Make Affordable Transit an issue in Ontario’s Next Poverty Reduction Strategy

September 2013

Affordable transit is essential to the health of people living on a low income. It enables access to employment, education, health services, food, and recreation and other city or community services such as places to go to get relief from dangerously hot or cold weather. It also plays a key role in promoting inclusive communities.  In many areas across the province, the lack of affordable transit for people living on a low income is a significant problem – as identified through previous provincial government consultations on poverty reduction and social assistance:

“In community after community, lack of access to public transportation was a significant issue we heard about from people living in poverty; people simply could not afford to take the bus. That means that they are unable to apply for jobs or access resources that are there for them and their children. ”
-Breaking the Cycle: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, 2008

” We frequently heard about difficulties in accessing transportation. In urban areas, the concern is the affordability of public transit. In many small towns and rural communities, the concern is the lack of any kind of public transit. This is especially difficult for people with disabilities. ”
– Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario, 2012

Many communities are recognizing that cost is a barrier to transit use and are implementing a range of affordability strategies. For example, British Columbia and Saskatchewan make transit passes available at discounted prices for low income residents. In Ontario, transportation subsidies may be available to social assistance recipients for employment-related activities and medical therapy or treatment; however 

transportation costs for other important activities are not covered – such as for grocery shopping and support for children who need to be dropped off and picked up at day care or school, and/or older children who need to travel to school by transit.

Several cities and regions in Ontario are also implementing discount transit pass programs for low income residents and enabling community agencies to purchase tickets at a reduced rate from transit authorities to provide free of charge to community members accessing their services.

Being able to travel without restrictions to work, school, recreation and other places is important to creating healthy and inclusive communities. Making transit affordable and accessible for people living on a low income in communities where there is a public transit system is the best way to ensure that day-to-day activities are possible. Where there is no public transit system, local solutions must be identified and funded. 

When you attend a consultation meeting or send in your ideas, tell the government you would like to see the following included in Ontario’s next poverty reduction strategy:

1. Provide adequate and dependable funding to public transit across urban areas throughout the province, funding that allows transit to be affordable to all people who need it.

2. Implement a provincially funded discount transit pass program for people living on a low income in communities with a public transit system.

3. Convene an advisory group to examine best practices for increasing access to transportation for people living on a low income in communities without a public transit system.

4. Ensure that social assistance covers the regional cost of transportation in addition to other basic needs.

5. Ensure that the determination of minimum wage levels addresses the cost of transportation.

6. Ensure that any new funding for transit expansion target populations/places that are currently underserved and that a portion of these funds be used to improve transit affordability for people living on a low income.

7. Advocate for both provincial and national transit strategies.

Social Planning Toronto 

Public Consultations

26 July 2013

To develop a renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy, we continue to need your advice, guidance and expertise.

Public and online consultations for a renewed strategy will begin the week of August 6th. There will also be opportunities for people to provide additional input by organizing their own consultations in their communities and submitting their individual ideas. Check back here to have your say through an online feedback form and a toolkit to facilitate your own consultation.

Consultations will seek feedback on, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Elements of the current strategy that have worked well or need improvement
  • Refining execution of current policies, programs and initiatives
  • Continued barriers to success
  • New models of collaboration and partnership
  • Areas of special priority and urgency

Until online consultations start on August 6, you can send your thoughts on the following two questions to povertystrategy@ontario.ca.

  1. Based on your experience and perspective, what areas and/or specific initiatives do you believe have worked well in the first five years of the Poverty Reduction Strategy? Please share specific examples of success that you think should be continued or expanded.
  2. What do you think are the top three priorities to overcome poverty?

If possible, please try to limit your responses to 500 words or less per question.

An Ambitious Target

In our first Poverty Reduction Strategy, we set an ambitious target of reducing child poverty by 25 per cent over 5 years.

We set ambitious targets with the belief that we cannot and should not limit ourselves by lowering our expectations on what we think we can achieve. Despite our progress and due to an uncertain economic climate, it is unlikely that the target will be met. The ambitious target gave us something to strive toward, raised the bar for success, and set the foundation for future work.

One of the key considerations in the new strategy will be the views of stakeholders and Ontarians about the value of such a bold, stretch target. Has it helped to spur progress? Should it be maintained or altered for the future? Let us know what you think at povertystrategy@ontario.ca.

Collaboration Makes It Happen

The provincial government is one of many key contributors to building solutions to this deeply interdependent challenge. Everyone plays a role in building a good, strong economy and in reducing poverty. One of the biggest lessons of the first five years is that many innovative models for collaboration and partnership exist that result in some of the most creative and effective ways to address poverty.

Share your views on the importance of collaborative models working together. Tell us about any specific examples from which you think everyone can learn at povertystrategy@ontario.ca.