONED,
MUNICIPALITIES ACROSS THIS
PROVINCE HAVE SEEN A PRETTY
BIG HIT TO THEIR RIDERSHIP.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE CONSEQUENCES
OF THAT LOSS?

Justin answers,
WELL, IT'S BEEN A LARGE
FINANCIAL CONSEQUENCE, ACTUALLY.
A GOOD EXAMPLE IS THE HAMILTON
STREET RAILWAY, THE TRANSIT
SYSTEM HERE IN HAMILTON HAD A
46% DECREASE IN RIDERSHIP IN
2020 AND THAT ENDED UP
TRANSLATING INTO SOMETHING LIKE
A $24 MILLION LOSS.

Jeyan responds,
VERY, VERY SUBSTANTIAL.
NOW, YOU WERE LOOKING AT A
RECENT STUDY THAT COVERED
TORONTO AND OUR NEIGHBOURS TO
THE WEST IN VANCOUVER THAT
REVEALED SOME INSIGHTS INTO HOW
RIDER USE DURING THIS PANDEMIC
HAS GONE ON.
WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND?

Justin says,
YES. THIS WAS A STUDY BY THE
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO TRANSIT
RESEARCH INSTITUTE. LET ME READ
YOU SOME OF THESE NUMBERS.
SO THEY FOUND 32% OF RESPONDENTS
SAID THEY WOULD RIDE TRANSIT
LESS FOLLOWING THE PANDEMIC,
WHILE 56% SAID THEY WOULDN'T
RIDE LESS, AND 12% WERE UNSURE.
IT ALSO FOUND 58% OF RESPONDENTS
AGREED THE PANDEMIC MADE OWNING
A CAR MORE APPEALING.
26% RESPONDED TO SAY THAT THEY
HAD LOOKED INTO BUYING ONE.
AND AMONG ALL THE PEOPLE
SURVEYED, THERE WAS A 14%
INCREASE IN VEHICLE OWNERSHIP
BETWEEN MAY 2020 AND MARCH 2021.

Jeyan replies,
VERY INTERESTING NUMBERS.
WAS THERE ANYTHING FROM THOSE
NUMBERS THAT WERE QUITE
SURPRISING TO THE EXPERTS THAT
YOU SPOKE TO AND THE ADVOCATES
YOU SPOKE TO?

Justin states,
YES, SO MATTHEW POND, HE WAS
ONE OF THE RESEARCHERS WHO
HELPED REPORT ON THOSE FINDINGS,
HE WAS TELLING ME THAT IT MIGHT
BE A LITTLE BIT OVERSTATED HOW
MANY PEOPLE HAVE TURNED TO
CAR OWNERSHIP.
THERE IS SOME WORRY AMONG
EXPERTS AND PEOPLE IN THE
TRANSIT COMMUNITY THAT THERE'S
GOING TO BE A LOSS OF RIDERS
BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL HAVE SUNK
MONEY INTO BUYING VEHICLES AND
THEY WON'T GO BACK TO TRANSIT.
HE WAS SAYING, THOUGH, THAT
BASED ON A DEEPER DIVE AND SOME
PRELIMINARY RESEARCH AND OTHER
THINGS HE'S READ, HE WAS
THINKING MAYBE SOME OF THOSE
PEOPLE BEER SEEING WHO LEFT
TRANSIT ARE PEOPLE WHO WOULD
HAVE JUST BOUGHTEN VEHICLES
ANYWAY.
IT'S A LITTLE TOUGH TO SAY BUT IT
DOES SEEM THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO
ENDED UP GETTING VEHICLES
BECAUSE OF CoVID-19 OR AT
LEAST SAY THAT THEY DID.

Text reads, “Can Transit be Better Post Covid? Better Systems, Better Cities?”

Jeyan says,
I KNOW FOR YOUR
ARTICLE YOU SPOKE TO SOME
ADVOCATES AND EXPERTS ABOUT HOW
TRANSIT CAN BE IMPROVED.
TELL ME WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY.

Justin replies,
THERE'S A FEW
DIFFERENT THINGS PEOPLE ARE
ASKING FOR THAT WOULD MAKE
TRANSIT BETTER.
ACCESSIBILITY IS ONE OF THOSE.
SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE OF ALL
ABILITIES CAN USE.
ANOTHER ONE IS ELECTRIFICATION
OR PERHAPS CHANGING FUEL TYPES
TO RELY ON GREENHOUSE GASES
LESS.

An article headline on tvo.org/Ontariohubs reads “How can Transit Play a Part in Canada’s Pandemic Recovery?”

Justin adds,
BUT ONE OF THE BIGGEST THINGS
THAT I KEEP HEARING ABOUT IS
THAT TRANSIT-ORIENTED
COMMUNITIES.
SO THIS IS THE IDEA OF BUILDING
NEIGHBOURHOODS, IT RELIES ON
LAND USE AND URBAN PLANNING AND
TRANSIT ALTOGETHER, BUT IT'S AN
IDEA OF CREATING COMMUNITIES
WHERE PEOPLE HAVE EVERYTHING
THEY NEED NEAR TRANSIT LINES AND
THEY DON'T HAVE TO GET AROUND A
LOT. THEY'RE SOMETIMES CALLED
FIFTEEN-MINUTE COMMUNITIES JUST
IN THE IDEA THAT YOU CAN GET
EVERYTHING YOU NEED WITHIN
FIFTEEN MINUTES OF WHERE
YOU LIVE.

Jeyan responds,
I WANT TO TALK
FUNDING FOR A MINUTE.
YOU AND I DON'T HAVE TO LOOK
FAR, YOU KNOW, THE CITY OF
HAMILTON, THAT RECENTLY
GREEN-LIT THE LRT THERE.
BUT WITH FUNDING, DOES IT HELP
WHEN GOVERNMENTS DIRECT FUNDS
FOR A PARTICULAR USE, OR IS IT
BETTER TO SORT OF GIVE A BLANKET
FUNDING TO THESE COMMUNITIES?

Justin answers,
IT KIND OF DEPENDS ON WHO YOU ASK.
A LOT OF THE EXPERTS I SPOKE TO
AND THE ADVOCATES SAID THAT,
YES, IT DOES HELP, BECAUSE THE
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OR THE
PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT HAS MORE
MONEY THAN THE CITIES, AND THEY
CAN ACTUALLY GO AND GIVE SOME
DIRECTION.
HOWEVER, IN A PLACE LIKE
HAMILTON, WHERE OUR LRT PROJECT
HAS BEEN RECOMMITTED TO AGAIN
WITH FUNDING FROM THE FEDERAL
LIBERALS AND THE PROVINCIAL
CONSERVATIVES, THAT WAS MONEY
THAT WAS ONLY FOR THE LRT.
SO IT'S LIKE GETTING A GIFT CARD
INSTEAD OF GETTING CASH.
YOU'VE GOT TO SPEND IT ON ONE
THING. AND SOME OF COUNCIL
DIDN'T LIKE THAT.
THEY WERE QUITE OPPOSED TO THAT.
BUT EVENTUALLY, IT WAS DECIDED
THAT THEY WOULD GO FORWARD WITH
THE PROJECT.
SO ADVOCATES COULD POINT TO THAT
AND SAY, THIS IS AN EXAMPLE
WHERE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAD
A STRONG IDEA OF WHAT THEY
WANTED.
THEY WANTED SOMETHING DOWNTOWN.
THEY THOUGHT IT WOULD HELP A LOT
OF PEOPLE.
AND THEY DECIDED WE'RE JUST
GOING TO SORT OF MAKE IT MORE
CERTAIN THAT THAT HAPPEN BY
MAKING IT LESS OF AN OPTION
ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO PUT
THAT MONEY TOWARDS.

Jeyan adds,
WE SHOULD MENTION
FOR THAT SPECIFIC PROJECT, THE
FUNDING WAS 50/50, $1.7 BILLION
FROM THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT,
$1.7 BILLION FROM THE FED FOR A
TOTAL OF $3.4 BILLION.
I WANT TO TALK ABOUT TRANSIT IN
TERMS OF IMPROVING A CITY'S
LIVEABILITY.
CAN YOU GIVE US SOME EXAMPLES OF
THAT?

Justin replies,
I THINK ONE EXAMPLE WITH THE
IDEA OF TRANSIT-ORIENTED
COMMUNITIES COULD JUST BE THE
AMOUNT OF PEOPLE WHO RELY ON
TRANSIT JUST TO GET GROCERIES.
SO IF I THINK ABOUT MY STREET,
FOR EXAMPLE, IN HAMILTON, THE
BUS COMES MAYBE EVERY 30
MINUTES.
IT'S PROBABLY A 20-MINUTE WALK
TO THE GROCERY STORE.
AND BY VEHICLE, YOU CAN GET
THERE IN FIVE TO TEN MINUTES.
SO IF YOU'RE SOMEONE WHO HAS GOT
A VEHICLE, IT'S A LOT EASIER TO
GET TO THE GROCERY STORE, GET
WHAT YOU NEED, AND GET BACK.
AND MAYBE YOU COULD DO THAT IN
THE AMOUNT OF TIME THAT SOMEONE
IS STILL WAITING FOR THEIR FIRST
BUS TO COME.
IT'S REALLY, WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT
TRANSIT AND YOU TALK ABOUT
GETTING PEOPLE AND MOVING THEM
FASTER, SOMETIMES IT'S GAINED
TIME, BUT I ALSO HEARD FROM
ADVOCATES -- SORRY, RESEARCHERS
LIKE MATTHEW POND, IT CAN ALSO
BE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
SOMEONE, LET'S SAY, MISSING AN
IMPORTANT MEDICAL APPOINTMENT.
MAYBE YOU HAVE TO TALK TO YOUR
DOCTOR AND THE BUS IS DELAYED
FOR FORTY-FIVE MINUTES AND
YOU CAN'T GET THERE.
SO THERE'S REALLY BIG
IMPACTS WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT
JUST ALL THE NECESSARY THINGS
THAT PEOPLE RELY ON THESE
SYSTEMS FOR.

Jeyan states,
I THINK IT'S QUITE
INTERESTING FROM THE NUMBERS YOU
SHARED OFF THE TOP, WHEN WE LOOK
AT HAMILTON'S RIDERSHIP, FOR
EXAMPLE, EVEN THOUGH IT DIPPED
TO, YOU KNOW, ABOUT FORTY,
FIFTY PERCENT, THOSE ARE PEOPLE
WHO, YOU KNOW, RELIED ON
TRANSIT. IT DIDN'T MATTER IF
THERE WAS A PANDEMIC OR NOT.
THIS IS WHAT IT WAS.
I'M CURIOUS -- OBVIOUSLY WE'RE
IN THE ELECTION.
I WANT TO KNOW, YOU SPOKE TO
PEOPLE FROM THE FOUR MAJOR
PARTIES.
WHAT ARE WE HEARING ON THE
TRANSIT FRONT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT
SORT OF LONG-TERM PROJECTS IN
TERMS OF IMPROVING TRANSIT?

Text reads, “Can Transit be Better Post Covid? Election Commitments”

Justin responds,
RIGHT. I SENT OUT A QUESTION
ASKING IF THEY BELIEVE THAT TRANSIT
IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF RECOVERY,
AND IF SO, HOW THEY WOULD
ADDRESS THAT. I CAN GO THROUGH
SOME OF THOSE RESPONSES.
THE GREEN PARTY OF CANADA SAID
THEY WOULD INVEST IN TRANSIT
SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE,
ELECTRIFIED BUSES, AND IMPROVED
TRANSIT IN BETWEEN CITIES.
THEY ALSO SAID THAT THEY WOULD
NOT WANT TO BE PROVIDING FUNDING
TO ANY CITIES FOR RAPID TRANSIT
UNLESS THOSE CITIES WERE
LOCATING HOUSING ALONG THOSE
LINES.
I DID NOT GET A RESPONSE FROM
THE NDP CAMPAIGN, BUT THEIR
PLATFORM PROMISES TO EXPAND
TRANSIT BETWEEN COMMUNITIES AS
WELL, PRIORITIZING LOW COST --
LOW CARBON PROJECTS WITH THE
GOAL OF ELECTRIFYING MUNICIPAL
TRANSIT BY 2030.
THEY ALSO SAY THAT THEY WOULD
HELP PROVINCES AND
MUNICIPALITIES GET TO FARE-FREE
TRANSIT IF THAT WAS SOMETHING
THEY WERE INTERESTED IN.
SO THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY DID
NOT DIRECTLY ANSWER MY QUESTION,
BUT THEY ALSO HAVE SOME TRANSIT
IN THEIR PLATFORM.
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT THEY WANT
TO DO IS REQUIRE ANY
MUNICIPALITIES RECEIVING FEDERAL
TRANSIT FUNDING TO INCREASE
DENSITY NEAR THAT FUNDED
TRANSIT.
AND THE LIBERAL PARTY, THE
STATEMENT THEY SENT SAID A LOT
ABOUT THE RECENT TRANSIT
INVESTMENTS THAT THEY'VE BEEN
MAKING IN THE GREATER TORONTO
AND HAMILTON AREA.
THEY SAID THAT IF ELECTED THEY
WOULD CONTINUE THOSE.
THEY ALSO POINTED TO A TRANSIT
FUND THAT'S SLATED TO BEGIN IN
2026 FOR PERMANENT FUNDING.
AND THEY SAY THAT THEY WOULD
SUPPORT RURAL TRANSIT, ZERO
EMISSION BUSES, AND INTERCITY
TRANSIT.

Jeyan says,
A LOT OF STUFF ON THEIR PLATFORMS
FOR SURE. SOMETHING THAT WE
WILL KEEP AN EYE OUT. I WANT TO
THANK YOU SO MUCH, JUSTIN.

Just replies, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Text reads, “Can Transit be Better Post Covid? Produced by Carla Lucchetta @carrietta”

A title reads, “Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by: The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust & Goldie Feldman”

Watch: Can Transit Be Better Post-COVID?