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Insight: Working Poor

Of the numerous issues facing the City of Toronto, transit accessibility and growing income inequality are of primary importance. In previous Martin Prosperity Institute Insights, we looked at the relationship between transit, geography, and income in Toronto. Although lower income city residents are often the most transit dependent, this relationship is traditionally understudied. This Insight will further the analysis regarding transit and income in Toronto, by looking at the relationship between transit accessibility and the working poor population within the different neighbourhoods of the city.

Employment is often seen as essential to increasing social mobility as it can often alleviate and reverse individual or family poverty. In their recent report “The Working Poor in the Toronto Region”, the Metcalf Foundation critically analyzes the notion that any job is a good job. The foundation discusses the prevalence of an increasing working poor population within Toronto. Metcalf defines the working poor as someone who:

  • has an after-tax income below the Low Income Measure (LIM),
  • has earnings of at least $3,000 a year,
  • is between the ages of 18 and 64,
  • is not a student, and
  • lives independently

Toronto’s working poor possess similar characteristics and challenges with many of the city’s citizens living in extreme poverty due to unemployment. Both groups are likely to find it difficult to be able to afford a car, which in turn severely limits their access to key services. Getting to work, grocery shopping, taking children to school, and medical appointments are just a few of the daily tasks that are easier to accomplish by those who own a personal vehicle or live in areas well serviced by public transit. Furthermore, the employment patterns of low-paying service class occupations also often follow inconsistent and non-traditional work schedules. As such, having consistent access to reliable and affordable transit is crucial to their long-term employability.

As previous MPI Insight’s have revealed, many of Toronto’s transit deserts are located in parts of the city with the lowest average incomes. It is not surprising then, that a similar deficiency of transit accessibility was found amongst some of the city’s working poor. For example, we found communities with a greater than 20% share of its population being working poor residents, have an average transit score of 23.45. In comparison, the average transit score for the city of Toronto
is 41.10.

The map below illustrates the relationship between transit accessibility and the working poor. The TTC Subway lines are shown in black. Darker grey indicates that a higher percentage of working poor lives in that particular area. The red census tracts on the map reveal the areas in Toronto that have a combination of the lowest or second lowest transit accessibility scores along with having either the highest or second highest working poor share, indicating areas of particular concern.

Exhibit 1: Working poor share

Working Poor Share

Except for a few tracts within the downtown core, many of the areas with high concentrations of the working poor are scattered throughout distant neighbourhoods and are poorly served by transit. Those tracts in the downtown core with high working poor shares are well served by public transit and as such do not appear as red on our map. The high cost of living within certain downtown communities often excludes the working poor from living there.

The areas with the lowest transit accessibility and highest working poor shares, illustrated by dark red, generally correspond directly to struggling neighbourhoods in the city, such as Rexdale and Kingston/Galloway (West Hill). When looking at the census tracts demarcated with medium shades of red, communities such as Malvern, University Heights (Jane & Finch), Flemingdon Park, and L’Amoreaux are highlighted. The long and arduous commute times from these areas makes it difficult for local residents to commute to many of the City’s economic, social, and cultural institutions in other parts of the city.

Many of the highlighted areas in Exhibit 1 are within City of Toronto’s 13 Priority Neighbourhoods that are experiencing extensive poverty. These red areas have a larger percentage of working poor that often depend on transit for their livelihood. Because social mobility is directly affected by employment and employment depends on the ability to travel to and from the workplace, efficient and accessible transportation for the working poor is crucial. As wage inequality continues to grow in the city of Toronto, it is necessary to not only examine the relationship between transit and unemployment, but also the relationship of transit with low income employed citizens.

Download this Insight (PDF)

The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.

 

Insight: Moving Toronto Forward

While always a topic of conversation, transit in Toronto has become a lightning rod of media attention and public debate in the recent weeks (and admittedly months). Transit of all kinds remains a critical challenge to the future growth and prosperity of not only the GTHA/GGH but all of southern Ontario. Much has – and has yet to be said – about the provisioning and funding of transit for Toronto. While anyone can draw lines on a map, it takes environmental assessments, land acquisitions, careful engineering, a lot of hard work by construction and other trades workers, and billions of dollars to turn those squiggly lines into reality. In this Insight, we take a look at the potential impact that the expansion of public transit could have in Toronto. Transit planning in Toronto made its way back into the media with Tim Hudak presenting his party’s transit plan, which focuses on building underground subways.

Transit scores within Toronto’s proposed transit plans

The map below (Exhibit 1) shown in previous Insights and here illustrates the number of transit vehicle stops within 500m of the center of each square made during an average hour during the day (hourly average determined by total number of stops between 7am and 8pm on regular weekday service). The Transit Score Index, developed at the MPI, is one tool to examine the distribution of transit access in our city. Stops are then weighted using a non-linear scale by relative vehicle capacity, so a subway is weighted by 1.0, streetcars by 0.5 and buses by 0.25. For example, a score of 20 for a square could mean that in an average hour there might be 20 subways stopping (one every three minutes, either direction), 40 streetcars or 80 buses within a short walk from the center of that square. More likely is a combination, something like 20 streetcars and 40 buses. The average transit score for Toronto is 29.5. This score could represent three north-south bus stops and three east-west bus stops within the 500m distance, with a bus stopping at each every 10 minutes in both directions (30 eastbound, 30 westbound, 30 southbound, 30 northbound for a total of 120 at 0.25 scoring equals 30.0).

Exhibit 1: Transit Score (Current, May 2012)

Exhibit 1: Transit Score (Current, May 2012)

With this in mind, we can then examine the impact of approved transit expansion (the new Eglinton, Finch, Sheppard LRTs and the SRT replacement); we used the most applicable information available regarding the alignment of the new routes and anticipated stops. While still likely to change, they represent a pretty good approximation of what new transit opportunities will be available on their completion. We weighted LRTs at 0.75 (between subways at 1.0 and streetcars and 0.5). This weighting was selected as the LRTs have capacity that is larger than a streetcar and yet smaller than a subway. We also assumed that the existing buses on the Eglinton, Finch, and Sheppard routes would remain. The existing buses would likely change in some regard, but there would possibly still be a necessity for these buses to shadow the subway as a feeder system to bridge the gap between stations. Similar to the Yonge bus that runs north of St. Clair. The LRTs were assumed to stop every three minutes in both directions (40 total stops per hour) during rush hour and every five minutes (30 total stops per hour) during the rest of the day.

The map below (Exhibit 2) shows the net increase in transit availability that will be created by these three new lines and the SRT replacement. Replacing the SRT with an LRT, besides being a technical necessity, also does allow for the creation of additional stops and an expansion of that line. As expected, the increases are where the new LRT lines are being installed. This approach does not include reductions in total travel time that these new lines will create for people who currently transfer to these buses from other lines or the improved service that these lines create for the entire TTC system. As only local accessibility to transit is being mapped, the impact is shown only within 500m of the potential new stops.

Exhibit 2: Transit Score Change (Approved Routes – Current Score)

Exhibit 2: Transit Score Change (Approved Routes – Current Score)

The final map (Exhibit 3) uses Councilor Karen Stintz’s “One City” plan as a basis for looking at what public transit accessibility in Toronto could look like. We appreciate and understand that this particular plan is not official or even being seriously considered for approval. However, it does represent the most recent attempt at ‘drawing lines on a map’ and includes most elements that are generally seen as likely, desirable or necessary such as streetcar expansion to the Port Lands/waterfront, LRT replacement for the Lakeshore line, multiple connections to Pearson Airport, and a downtown relief subway. When a line was completely replaced (the Lakeshore), only the LRT scoring was kept and the current streetcar eliminated. Most of this plan is new transit. Stops were assumed to be at all major intersections – essentially places where current bus routes would intersect with new LRT or subway lines. The same weights and assumptions about stop frequencies were used.

Although small portions of Toronto would still have reduced accessibility to transit, the new plan spreads greater accessibility across the entire city. And, while accessibility is increased downtown, new major transit hubs are created at Yonge and Finch, Kennedy, and Scarborough Centre. While some places still have lower transit accessibility, they would be closer to places with greater accessibility. If 1km instead of 500m squares were used, nearly the entire city of Toronto could be a 15 minute walk away from four different transit stops where a bus or faster transit option would be going north or south or east or west every six minutes.

Different transit plans lead to different results for the citizens that use public transit. In a city such as Toronto where many areas far from the core are less serviced by transit, any proposed plan must take this into account. As displayed in this Insight, using transit scores is a successful indicator in determining the impact that specific transit plans will have on serving the city’s populous. This approach can be used to further the debate of differing transit plans within Toronto.

Exhibit 3: Transit Score (One City Plan)

Exhibit 3: Transit Score (One City Plan)

 

Download this Insight (PDF)

The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.

The Many Cities of Toronto’s Public Transit

In previous insights, the Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) examined transit access in the City of Toronto using a Transit Score that was determined by number of stops within 500m (less than a 10 minute walk) of the centre point of a census block and how often a bus, subway, or streetcar stops there in an average hour. This analysis found that for most part, downtown Toronto had the highest transit accessibility, while the inner suburbs of the city had the lowest transit scores. The densely populated core benefits considerably from greater access to a large number of subway stations and connecting streetcars within a short distance.

Recently, the MPI updated these maps using 250x250m grids, instead of census blocks, to obtain a more uniform view of transit access across the city. The data used to generate these maps have been updated using the most recent Google Transit Feed Data available (May 2012), which includes the latest TTC service revisions.

The map above illustrates the number of transit vehicle stops within 500m of the centre of each square made during an average hour during the day (hourly average determined by total number of stops between 7am and 8pm on regular weekday service). Stops are then weighted by relative vehicle capacity, so a subway is weighted by 1, streetcars by 0.5 and busses by 0.25. For example,a score of 20 for a square could mean that in an average hour there might be 20 subways stopping (one every three minutes, either direction), 40 streetcars or 80 buses within a short walk from the centre of that square. More likely is a combination, something like 20 streetcars and 40 busses. From the map we can see that the downtown is significantly better served than the city’s inner suburbs. The blue areas on the map are mostly subway stops and places where people have more than one transit option, while white areas have a score of zero. The average transit score for Toronto is 29.5. This score could represent three north-south bus stops and three east-west bus stops within the 500m distance, with a bus stopping at each every 10 minutes in both directions. (30 eastbound, 30 westbound, 30 southbound, 30 northbound for a total of 120 at 0.25 scoring equals 30.0).

With the updated data, the MPI has also developed a transit score for the city at night using the Blue Night Network routes. The map in Exhibit 2 uses a similar methodology as the first, but instead of an average, the transit score is calculated using the total number of stops between 3am and 4am. On this map, white areas that have the highest scores and the darkest blue areas have scores of zero. The overall grid pattern of the transit system is very apparent on this map, with Yonge and Bloor streets standing out as the primary nighttime arteries. There are actually some sections along Yonge and Bloor Streets that are better served at night than during the day as buses fill in the gaps between subway stations. The average nighttime transit score for the city is 2.9. The highest nighttime scores are significantly lower than the highest daytime scores, reflecting the longer wait times between busses and streetcars and the lack of subways. There are also a number of places, mostly outside the downtown core, that had some service during the day but have none at night.

Alternate Work and Alternate Transportation
In 2011 KPMG conducted a core services review for the City of Toronto that identified eliminating or reducing the Blue Night Network as a potential cost saving measure. Ultimately the measure was not adopted, but the concern remains. The report argued that the reduction or elimination of the blue night network “would be a major inconvenience to a relatively small number of customers. Raising/doubling of fares on Blue Night routes would be an alternative way to offset high costs of service delivery.”

Previous MPI research suggests that this “small number of customers” are predominantly those that rely on public transit the most and would have trouble finding alternative routes or adjusting to higher fares. While data is not available for Toronto, Statistics Canada reported that close to 28% of employed Canadians worked something other than a regular day shift in 2005 and that shift work is often more common in occupations such as healthcare providers, protective services, sales and service and some manufacturing jobs. Service class workers (who make up about 46% of the workforce in Toronto) tend to have low average incomes and are thus more likely to depend on public transit. According to Statistics Canada 38.7% of employed workers who made under $50,000 per year in 2005 took public transit to work in Toronto compared to 28.8% who made $50,000 or above. 41.4% of those who make less than $30,000 per year use public transit as their primary mode of transportation to get to work. A 2000 report by Statistics Canada on the “Factors Affecting Urban Transit Growth” pointed out that indeed “Changes in work patterns such as “work-at-home”, shift work outside the traditional 9 to 5 time frame, the location of work sites away from downtown areas and other similar factors have given urban transit planners a multitude of challenges.” While not all shift workers would be working hours that required early morning or late night transit service, it does highlight the fact that a system based on conventional weekday working hours does not always serve everyone in need of public transit. Transit planning and service availability are based on high residential or employment density and a regular nine to five workday and these spatial and temporal distributions that are increasingly less homogeneous than in the past.

Download this Insight (PDF)

The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.

Transit Deserts & Hulchanski’s Three Cities

In December (2010), the University of Toronto’s Cities Centre released an update to their influential 2007 “Three Cities within Toronto” report. This work identifies the growing income polarization and subsequent segregation within the City of Toronto while also describing the changing economic dynamics of the City over time (1970-2005).

The Three Cities report identifies three geographically distinct ‘cities’ within the City of Toronto. In City 1, incomes have increased 20% or more since 1970. In City 2, incomes have increased or decreased less than 20% since 1970. Finally, in City 3, income decreased 20% or more since 1970 (Hulchanski 2010, 7).

In the updated report, Professor David Hulchanski advocates light-rail for low-income households as a potential policy intervention. This proposal is in line with transit research currently underway at the Martin Prosperity Institute that finds that the city’s inner suburbs are under-served by the transit system.

The Highest Incomes have the Greatest Connectivity

Map 1 illustrates the connectivity of the City of Toronto using a transit score developed by the Martin Prosperity Institute. The score uses data from the Toronto Transit Commission and combines the number of stops within 500m of the centroid of a Census block and how often a bus, subway, or streetcar stops there in a specific hour. In terms of relative weighting, subway stops are weighted by 1, streetcars by 0.5, and bus stops by 0.25. On a scale of 0-1,500, the average transit score for the entire City is 66.5. The downtown core is 15 times more connected than the city average, as transit scores are highest where more streetcars and subways are found and lowest towards the outer edge of the city that are only served by buses.

Map 2 overlays the Toronto Transit Desert map with City 3, the poorest and most disadvantaged of the three cities. The overlay demonstrates the connection between household income and transit connectivity in the City of Toronto; namely, that the most economically disadvantaged of the Three Cities – City 3 – is the most under-serviced in Toronto.

City 1 is Three Times as Connected as City 3

In its independent analysis of transit access in Toronto, the MPI finds that the “transit gap” in Toronto’s inner suburbs is even more pronounced than the income differentials described in the Three Cities report. The highest household incomes (City 1, dark blue transit score) have the greatest connectivity. The lowest household incomes (City 3) have the poorest connectivity.

We also calculated the average transit scores for each of the Three Cities to see where they fell on the transit score spectrum (range 0-1500) and against the city average of 66.5 (Exhibit 2). City 1 has an average transit score of 102.9, City 2 has an average score of 70, and City 3 has an average score of 27.8.

Interestingly, transit service in City 1is almost four times (4x) better than in City 3. Further, the gap in transit service between City 1 and City 3 (3.7 ratio) is larger than the gap in incomes between City 1 and City 3 (3.3 ratio). The transit gap between City 1 and 2 is about 1.5 (ratio) and the transit gap between City 2 and 3 is about 2.5 (ratio).

Hulchanski’s updated report incorporates analysis of the transit challenges faced by City 3 and identifies that City 3 has only 19 subways stops nearby, which is less than half of the 40 stops near City 1. Residents of Toronto’s inner suburbs are not simply less advantaged in terms of income changes over time. They also have inferior access to subways and streetcars. Attempts to mitigate Toronto’s growing income polarization are well-targeted to transit.

Future

The Martin Prosperity Institute is currently engaged in a large-scale research project that assesses the connectivity of major North American cities against their respective geographies of work. This research involves transit scores and maps and uses the Institute’s occupational typology (Creative, service, and working classes) by census tract dominance over time and builds from research published during our Mayoral Election Series.

Download this Insight (PDF)

Further Reading:

Hulchanski, J. D. (2010).  The Three Cities Within Toronto: Income Polarization Among Toronto’s Neighbourhoods, 1970-2005. Toronto: Cities Centre Press, University of Toronto.

Martin Prosperity Institute’s Mayoral Election Series.

The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors—location, place and city-regions—in global economic prosperity. Led by Director Richard Florida, we take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.