Anti-black racism is deeply ingrained in Toronto’s systems and institutions including health, education, policing and the employment market. Our transit system is no exception. Whether it’s the inferior TTC service in Toronto’s inner suburbs where most Black Torontonians reside or the disproportionate targeting of Black transit riders by TTC fare inspectors, the mobility inequities faced by Black Torontonians are a disgrace to our city and must be dismantled.
To dismantle these mobility inequities, Torontonians must accept that anti-black racism exists, either consciously or unconsciously, in how and for whom we plan transit. Consider that 9 out of 10 TTC board members and 12 out of 13 Metrolinx board members are white. Not one Black person sits on these boards nor is there a Black member of their senior executive teams (24 people in total). It’s no surprise therefore that the needs of Black Scarborough residents were ignored, devalued and/or dismissed when transit plans were developed for Scarborough. How else does one explain such enthusiastic support for the $6 billion Scarborough subway whose ballooning costs effectively defunded badly needed rapid transit to Eglinton East, Scarborough Village, West Hill, Highland Creek, Morningside and Malvern? All of these neighborhoods have among the highest concentrations of Black residents in Scarborough.
The TTC’s response to COVID-19 has only amplified the mobility inequities faced by Black Torontonians. To address falling ridership caused by the pandemic (a loss of about $92 million per month) the TTC cut service levels by 16 per cent and laid off 1,200 TTC employees. Yet, not one fare inspector was laid off despite the TTC’s suspension of fare enforcements during the pandemic. In fact, the TTC has hired 20 more fare inspectors for October with another 30 slated to come at a later date. Needless to say, anti-black racism will not be purged from the TTC if Black Torontonians going to work, shopping for groceries or attending medical appointments are forced to deal with even more fare enforcement officers. Rather, Black Torontonians, like all Torontonians, want more frequent and less crowded buses to practice social distancing, lower fares and the permanent end of fare enforcement.
The overwhelming whiteness of the decision-making apparatus at Metrolinx and the TTC, coupled with the total absence of Black voices, experiences or knowledge in their decision-making process renders their transit “vision”, and subsequent funding priorities, unable, incapable or simply uninterested in addressing the mobility needs of Black Torontonians. If Toronto is truly committed to dismantling the anti-black racism in our transit system, action not platitudes, is needed. Action is holding Metrolinx accountable for dismissing the needs of Scarborough’s Black residents to justify building the Scarborough subway and reallocating scarce TTC funding away from over-policing Black Torontonians towards improving bus service levels in Toronto’s inner suburbs. Anything less is just empty platitudes.