Scarborough.

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A crowd outside the 85A bus at Sheppard Avenue and McCowan Road in Scarborough.

More buses, better service — locals voice need for immediate transit solutions

Consensus at our Story Circle was that, of all forms of public transportation, buses are most effective at getting people around Scarborough.

Like many of you, I primarily take buses or a combination of the subway and buses to get around Scarborough — because sometimes, to get to the northern or eastern ends of the suburb from my home in North York, it’s strangely faster to travel south to the Bloor-Danforth line, cut across to Kennedy, Ellesmere or McCowan Station, and then finally transfer to a bus for my final stop.

We heard many similar stories at Scarborough Discourse’s second Story Circle, the transit edition, where attendees shared their frustrations with particular routes, often by referring to specific bus numbers. They described needing to transfer three or four times to get to their destination, and the lack of service along major roads, such as Kingston Road.

For me, it was fascinating to listen to people articulate their experiences. Although I wasn’t intimately familiar with many of the bus routes mentioned, other attendees would frequently nod in agreement and contribute their tales of woe involving the same routes. Even if someone didn’t regularly take the 12D along Kingston Road or the 954 along Lawrence Avenue East, they still understood issues like bus bunching or watching yet another “Out of Service” TTC vehicle drive past crowds of commuters waiting at a stop.

Attendees write down possible solutions to Scarborough’s transit problems at our Story Circle in February.

“The day-to-day use of Scarborough transit is okay,” Michael Smith, a Scarborough resident, said at the Story Circle.“[The system] works at times, surprisingly. But long distances are a problem, and I am getting increasingly worried if I have a physical ability to be a regular TTC commuter. I think [about] whether I should move closer to work.”

In preparing for this Story Circle, I’d spoken to representatives from transit advocacy groups, as well as Scarborough residents with a passion for urban planning. I’ve also been keeping track of conversations happening around the world that focus on how to make cities more walkable, bike-friendly and accessible by public transit. With the support of my team, I hope to illustrate the ways in which residents navigate Scarborough by bus because let’s face it: It’s going to be a while until we get the whole subway vs. LRT debate figured out. Until then, consensus at our Story Circle was that, of all forms of public transportation, buses are most effective at getting people around Scarborough.

So, tell me your bus stories — the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Which buses do you use in your daily travels? Which are the best-serviced routes, and which are the worst? Email me your thoughts.

With files from Kateryna Bandura

Spotlight

John Stapleton feels that the media often discusses issues, such as Scarborough transit, through a downtown framework.“Scarborough in Scarborough terms is what we need more,” he says.

John Stapleton is a social policy consultant who’s been living in Scarborough since December 1978. “I was a typical downtown kid who wanted to live in the suburbs,” he said in an interview. “I thought downtown was too crowded. I wanted to buy a new house. It’s just how I happened to be thinking at age 28.”

Now, in a post for his blog Open Policy Ontario, where he addresses topics ranging from tax rates to the SNC-Lavalin controversyhe describes Scarborough as being “accidentally green and inadvertently poor.”

“One of the issues I would like investigated is the fact that we have no Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (NIA) in northern Scarborough. We have seven of the poorest communities in the city, and none of them are given Neighbourhood Improvement Area designation, which means they don’t get the money,” he told me. “It’s ridiculous.”

Real talk

A food post on our Scarborough Discourse Facebook group got quite a bit of reaction recently. It started out when one of our community members, Dusha Sritharan, shared what she thought was a bad roundup of eateries in Scarborough. This prompted other members to share the establishments they frequent. (I love how passionate we are about food in our communities!)

I’ve been keeping an informal list — mostly to satisfy my own food cravings — of all the best places to grab a bite in Scarborough. Given how often we get restaurant recommendations from community members, my team and I want to create a gallery of your favourite local eateries and the dishes you swear by. So, please reply to this email, and send me your foodie tips and pics.

Culture connections

Some of Toronto’s best food is in its suburban strip malls, says Suresh Doss (pictured pointing): “There’s a low barrier to entry. The rents are cheaper and it’s where the community is.”

Suresh Doss doesn’t believe in keeping intel about the best local eateries confidential. A Scarborough native, he’s been telling everyone about the best food haunts across the Greater Toronto Area through food tours, articles and photography. Next weekend, Suresh will present a talk about “Shawarma Row” on Lawrence Avenue East, from Victoria Park to Warden, as part of an event series called Heirloom: Food Traditions of Toronto’s Cultural Mosaic.

While attending Francis Libermann Catholic High School near McCowan and Finch, Suresh and his schoolmates experienced a week-long TTC strike and bus shutdown, which forced Suresh to walk home every day. That’s how he discovered the many food options available along Midland Avenue.

“It was a 30 to 40 minute walk, and that’s how I started on my fascination with Jamaican patties and other food choices,” he told me over the phone. “It felt like a week of crash course in food. I would walk with different people back home, and we would hit different places: Chinese and Vietnamese food at Midland and Finch; [then] right behind it, [there was] another complex of Hakka food and dim sum.”

“Now, after moving downtown, I go back to Midland between Finch and Steeles. For me, there’s the story of regional Chinese food — Szechuan, northern Chinese — that you can’t find in downtown Toronto.”

Let’s meet up

  • March 16. Raise Our Voices: Teaching Young Canadians How to Advocate. At this event for student from high schools, colleges and universities across Ontario, attendees can network with professional leaders in health, politics, art, business and technology. Free admission for Discourse subscribers using the promo code HIGH-SCHOOL. Highland Hall Event Centre at UTSC. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • March 20. Stitch-by-Stitch. In this Scarborough Arts workshop, cultural advocate Joanna Prescod will lead participants in a project that involves embroidering around personal poems about Scarborough. Scarborough Museum. 6 to 8 p.m.

  • March 20 and on. Scarborough ASL Group. Practice American Sign Language, learn about deaf culture and meet new friends at these drop-in meetups, which take place every Wednesday until Nov. 13. Beginners are welcome. Malvern Library. 6:30 to 8 p.m.

 

 

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