Day 1 | Bringing People Back: Transit

Day 1 | Bringing People Back: Transit

Transit systems in Canada are among the most impacted services from the pandemic. As more and more people switched to remote work, ridership and services plummeted, which has led to significant revenue loss. Despite this, transit continues to play a critical role in our economies and was a lifeline for people—often frontline and essential-workers to reach their places of employment. How will Canada’s public transit systems adapt after the pandemic?

Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.

Mary Rowe [00:00:05] Hi, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe back from the Canadian Urban Institute. Thanks for joining us and thanks for being such a stalwart audience and taking breaks periodically so that you can get in to see some of these images that are being shared across the country around in specific kinds of initiatives that communities are doing to bring their downtowns back. So we’re appreciative of that. This is the second part of our session on Bringing Back. One of the important things is we talked about housing just now. Now we’re going to talk about literally bringing people back on transit. So appreciate that we have a cast of interesting folks to help inform this. I am conscious that we are doing back-to-back mantles just saying, and I know that there will be people that will be very concerned about this. We did our best, I think, to try to create a kind of diverse program across the two days. But as it turns out, transit is a just say in a male-dominated discipline. And maybe that’s part of the dilemma we are faced with now is that we need to think carefully about that and think about the gender distribution of this, because I bet you almost guarantee most transit riders, probably a higher proportion is women just saying or just not men, shall I say. The other thing is that we continue to try to find ways to have more diverse voices in all of these sessions. So encourage people to participate in the chat and people are asking in the chat what’s happening to all this stuff? So at the end of each day, we’re going to try to sort of extract. We’ve got people listening on all the sessions to see if we can start to shape up what kind of agenda for action will look like and where we need more research, where we’re going to need more inquiry through this year and how do we actually, you know, fine-tune what our expectations are of the different orders of government and each other? You heard in the housing session, people are saying, well, it’s not actually just government, it’s going to take a lot of different actions by different sectors. So we’re in the process of aggregating that if you want to stay engaged with us. Here we are. Well, just sent a note to me or to anybody on the CUI team. If you want to stay involved with us to help us hone this because it ain’t going to be fixed in two days of sessions on a summit. It’s going to be a steady, steady effort as we build a new urban agenda. So I hope people will stay with us for these two days and then stay with us beyond that. Because this is just as we always say, it’s not the end of the conversation, it’s just the beginning. So again, please know that we put things into the chat and we published the chat afterwards. So by all means, have at it. Put it in your ideas, put questions. Marcy Burchfield is going to moderate the session. She’s from the Economic Blueprint Institute at the Board of Trade in Toronto and knows this topic inside and out, back and forth, and knows the interconnections that exist in terms of wide transit is so important to the recovery of the downtown. So, Marcy thanks for joining us, and I’ll turn you over to your mantel and then there’ll be lots of engagement, I’m sure, from the crowd to have some conversation about the role of transit. So thanks for joining us and we look forward to listening. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:02:46] Great. Thank you, Mary. And I want to thank CUI for raising this important issue. I think the research that we’ve done at the Toronto Regional Board of Trade just on the Toronto Downtown area has shown that if you look at economic districts across our broader region, that the downtown has by far been hit, the hardest businesses and the workers downtown have been hit the hardest. Well, sixty-three percent of them could pivot back to work or work from home. Essentially, you had about over twenty thousand businesses who rely on those daytime workers to be their daytime customers and their nighttime customers as well. So huge impact to our downtowns right across Canada, as we all work, as many of us work from home. All the panellists here, it looks like to me are working from home. But I’d like to start by introducing our four panelists who are representatives from across Canada. I’m going to start by introducing just shortly who they all are and then give you a little bit of a taste of what we’re hoping to do is really to set up what is the problem. You know, as I stated to the panellists, what are the dire straits of urban transit these days? So we’ll hear from Calgary and we’ll hear from Windsor in terms of level setting and what it looks like for them. And from two of our panellists from a nationwide kind of perspective and in their experience. And then it’s looking at really how are we going to get to solutions? What are the solutions to get beyond, you know, the problems that we’re facing with transit? What are some innovative solutions that cities are looking at? And then what support do we need from other levels of government to really recoup the transit ridership back to our downtowns? I think the other fair question that Mary raises is what are the expectations from other stakeholders? What are the expectations from the business community and the leadership that they need to show, as well as civic society as well? So I will start by introducing our panelists. We have Jason Raynar, who is the CEO of the City of Windsor, formerly of the city of Innisfil, or the Town of Innisfil I should say. Then we have Doug Morgan, General Manager of Transportation at the City of Calgary. We also have David Cooper, who’s the principal of Leading Mobility, does a lot of work across Canada and with CUTA in particular, the Canadian Urban Transit Association. And last but not least, Bruce McCuaig, who is the vice president, senior vice president, I should say, of the key of the Canada Transportation Business line leader at AECOM and formerly, lots of experience with Metrolinx here in the Toronto Region. So welcome to our panelists and I really look forward to this discussion and maybe we can kick it off with Jason to set the stage of the impacts of urban transit in particular in downtown. Some of the patients for downtown for the city of Windsor. 


Jason Raynar [00:05:44] Great. Thanks very much, Marcy. Can you hear me OK? Great. Yeah. Just delighted to be joining you from the sunny south, one of the most southern regions in Canada. Just delightful here. OK, there’s a little bit of snow, I’ll be honest, but generally very nice. The same latitude as Northern California. Just a gorgeous spot. Thanks very much to CUI and to my panellists for coming today and participating. I apologize in advance, I think I’m the only one on the panel who’s not actually a transit expert. Mary twisted my arm to participate and I think partly because, you know, as city manager, our role is to take the sort of the political direction with the execution challenges. And man, do we have a lot of execution challenges right now with transit. So I’m here to learn perhaps more than share insights, but just to set the table a little bit, you know, the City of Windsor, which has a population of about 235,000. Regionally, about half a million. Our ridership dropped in 2019 from 8.4 million to about 2.5 million in 2021 annually. In 2022, we’re projecting a return of 60 percent of the 2019 levels, or about five million riders. But, you know, we’re literally holding our breath to see what happens, both to stop ourselves from getting Covid, but also just, you know, trying to figure out what’s really going to happen here. You know, university/college students, of course, make up a good chunk of our participants, our riders and waiting to see what happens therewith, you know, online learning working well, but also getting people back in person. Of course, on the capital side, you know, everybody knows the burden for reinvestment or investment, you know, projected over the coming years for transit is crushing. It’s hundreds of millions of dollars even for a mid-sized city like ours. This is particularly as we try to shift to electric busses, which are typically more expensive on the front end save on the longer end. But then you need facilities that can charge these busses, right, so that we’ve got big retrofits that are required for our facilities and that infrastructure. And so, you know, we’re trying to take all of those, you know, challenges from a fiscal perspective and then build a burning platform for upgrades, investment and even things like data. You know, we need to better, we need to gather better data. We’re still figuring out how to use that analytics and to gather that data. You know, I’m a bit biased obviously, I come from a background where we introduced the first global public transit system based entirely, on ridesharing because of the size of the community and so the demographics and the geography. So I have got a bit of a bias towards, you know, ridesharing being able to support what it looks like, not just for small last mile, but actually, you know, digging deeply into the data to find out where we can scale transit to really meet the needs of the community. So for us in Windsor, you know, and I think maybe even more broadly, there’s two fundamental questions that I’m just delighted to talk to people more about. One is how do we create the user experience that attracts riders who will choose our service over using their own vehicles? You know where they used to be the Automotive capital of Canada. We’re now the automobility capital of Canada. And so cars are really, really common. And, you know, sort of the first position, I would say here, but really want people to help them make the right choice to move to active transportation multimodal and also our transit system that will allow us the economies of scale, I think, to really deliver the system that the community deserves. Then secondly, you know, how do we appropriately scale those options? As I said, you know what beyond the traditional transit piece, the on demand multimodal those pieces, how do we integrate those really, really well? So I hope that helps just to kind of set the stage from at least one mid-size city and looking forward to the panel. Thanks, Marcy. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:09:47] Yeah, great. Thanks, Jason. Doung I’m going to pass it over to you. Find out more about the issues in Calgary. 


Doug Morgan [00:09:54] Sure, I’d like to brag about the weather as well. It’s one degree with a chinook, so at least it’s not freezing cold on the prairies. So maybe to start with kind of the core of the discussion today, the downtown and maybe Calgary is in a bit of a different predicament than others across Canada, where even if everybody came back to work, we have a 33 percent vacancy rate in our downtown. So we not only have a Covid challenge, we also have a downtown and business occupancy challenge. And a lot of folks call it a problem, but I’m actually thinking of it more as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity with a bit of an opening and a cleaner slate to really rethink what our downtown is and forever it’s been the oil sector, the AM commute, the PM commute, and we’ve actually created a business unit within the city to focus solely on revisioning our downtown, and that’s really focused on it being more than just the place to go to work and come home from. And their tagline, which I love it, it’s “moved from vacancy to vibrancy”. And so that’s the critical thing for us. And then when I was thinking about chatting with you folks today and and trying to measure our success by key metrics when I thought about ridership, I’m wondering if that’s really not the measure for us. It’s really how do we get Canada and our cities back together to connecting and be social? And all we are as a transit operator is the vehicle to do that, and we’re very much and very geared towards coming together and we’ve seen the impact on our business during COVID, how impactful that could be. So when I look at the route ahead and how we actually are going to be successful, it’s really well, first of all, welcoming folks back. There’s a lot of fear out there. How do we really make them feel comfortable reentering onto the mode of transit? How do we almost treat it like a new product? We need to clean it up. There’s some social disorder issues with a lot of the riders coming away. So how do we have that clean slate and welcome them back? And number two is really lower those barriers to trying the service. So this may be new for them. How do we get them back trying it out? Drive out some really aggressive marketing. Remind them why they left and really drive that value proposition of transit. Number three it’s really not forgetting what makes transit successful. That’s about frequency. That’s about reliability and directness. And we can get distracted by the other things like mobile ticketing and traveler information. If that the core is a trip that’s quick, reliable and direct, and finally, going back and tying them back to the downtown is to be part of that downtown experience. And we’re lucky to to be able to lead with a mode that doesn’t bring a car and the environmental impact to the downtown that doesn’t have space for it. So if we can be more successful in supporting our downtowns, that means more space for the public realm, more space for people. Because I’d like to call us where the greatest delivery mechanism of loads of pedestrians. That’s our role. We really do that. And it allows us then not to have a focus on parking and street mobility that we really allow that to happen. So when we look at Calgary’s success, it’s rebuilding that downtown the experience and then driving that to be the magnet for people to get there on a really sensitive mode that’s senstitive to the environment and to the space that we have in the downtown. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:13:37] Great, thanks Doug. I know Calgary has definitely some different challenges than other downtowns. But I love the opportunity, what is the opportunity for revision for downtown Calgary could be? So, David, I like to hear some of your perspective from across Canada. I know the report that you worked on with CUTA probably gives us some signs of what other cities are experiencing through Covid. 


David Cooper [00:14:02] Marcy, thank you for the question I appreciate Mary, the invite from the panel and I get to sit on the panel with Doug, my old boss. So I’m going to have some fun with that too. But CUTA last year worked with the transit agency to create a national recovery strategy to really help paint the picture on the operating funds shortfalls from the loss of ridership and lost revenue for public transit and really maintain service. And one of the things of the conversations with downtown is that we lost one ridership market. We lost our office workers. But there’s actually a lot of people who still relied on transit through the pandemic, and they’re still relying on transit today, and they relied on transit before the pandemic. So I’m actually going to take a little bit of a different lens. There’s actually bridges from the introductory comments from Mary that I really appreciated is that one of the things that was very evident from the pandemic is, you know, we had essential workers that relied on transit. But one very vital group of our society that relied on transit was women. And after the recovery strategy, I got to work on a project with the University of Alberta and the Polytechnique Montreal, and we did the first study in Canada on women’s travel patterns on transit and how agencies are responding to this. We are actually releasing this report next week. And it was funded by Infrastructure Canada, and my role on this was to really take the deep dive behind the scenes on the transit agency and our policy responses and our budgetary responses and how we prioritize this. And women play a huge role in bringing transit back, but also ridership like the majority of riders on public transit are women. So, for instance, the Toronto Transit Commission, 57 percent of riders are women. Women travel on transit more during the off-peak, midday as we have such a peak-oriented service, largely because of our downtowns and other types of employment uses. But we have this opportunity to redistribute service, which actually would make transit better for everyone, not just downtown, but just across our cities. And we’re seeing that in and the uplift of ridership in some of our more suburban areas, and some are more or mostly ethnic communities, women to trip chain more. And that’s because of opportunities and roles in the house, in terms of employment, in terms of family formation, in terms of caregiving and support. Women take more localized and short-distance trips that we’ve found through our study and women also take more frequent trips on transit. So how do we create fair products and services that really tailored to that? And I think that is a huge conversation of how we need to look at how we bring transit back and a huge opportunity ahead of us. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:16:35] Great, thanks, David. Interesting. Around, you know who transit serves, essentially, and I’m assuming that some of the some of that work also looked at, you know who can afford to, you know, to drive and who the service impacts are essentially also impacting as well. So, Bruce, over to you. 


Bruce McCuaig [00:16:57] Great. Thanks, Marcy, and thanks to everybody for joining us today. This is a really critical conversation, and I’m going to take it from a perspective of AECOM having obviously a presence in many of the communities in Canada, doing work for many of the agencies or delivering transit, but also has a window and providing services to other North American and European and Asian communities as well. And what are we seeing and hearing from some of my colleagues and clients internationally. And first of all, I would remind everybody, we still have a congestion problem. You know, it’s still there. We see it every day. It hasn’t gone away and in fact, it some ways congestion challenge is exasperated because some of our most vulnerable communities are diverse communities that people rely on for front-line services, more of a gender-based bias. These are where some of the worst congestion is occurring and the challenges in terms of serving those populations. So in my mind, the conversation has to be and we’re seeing in virtually all of our communities that we’re working in, it’s about access and it’s about equity and making sure that the people who have the service are still receiving that service. We also have to remember that this is about reducing the environmental impact of transportation, and we need to have that decarbonization agenda out in front of us and make sure that we, as there, maybe a tendency for people to think, Oh, I can get in the car again that know that there are some really significant considerations and impacts that we need to be thinking about individually and as a community. This is an opportunity really to drive forward, and I think I heard something along the lines of optimizing the kinds of services and routes and capacity that we’re providing to different parts of of the cities that we live in to make sure that those who are most vulnerable are getting services. This is also an opportunity and many of the largest urban areas where sometimes there can be fragmentation of services. To step back and think about how do we come up with a more integrated approach among public agencies in the delivery of services. As we think about providing a better value opportunity to our customer base as we come through this Covid environment and also think about mobility as a service and other transportation service providers in how we can integrate with them as well. Since they can serve first and last miles in a lot of ways that are quite complementary to some of the public services that we’re all familiar with. And lastly, the use of data and we’ve been developing and applying in places like New Jersey, a system called Mobilitics, which is really how are people using the system differently. How can we use the mass of information and data that we have available to ourselves to make better decisions so that we can provide real-time information to our customer base and we can help the owners of the services come up with those optimized strategies that meet the needs of the customer base. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:20:13] Great. Thank you all four panellists for those opening remarks and I think we heard some, some getting at some of the solutions and some of the impacts and who’s been impacted. I wonder if one of the things that we can speak to is, you know, there’s a real concern I know from transit agencies that if we lose that ridership, if people choose another mode, if people are, you know, going to their cars, that there’s it’s a real difficulty of getting them back to transit. And I wonder if we can, if each of you can speak to some of the creative ways, you know, I think, Doug, you mentioned some marketing, you know, here in the Toronto Region, both the TTC and Metrolinx are looking at, you know, marketing just the safety that you know, the types of filtration systems that we’re using to keep transit safe here. You know, leadership leaders are using transit. And I think the other piece that has been really interesting from Metrolinx point of view is that they’ve been trying to attract riders on the weekend, particularly in the summer, you know, looking at getting people back onto transit for different purposes other than the work trip. So I wonder if each one of you can speak a little bit and maybe I’ll start with Doug since you opened up some of those, some of those…


Doug Morgan [00:21:35] Sure. It’s a great question, I go back to my initial comments making sure the heart of the service offering is competitive in that it’s direct, it’s reliable and it’s frequent. So if you’ve got that nut cracked, there are other things that we can do in order to just make sure we’re keeping up with the experience of the citizen. And we had a trends workshop a few weeks ago where we talked about how important it is for that immediate interaction on value. And so things like on-demand service, things like mobile ticketing on your cell phone where we really reduce those barriers, you don’t need a whole bunch of knowledge to go and use the services like your Amazon purchase. It’s pretty easy to spend money and get it delivered to your door. How do we get that experience for transit? So we’ve tested on demand for new service, we’ve tested conversion. We’ve got mobile ticketing, better information for customers on the arrival times of their busses. So those are part of it. But then also key partnerships. So things like events and things we’re all craving once Covid’s done. Going to a summer festival, going to the folk festival downtown. How do we partner and be part of that experience? And really what you’re then is, through those events, introducing them to a way to use transit. So a little bit of a quote unquote gateway drug for them to come back to transit to come to go to a Flame’s game or a football game. So to get part of that experience and then keep it playful and keep that experience of what it takes to ride transit in their minds and the final thing I’d say, we need to be more ready as agencies for more of the on-demand and the infrequent so that it no longer is. All eight o’clock. I’m going to get on the bus, I’m going to go to work that, Oh, it’s raining today, I’m taking the bus. Oh, it’s sunny today, I’m taking a bike. So how do we work with those other modes to work together to really drive the kind of mobility we want? So I think those are the key things I work on to help us kind of keep up with what citizens are expecting from their transit systems. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:23:52] And I would suggest that even as we look at what are the long term effects of remote working from home and this kind of hybrid model that all day service, you know, the creativity that transit operators can inject in welcoming people all day, I think is another piece that we have, particularly for the downtown, for people get back on transit to come downtown, that all-day service is going to be really important. 


Doug Morgan [00:24:19] Even some of the things like a monthly pass, does that make sense anymore? Does anybody use the service that way or is it just use it and we’ll send you a bill at the end with a whole bunch of reductions because you’ve used it more frequently, things like that just being super flexible. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:24:37] Yeah. Jason, would you like to interject there? 


Jason Raynar [00:24:45] Yeah. No, I mean, I think I agree with everything that Doug said the experience part is critical, the multi-modal, you know, the ability. We had an electric scooter pilot that was wildly successful in Windsor this past year over the summer in particular. So how you integrate those systems, I think it makes a lot of sense. I’m also curious, you know, again, as a non-expert in the pricing strategy piece, you know, especially for mid-sized city cities, you know, the idea that you know, the data would allow us to provide better subsidy directly to the people that need it, that could allow a pricing point. Perhaps that would not, you know, for those that are choosing to take the system as opposed to take their car, for example, you know, they may have the means, but they, you know, if the pricing was at a point where to create an experience that’s different or allowed us to scale right, which is our critical piece in Windsor, you know, I’m really interested in how that could work because I think we’ve sort of taken this approach that, you know, at least in Windsor, that it’s a system of last resort, which is just that’s not how you build a world-class city. And so but it has to be affordable, right? So I think there are really interesting financing models that have to get engaged to to to unpack that, which we’re excited to do. 


David Cooper [00:26:03] Marcy, can I add something to this, I’m excited to hear about fares, one of the things I’ve been working on is fare policy for a couple of transit agencies and fare policies is a very scary topic because fares is a significant portion of revenue and to add different options to customers, there’s a whole suite of benefits of doing that. There are also implementation challenges of that and also it changes the levers of revenue you have on other components. And a lot of agencies, to be blunt, have not pushed this forward as much as they should. I saw some very interesting data from the TTC in Toronto last month, the frequent trips or infrequent trips that customers were taking and the way that they collect fares from those trips have actually almost recovered fully. The passes have been static, and we don’t know what the future of hybrid work is going to be, and we don’t have the flexibility of products yet. And I don’t see a lot of movement from at least on the public facing side of agencies really looking at very different dynamic fare products. One of the things that transit agencies do not do well at is collecting fares. Transit’s great at moving people, but we make it extremely hard to actually collect fares and have those options, and that needs a rethink. I think across the country. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:27:21] And I also wonder if this is the time to do that, right? Many transit agencies are considering, you know. I know you said 60 percent for Windsor for 2022 and I think, you know, everyone’s fingers crossed and maybe this will happen. Maybe it won’t happen. But you know, I’ve heard 2023, 2024 even if you look at things like the aviation industry, same thing. They’re full recovery is not for years to come. And so this kind of moves us into our second part, the other part of the discussion, which is really about the supports that are needed. And is this the time to really understand who’s riding transit, how you attract people to transit? What are the sort of experiential fare or policies that could be, you know, we could look at to really to, as we ask, make the big ask I think for some of these, you know, upper levels of government to help support some of these transit agencies. So maybe Bruce, I can ask you to speak to that a little bit around. You know, what is the opportunity here in terms of looking at new ways of attracting people to transit, to using transit while we’re still recovering our ridership? 


Bruce McCuaig [00:28:38] Sure and maybe I’ll start with the words data mining and information, and we have so much information that we do not have the right tools, I believe, to actually extract, analyze and then feed into our decision making. And I think there’s a real opportunity for agencies both public and private to partner together in new ways to get that information and share it. And they use it for those choices. And we’re starting to see that in some of our applications south of the border, that communities, particularly in large metros where there may be multiple public transit agencies, there may be multiple transportation service providers in the private sector. And how are they trying to bring their information together so that we can make better choices? So I think data mining is one piece. The next word I’ll use is flexibility. And we’ve already talked about their products, but this is, I think, an excellent time to be experimenting and trying different kinds of fare products so that we can test how people respond, given the kind of environment we’re in. The third one that we’re seeing a lot of is collaboration and particularly when we see collaboration between public and private entities so that they can, for example, provide a week trip using multiple loads so that you’re paying once and they’re distributing the pain that between those different providers and the last, the word I’ll use is transparency that, you know, people want to see that these choices are being made in a very open, upfront, clear and transparent fashion. So I would say data mining, flexibility, collaboration, transparency, I think those are the watchwords that are going to be driving success for the future for us. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:30:37] Other panellists on this idea of flexibility and experimentation, what are some ideas that we can bring to bear in terms of solutions and demonstrations, of how municipalities and how municipal transit agencies can actually be flexible and provide more of this information to really understand what the investment is, leveraging the investment that they’re getting from upper levels of government. 


Doug Morgan [00:31:08] Yeah maybe I could start. I think there’s no shortage of data that transit agencies can provide. So I think that’s probably a good place to start. But then also broadening our perspective on it’s going to be about all mobility. And we talked a bit about partnering with micro mobility, looking at scooters and car sharing and really pushing forward into that where we’re not just driving ridership on busses and trains, but we’re really trying to get people to travel differently. I always say that the battle is the purchase of the car. If we can get them to put off the second car or really not buy the first car, we can compete. But once they’ve sunk that cost and they’ve got that there and it’s in their pocket, it’s really easy to use. So whatever we can do through our partnerships with all mobility. I think that will really drive people to say, Hey, I’m not so scared I can take transit or I’m going to jump on my bike and drive those health benefits, the environmental benefits and really get them at the point of buying that car. 


David Cooper [00:32:12] Can I add a point to Doug’s point? I think there is a huge leadership opportunity in the integrated mobility space for public transit. In addition to my clients in the transit space I actually have a number of micromobility clients and technology clients as well. And what’s happening in micromobility space on scooters and e-bikes is quite fascinating. Calgary Transit operates the scooter program in Calgary. I think that’s huge. I don’t think we talk about that enough in terms of understanding the role of transit and how they can actually manage and help shape these programs and their deployment. Windsor had a very successful program that was nationaly talked about. We have very different policy regulations for micromobility all across Canada, and it’s very segmented right now, which makes it very challenging for the private sector to actually integrate as part of your, technology and sustainable transportation solutions, but also work with your agencies. And I think we need a broader conversation of how to level set this opportunity and place it as part of the transit offering in many ways across the country to prevent people from from buying that second car, that first car around those options because we need to evolve with the sector. And right now it’s very, it’s a patchwork that has a huge opportunity to be part of the transit family. 


Jason Raynar [00:33:32] I’m also interested in, you know, the pilot, you know, exploring this pilot concept a little more in the prototyping. You know, I think Bruce maybe mentioned and others that, you know, this maybe is the time and you can get away with, I think, a little bit of experimentation. And you know, I’d be interested to know what people think about, you know? So let me use the private sector kind of analogy, right? If someone’s experimenting and deciding whether a private sector companies to get into a market, the sort of last thing that they’ll necessarily be looking at is the price, right? If you think of Netflix introduction, you know, that started at what, $6.99, you know, they would never have survived if they didn’t up their price. Eventually, we all knew that was going to happen. But they also wouldn’t have survived if they didn’t spend billions of dollars on content to keep people as part of the experience. You know, participating in it, right? So I’m curious, are there examples where we’ve tried something you know, to scale to the point where it actually provides that kind of user experience that people really enjoy? And then you sort of work backwards and over a period of time, you know, make the finances work. I mean, that sounds silly, but I’m just curious if people have thoughts on that. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:34:44] Bruce? 


Bruce McCuaig [00:34:46] Well, I think that’s a fantastic suggestion, I think it’s one that we’re all very familiar with as well. I think most of our organizations that we work with or have worked with in the past have looked at the scale of pilots and moving them up as you get, as you learn and succeed is something that you know, incremental success is something that most Canadians are very well versed in. It’s the way we do business, in a sense in Canada. So I think that’s something that we can use and exploit that willingness, I think, you know, the key piece to coming up with pilot projects in my mind is having an appreciation for what you’re trying to test and achieve and then having an effective way to measure and be able to review how well it’s worked. So, you know, there’s I think we were tried and true and we’ve got lots of experience in this country on how to go about doing that and whether it’s a fair product, whether it’s a service offering, whether it’s an integration, just small scale. I know that Metrolinx and some transportation service providers have looked at how they can have the TSB provide that trip into a ghost station as opposed to having someone drive to a GO station parked the car for the day. But you can continue to apply that kind of example in many different situations. And I think this is a great time to be testing those kinds of solutions. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:36:21] Yeah, we only have about six minutes left, it looks like six or seven minutes left, and I want to get to this question by one of the attendees around is there a specific FCM or Federation of Canadian Municipalites or Big City Mayors’ Caucus asked to the Fed’s retransmit? If so, what is it? And I think it really links to the couple of things that we’re hearing is if the objective of a transit operated is to recoup fares for, you know, for revenues, that goes against essentially what a lot of what we’re talking about in terms of partnerships with mobility services and partnerships with, you know, with sort of the first last mile kind of modes. So I wonder if I can ask each of the panellists to weigh in on that. If there is the big ask, what is that big ask to the feds and I guess to a certain degree, to the provinces as well? 


David Cooper [00:37:21] OK, maybe I’ll start it off just a macro perspective. Transit capital has been decently funded and to an increasing amount for years, and the capital funding has been rather intact, which has been absolutely awesome. Governments will see the value of that investment. In terms of FCM, FCM has a huge role and the Big City Mayors’ have a huge role in this conversation. Right now we have a housing crisis across Canada. If the continued operating support does not continue, we will have a transit crisis. Busses will be parked. People will be left behind and especially the most vulnerable. And also community members such as women will be left behind. We will have a transit crisis and I don’t see any which way around it. I’ll give an example, I’m doing some work in Edmonton right now for looking at the impact of Covid on operating budgets and how we can kind of deal with service growth and management and safe restart. Covered half the loss of fares. If you lost that funding, you will have significant limitations in your ability to provide service. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:38:35] Doug, if you were to be part of the big ask to the federal government, what would you ask? 


Doug Morgan [00:38:43] Maybe just a little bit of background. I think the federal government has been very helpful with some of the funding already for the operating backstops. And I think both FCM and the Canadian Urban Transit Association have done yeoman work in order to get the attention of both the federal and the provincial governments to come to our aid. But now is the time, I think, to make sure we can protect the recovery. And the last thing I want to do is to be trailing the recovery with service. If we want labour mobility, we want people coming back we better have sparkling stations and great service to start. So we really the compelling ask for them is fill the gap right now. We really need it and we’re optimistic. We can get there. The last thing we want to do is for people to walk into a dirty station where the bus never comes. So that would be the first. The second is to continue with that long-term commitment. Someone mentioned Netflix and that investment in their catalogue, those things in transit are rapid transit networks. We have an LRT investment, the BRT. That’s our long-term strategy to make those investments. So I’d say in the short term, fill the gap in the long term, make sure we can rely on that funding and we can build these long-term projects. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:39:56] Bruce, is there a provincial ask? You know, the province regulates, you know, sets the rules of the game for many of these, for many of the transit operators. Is there a provincial ask? 


Bruce McCuaig [00:40:07] I think the provincial ask, in some respects, mirrors a lot of the federal ask. I think it’s for sustainability of support so that those considerations of equity and access can be achieved, that women have found themselves losing services, low-income communities are not finding  themselves losing services. I think that’s really important. I think the decarbonization push is something else that can be sustained and achieves multiple objectives at the provincial, territorial and federal levels and building for the future. I know there has been a lot of money that’s gone into large capital, but it’s important because those are the building blocks, the skeleton really of the system that we need in the future for the provincial governments and perhaps maybe a role for the federal government, as well as a focus on innovation, how can they set the local community to take a risk, to try something different to report on those results, see if they can use that to leverage something new and different and important to the community. So I think some kind of an innovative approach to small pilots tests that can then have a focus on scale and growth of what works the best. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:41:34] Great, great. And, Jason, do you want to add to that? 


Jason Raynar [00:41:39] Yeah. Just highlight and underscore what Bruce said. We’ve seen examples, at least in Ontario, where the government has said, Look, we’re going to give you some money, but you actually have to use it to try something different and you’ve got to share the story and the success or failure with others so they can learn. And it’s hugely powerful, right? Because there’s the needs that are so tremendous on transit and others. We loathe to take the risks because we know the direct result of injection into operating our capital is sort of our bread and butter. But being forced, you know, in one sense, to actually make that innovation, to do that prototyping, I think it’s just critical. It’s a really good point. 


Marcy Burchfield [00:42:19] Well, I want to thank all of the panellists I know we’re going to be yanked off the stage in a minute or so. And passing over to Mary. But I do want to thank all the panellists for their great perspectives and ideas and contributions to the big ask for the federal government. And as I say, I think provincial governments as well. Part of this playbook should be about how the provinces also have a role to play in the recovery of our downtowns and our transit systems. 


Mary Rowe [00:42:51] Thanks gang, I mean, you know, we really do have an option to come out of the gate stronger, right? And I think the dilemma is that I mean, I live on a transit route. I see a street car that’s empty every moment I am out and it just astonishes me that we have managed. I mean, this is a story that I hope will get told that we did still manage. Jason, I appreciate your experience slightly different in Windsor, but in the larger cities, they still did manage to keep their systems going, even with drastically reduced ridership, and they had to repurpose them in some cases, because we didn’t take as many people from the periphery into the downtown. Suddenly, you had to refocus and say, How do I get essential workers to their jobs? So it’s given us an opportunity to rethink that, whether or not the way we had the system organized with so many folks coming into the downtown in those in those sort of peak periods, you know, are we going to move now as you suggested Marcy to more 24 kind of not 24-7, but just more regular kinds of commuting patterns that won’t necessarily be confined to just two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening? So honestly, thanks so much gang for joining us on this and also raising that last mile issue and raising the idea of can we integrate these systems so that we have other options? And I love the person in the chat who’s paying kids to actually clean the bus stop for her, so that means leave some snow. Thanks. That’s a good way to do it. And we have sometimes we have to just do informal fixes, right? Have we been a big global pilot of the DIY city through Covid? So I appreciate people suggesting that, and I’m looking forward to a really vigorous conversation in 2022 about how do we sustainably fund transit systems? It’s good for the climate. It’s good for all the reasons we all know. But what are the financial model going forward and people like Bruce who’ve been at it for a long time? You know, Bruce, we’ve got to convince our colleagues in the provincial and federal governments that there probably needs to be a different kind of formula, right? And that we are going to have to have some kind of imaginative way of rethinking the business model of transit if we’re one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t actually directly fund from income tax collected federally transit system. So we have to think carefully about that and what that’s going to be. So I’m looking forward to having all you guys and gal engaged in this conversation as we go forward. So, Bruce, thanks so much, Jason, David and Doug. Tremendous to have you. Great to have Marcy. She’s on the CUI board. Thanks to CUTA, who helped us pull the session together and in the chat, which have been tremendous having you. Thanks, guys. I really look forward to an ongoing conversation. We’re taking a break. Fourteen minutes. Watch some videos. Listen to some music. We’ll see you back here at four o’clock eastern 1:00 Pacific. And we’re going to specifically talk about anchor institutions and their role in bringing back downtowns. First up, faith places second up libraries. See you in 14 minutes. Thanks, everybody. 


Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

Note to reader: Chat comments have been edited for ease of readability. The text has not been edited for spelling or grammar. For questions or concerns, please contact with “Chat Comments” in the subject lin

From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at

Canadian Urban Institute:Our next sessions is: Bringing People Back: Transit (3:00-3:45pm ET), moderated by Marcy Burchfield, Economic Blueprint Institute, Toronto Region Board of Trade, and featuring Bruce McCuaig, Senior Vice President, AECOM; David Cooper, Principal, Leading Mobility; Doug Morgan, General Manager, Transportation, City of Calgary; and Jason Raynar, Chief Adminstrative Office, City of Windsor

03:56:23 Ushnish Sengupta: Any brought up Sidewalk Labs yet? I will 🙂 Have we abandoned the idea of an ‘Anchor Tenant’ perhaps even a large tech company, that provides affordable housing, energy/water savings through tech.  Or has the Sidewalk labs experience shut off that possibility.  The benefits/risks of a large tech anchor tenant needs to be more distributed across broader staholders (next time) for sure

03:58:22 Canadian Urban Institute: Marcy Burchfield is the Vice President of the Economic Blueprint Institute (EBI), a strategic initiative of the Toronto Region Board of Trade with a mandate to strengthen and influence its regional agenda and policy advocacy through data driven insights. Marcy has worked at the forefront of regional planning for nearly two decades influencing land use, transportation, environmental, and economic development policy with her unique placed-based, data driven approach to tackling metropolitan scale problems. She is a champion of regional collaboration and respected for her ability to bring regional actors together. Under her leadership, EBI co-created with regional leaders, Shaping our Future, an award-winning recovery playbook to reboot and re-imagine the regional economy of Canada’s Innovation Corridor.

04:01:16 Canadian Urban Institute: Bruce McCuaig has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of Metrolinx since September 4, 2010-2017. Bruce began his career in public service in 1984, and has worked in areas involving land use planning and policy, municipal policy, and transportation planning, policy and operations over the intervening years. He served in various capacities at the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for 10 years, as well as serving 15 years at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. His final role at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation was Deputy Minister, responsible for leading the 4,000 public servants dedicated to ensuring Ontario’s transportation was efficient in safely moving people and goods across the Province. Currently, Bruce is the Senior Vice President, Canada Transportation Business Line Leader at AECOM.

04:02:25 Canadian Urban Institute: Jason Raynar is the CAO for the City of Windsor. Rapidly improving our quality of life through local government innovation is Jason’s passion. As a lawyer, he navigates through a haze of regulation to find practical – sometimes disruptive – ways to deliver services, such as a public transit system powered by a ride-sharing app. Recently hired as the Chief Administrative Officer for The Corporation of the City of Windsor, Jason is the head of the professional public service, reporting to Council and responsible for leading the municipality’s corporate administration. Jason is thrilled to have the opportunity to help lead the City of Windsor’s next chapter. From economic development to providing social services, he looks forward to tangibly improving the lives of Windsorites and helping businesses recover from the pandemic and prosper.

04:03:09 Canadian Urban Institute: Since 2005, David Cooper has contributed to numerous transformative transportation initiatives across Canada. David is the principal and founder of Leading Mobility Consulting. David’s distinctive experience as the only urban planner in Canada who has practiced in the public sector in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto provide clients unique perspectives on how to successfully shepherd politically sensitive projects through large municipal and regional governments. Specific to Downtowns, David supported the development of TOCore, Downtown Toronto’s new secondary plan and was a technical lead on the King Street Transit Pilot in Toronto. David authored the Canadian Urban Transit Association’s COVID-19 National Recovery Strategy, a foundational plan which helped to obtain emergency operational funding to maintain transit service during the acute stage of the pandemic and to secure long term capital funding to position public transit at the centre of economic recovery.

04:06:39 Canadian Urban Institute: As the General Manager of the Transportation Department, Doug Morgan oversees a team of nearly 5,000 employees that plans, designs, builds, operates and maintains Calgary’s transportation system: Transportation Planning, Transportation Infrastructure, Calgary Transit and Roads.

Doug brings nearly 30 years of experience as an engineer, strategic leader and technical expert bringing a inclusive, ‘people-first’ approach to his position as the General Manager of Transportation.


He also is committed to giving back to the community by holding roles as Chair of Child Find Alberta as well as the Chair of the Canadian Urban Transit Association.

04:07:16 Stephanie Beausoleil: yes!!!

04:07:41 Elizabeth McAllister: Yes, Focus on Outcomes. Magic management tool!

04:09:02 Philippa Von Ziegenweidt: Windsor is trying to rebrand itself as on automobility rather than automotive. Yet by building our new hospital 13km from the centre of the city, the same decision makers will be forcing more driving on residents. It simply isn’t feasible to think people will embrace bus trips that require 2 or 3 transfers to get to the hospital if they can drive in a fraction of the time.

04:09:25 Elizabeth McAllister: Citizened centred goals..Quick, Reliable and Direct (for all users!)

04:11:44 Mona Moreau: Could Bruce McCuaig discuss the fiasco in Toronto around Metrolinx and the expansion of public transit.  Look at other cities/countries i.e. Santiago Chile – they built an entire subway line in less time than it took Toronto to put in an elevator at the St. Clair West Station.  Just look at Union Station as an example of a very problematic project.  I travel a lot internationally and Toronto is an embarrassment!  What is Toronto’s problem – how many neighbourhoods will you destroy i.e. Eglinton, St. Clair, etc.

04:13:25 paul mackinnon: Transit will come back, but municipalities will be under pressure to cut services to save money in the short term. What do cities need to not do that? This is key for not going back to a car-centric downtown.

04:13:45 Elizabeth McAllister: Women also need to travel with children. Children with disabilities ( e.g. 1 in 36 boys are born on the autism spectrum) so addressing the full range of needs is key.

04:14:04 Sonia Salomone: Congestion leads to an interesting conversation about distribution of jobs (particularly in the GTA).

04:14:08 Tom Yarmon: ›well said re: metrolinx fiascos.  its a scandal

04:15:42 Gelare Danaie: We need to rethink Transit user experience with an integrated approach. Totally agreed with Bruce

04:17:17 Gwen Bang: what about partnerships with Uber? like what they’ve done in Innisfil and Hamilton..

04:18:07 Karen Cameron: People will take transit that is frequent and reliable.

04:19:47 Leslie Fink: What about micro mobility integration with transit charges.  ie) pay for a subway ride, and pick up a bike share for free for 1/2 an hour once you exit the station?

04:20:34 Gordon Price: Doug – I think most of what you think we need technically is provided by Google Maps, Transit App, many more.  It’s here now.

04:20:38 Claire Lee: credit or mobile tap payment !

04:21:04 paul mackinnon: Great point about the monthly pass. Variable pricing might make more sense – the more you use it, the cheaper/trip. Is anyone doing this?

04:21:06 Canadian Urban Institute: Hi everyone, just a friendly reminder to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” or to “everyone” so that all can see your comments.

04:21:11 Elizabeth McAllister: Why are cities not emphasizing electric vehicles for their own fleets and contractors (Garbage collection fleets)? Dundee Scotland started with the barriers to using e-vehicles . Started with green energy production, then built the distribution system,”electrified” the entire city fleet, communcated about ease of E-vehicles on every vehicle and then worked with communities to locate charging sessions. have been extremely successful in lowering GHG.

04:21:16 Doug Morgan: I agree that real time arrivals are here.  But I want to make sure the quality is what riders need.

04:21:17 Betsy Hogan: I want a MacPass for the bus. (Halifax)

04:21:25 Shiv Ruparell: for sure! Many cities operate that way, like Helsinki, Bordeaux, etc. Why not have transit agencies operate their own micromobility fleets like bike share? Rather than private operators or ownership by non municipal entities (like how Toronto Parking Authority owns toronto bike share rather than the TTC or metrolinx)?

04:21:45 Shiv Ruparell: re: Leslie’s point ^

04:21:47 Elizabeth McAllister: 20% of our poorest areas do not have access to the internet.

04:22:05 Gelare Danaie: Agree with Shiv and then the small municipalities can recover

04:22:25 Michael Magnan: @Shiv re: transit micromobility — why not dictate private operators place e-scooters and e-bikes near major transit stops? Would solve the last mile problem with very little public investment.

04:22:48 Michael Roschlau: Daily, weekly, monthly fare caps are common elsewhere for systems with electronic fare payment.  They are a great way to instil confidence in the rider and incentivise frequent use.

04:23:15 Catherine Deegan: Great strategy; partnerships – helping to bring folks into BIAs surrounding the core downtown, providing citizens across the GTA access to  geographic locations different than what they live everyday

04:23:41 Shiv Ruparell: Because then they will not operate in those cities. they lose too much revenue. We could have private companies operate them still, but there would need to be a public subsidy to make it worth their while to locate fleets in less dense areas (which ensures equity but is a revenue loser for these companies like Lime and Bird)

04:23:49 paul mackinnon: Baltimore has done a good job integrating scooter programs with transit – mostly around distribution of scooters in areas not well serviced by transit – a first mile strategy.

04:23:53 Shiv Ruparell: to michael ^^

04:24:09 Rino Bortolin: there are two different conversations happening here.  A mature, reliable system can talk about rethinks and new ways to charge or collect fares.  Cities like Windsor where ppl can’t rely on transit as its one of the worst systems in the country.  We need to first set basic standards before moving on to higher level conversations.

04:24:17 Gordon Price: So much more than scheduling.  I was in Los Angeles a month ago.  Didn’t use a rental car.  Apps gave me transit confidence, planned my routes, gave me choices like bike share, told me where it all was.  Transformed my mental and experiential map of LA.  New transit lines transforming city.

04:25:56 paul mackinnon: Is there a specific FCM or BCMC ask to the Feds, re transit? If so, what is it?

04:26:01 Doug Morgan: TBH I rarely here folks say Transit is too expensive.  They only do that if they have adequate service.  Most times it is either the quality is poor (connectivity/frequency/reliability) or they are intimidated by the service.

04:26:08 Rino Bortolin: Can we ask why we look to transit to recoup fares and costs yet we don’t do the same for drivers? Transit recoups up to 65% of their service costs yet drivers rarely if ever pay for road use and general parking? We need to get past this huge double standard

04:26:22 Shiv Ruparell: Doug: Does Calgary Transit have any formal partnership with Bird or Neuron? For instance, conversations to align fares within the Calgary Transit ecosystem? Or subsidies to such operators so that they can leave bikes and scooters near less dense transit stations that they wouldn’t otherwise focus on?

04:26:35 Sophia Symons: Do you think there’s a future for different single-tiered municipalities collaborating in transit (public to public partnerships)?

04:27:57 paul mackinnon: Have any cities looked at ways to make driving LESS convenient to non-dense areas? For instance, tolls to enter big box parks?

04:28:03 Kay Matthews: I loved in Helsinki, where they used the land besides the tracks as walking, cross country skiing or bicycling lanes.  Many people can bicycle into the city more directly and not alongside of cars.  Much safer.

04:29:12 Shiv Ruparell: David: Does Calgary Transit as an agency operate the micro mobility program or does the Transportation department run it?

04:29:14 Doug Morgan: What David Said.  Our vision is to have an integrated mobility program to support customers.  Moving to Mobility as a service.

04:29:16 Gordon Price: David.  Calgary Transit operating a scooter program is a big deal.  How did that happen?

04:30:03 Doug Morgan: We sought to move from transit mobility to Mobility as a Service.

04:30:05 Mona Moreau: What about the commuter who says “it’s cheaper for me to take my own car to work than use public transit?

04:30:13 paul mackinnon: Doug is that mandate on your website? I don’t think many transit depts. look at it this way – they focus solely on commuter trips, in and out of downtown.

04:32:44 Adriana Dossena: Exciting moment for sustainable economic development too! Have there been any projects that integrate transit hubs, e-bikes, EVs with utility back-up generation with fleet vehicles that can be deployed in emergencies to communities in need?

04:33:41 Elizabeth McAllister: So many of your options are really good and will get people onto transit. But consider that we are  –  an aging population and getting on bikes or motor bikes is not possible..….and winter to and from bus stops…lot and lots of barriers and many elders in our community just can’t get out in the winter.  Would love to see more female , older and parent voice on transport policy discussions. I personally pay to have kids make our bus stop clean of leaves and without ice.

04:34:55 Jenna Davidson: Looking at the 400 series of highways throughout the GTA on a daily basis.. there’s already a transportation crisis.

04:35:12 Gelare Danaie: Private and Public partnerships seems to be working. We need to wait and see what happens with Ontario Line

04:35:41 Michael Magnan: Great point on rider experience Doug! Make a great first impression for people returning to transit.

04:36:02 Ken Kelly: EXCELLENT session.  Thanks, team!

04:36:22 Mark van Elsberg: This may be a bit of a sideline but is important for Cities Can we expand the discussion from discouraging car ownership to discouraging car use in urban conditions?  We are talking about encouraging families into the core.  But we don’t provide schools until many years later and we don’t support sports and family activities.  Families need multi bedrooms and mini vans.  They are to required to travel in peak hour or at least not to commute.  The real problem is that we are providing far too much space in the cities to store cars. On streets which should be converted to public space.  Families and seniors need access to a car, and need to store them so that the seniors can visit their grand kids or grand kids to visit their grandparents at the cottage.   Cities are not encouraging the 8 or the 80’s

04:37:16 Michael Roschlau: Transit investment and funding should be an integrated fed-prov collaborative.  Much has been achieved recently on day care with all except Ontario signing on.  Perhaps we need something similar for transit!

04:38:12 Gloria Venczel: To use one Gen Zer’s solution to public transit- “make it sexy”, like the allure of the dawn of air travel. Offer cappuccinos, wifi etc….cafes style to remove any stigmas

04:38:28 Jenna Davidson: Working with universities and colleges is really important too. A compulsory transit pass for students encourages public transit literacy and savvy that builds the ridership in younger generations and carries on throughout life.

04:39:15 Canadian Urban Institute: We’re going to take a short break and then return at 4:00 p.m. ET with Challenges and Opportunities for Anchor Institutions to Rebuild Downtowns: Churches (4:00pm – 4:30pm ET)  with Graham Singh, Founder and Executive Director of Trinity Centres Foundation;  Rev Dr. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church, New York City; and Stephen Jackson, CEO, Anishnabeg Outreach (AO)

04:39:25 Adriana Dossena: yes, students also want to eliminate/reduce their scope 3 emissions – (ones the institutions themselves are struggling to address)

04:39:52 Gloria Venczel: The interurban rail transit in Switzerland is a great example

04:40:17 Canadian Urban Institute: Thank you Marcy, David, Doug, Jason, and Bruce.

04:40:27 Gordon Price: Mary – In Vancouver, there was near total consensus to keep transit operating at high level during pandemic.  Business, government, community leaders, councils.  There wasn’t actually hesitation.

04:40:38 Adriana Dossena: Thanks for great, well rounded discussion!

04:41:18 Doug Morgan: Thanks Great discussion!

04:41:28 Shiv Ruparell: Check out cutaactu.ça for more info on transit in canada!

04:43:09 Mark van Elsberg: Change the terminology transit pass is actually transit tax.  We already pay for transit and the roads through our taxes, but we only pay for a licence plate once every two years.

04:46:25 Andrew Dyke: sound track organizers well done! so fun!

04:47:29 Kelly Bergeron: loved the one and only sarah harmer!

04:49:20 Ally Ladak: well done on the conversation

04:49:36 paul mackinnon: When I first joined the International Downtown Association board, one of the longtime members gave us each a CD (remember those?) of downtown songs.