Tram going past the cn tower in Toronto

How public transit can be a vehicle for improving citizens’ lives

In the fourth episode of Leading into Tomorrow, Angela Gibson, Head of Strategy and Foresight for the Toronto Transit Commission, discusses rebuilding a transit system that better serves its customers.

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In this episode, Angela Gibson describes how she’s helping the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) tackle the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has left in its wake. Joining her for the discussion are Oliver Jones, EY Global SaT Sustainability Leader, Global BD and Markets and Insights Leader, and Josh Colle, Senior Vice President, Cities, Transit and Infrastructure at EY Canada.

Angela reveals that, in Toronto, rider numbers plunged by 80% during the pandemic, but stayed at around 50% on the bus network. Based on this finding, the TTC has successfully piloted a rapid transit bus system for a traditionally underserved area. And it’s looking at improving the customer experience to “romance” people into returning to its services.

The pandemic also started an important conversation around how ridership shouldn’t be the only measure of success. Public transit is, in fact, one of many tools for helping cities to build communities and improve lives.

The TTC is embracing this thinking by using a constant focus on the customer, including the experience of diverse groups, to help deliver a better system for everyone. It’s also bringing strategy back to the fore, so it can take a multiyear approach to innovating for a net-zero future.

Key takeaways:

  • The pandemic showed that public transit agencies can deliver change, fast. They should use that pace to make temporary fixes permanent, and pilot new ideas with the view that it’s OK to fail.
  • To build an inclusive, customer-centric service, public transit leaders need to use an equity lens to focus improvements on low-income areas, and make sure diverse voices are heard.
  • They can also learn lessons from colleagues facing similar challenges in their sector and beyond. Giving a platform to employees will create the army needed to deliver the work.

The podcast is also available to listen to on Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon Music.

If you’d like to read more, a full text transcript of this podcast is available.


Episode 04


19m 14s