TTC focuses on customer service — and people are noticing

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has been working tirelessly to create and grow the transit system in Toronto, no easy feat when considering delays, traffic, and a constant stream of people trying to go from place to place.

Lately, TTC has been emphasizing their dedication to customer service — and guess what? Women’s Post is one of the groups noticing! It started with the little things, telling customers over the PA system to ‘have a nice day’ and giving consistent updates if there is a delay. Their efforts make the end-of-day commute just a little bit better. By communicating why a delay is happening and providing updates when the train suddenly stops or is slow, it lowers the rate of frustration for everyone and makes the commute much easier. Customer service is clearly a priority for the TTC and it makes a big difference when riding on the subway, or taking a bus or streetcar.

The positivity on the part of TTC staff could be, in part, due to the fact that the transit union was recognized with an award as one of Greater Toronto’s top employers. TTC CEO Andy Byford accepted the award, which was well-deserved. What makes the TTC such a great employer it their focus on service as their core objectives of their five-year plan. This service concentrates on their 14,000 employees, as well as their customers. Being part of the TTC union is one of the better jobs to have in Toronto and it is positive to see the transit company awarded for their efforts.

The TTC is moving ahead with construction plans to build more transit in as part of their five-year plan and has almost completed the Spadina extension. Amidst City of Toronto budget cuts, TTC works very hard to avoid being seriously affected by the reductions and continues to pursue their plan to make a better transit system in Toronto. It is not easy to maintain the current subway system, continue construction on various transit projects in the city, and keep the trains running smoothly — all the while being asked to reduce their budget by 2.6 per cent. The TTC achieves this goal though with careful planning and strong communication with their customer base. The Relief Line project is in its planning stages and officials are working hard to manage a host of public complaints while pushing forward to get to the next stages of actually building the downtown line. This project has been on the back-burner for several years and it is hopeful to see the TTC pushing through the red tape and working to get the blueprints approved for future construction.

Despite dealing with daily complaints, the TTC does achieve a lot of difficult goals and is on its way to building an efficient and intricate transit network in Toronto. Next time you want to whine about how slow the streetcar or bus is, remember those times when it is extremely cold and snowing heavily, yet the bus and subway still manages to deliver you home safely. Instead, why not try being grateful for how hard the TTC is working to make sure Toronto gets the transit system it deserves!

Mayor John Tory proposes tolls for DVP and Gardiner

The city of Toronto has finally clued in — if you want change, you need to be willing to make the unpopular decision to pay for it. As the mayor said in a speech Thursday afternoon, “If we are to achieve those goals we have to acknowledge that things we need, from transit to affordable housing, are not free. Pretending otherwise is not responsible and it’s not fair to the people of Toronto.”

Mayor John Tory chose to announce a new proposal to find much-needed revenue to help pay for the new transit network being built in the city at a luncheon at the Toronto Region Board of Trade Thursday afternoon.

What was this exciting solution? It was tolls.

Tory is proposing a $2 single-use toll to use the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. This will bring in an approximate $200 million of extra revenue that can be used specifically for infrastructure. This would be a tax on everyone, whether or not they live in the city or not. This will ensure that those who work in the city also contribute to its growth.

“People say that Toronto’s population is approximately 2.8 million. That’s true, at night, when the people who live here are home sleeping,” said Tory. “But by day, the number of people in this city goes up dramatically with all the people who come to work or to visit, all the while using the services paid for by Toronto taxpayers.”

The details of the proposal are still unknown. It will be presented to executive committee next week along with all the other options for revenue tools. The city has to find about $33 billion over the next 20 years to fund capital projects, despite provincial and federal aide.

Mayor Tory has said he will not be considering vehicle registration tax or a parking levy. Two other forms of revenue were proposed during the speech, including a half per cent levy on property taxes and a mandatory hotel tax at all Toronto hotels and short-term rentals like Airbnb.

During a press conference following the speech, the mayor said that doing nothing is not an option. The $2 cost, as well as the functionality of the tolls, will be up for discussion at city council in the upcoming months. Assuming city council sees the value of tolls, Tory hopes to see it implemented as of 2019.

TTC hikes fares by 10 cents, needs investment from city

Last night, the TTC board approved a 10-cent fare increase for tokens, reducing their shortfall for next year’s budget to about $61 million. As Toronto Transit Commission CEO, Andy Byford, emphasized during his presentation, the board had very few choices. A fare increase was an inevitable and unfortunate necessity.

Cash fares will remain the same, but the cost of a token or a PRESTO single ride will increase to $3. A monthly Metropass will go up to $146.25 for adults and $116.75 for post-secondary students. Cash and ticket prices for seniors and students will also increase by 10 cents.

The change will be effective as of January 2017, although the board did pass a second motion saying they will recommend freezing fares in 2018.

The TTC will now have to turn the budget over to the city budget committee, who will then decide whether to approve the budget with the 2017 shortfall. The fare increase will result in an extra $27 million for the transit agency. That, in combination with a number of efficiency cuts, has already lowered the shortfall from $230 million to $61 million. By approving the budget Monday, the TTC board is saying there is no other way to cut the budget. They have done everything they can without increasing fares by an even more substantial amount or without cutting services.

The TTC receives a very small subsidy compared to other North American cities — 90 cents per rider. Vancouver’s subsidy is $1.89 per rider and Calgary is $1.69. York Region, whose transit network is much smaller, has a subsidy of $4.56. Without more funding, there is absolutely nothing the TTC can do but increase fares.

As much as city council is against raising property taxes, it was clear that concerned transit users are fine with it. Most wanted all residents to contribute, whether it was through tolls or property tax, so that seniors and low-income families don’t have to walk across the city to get to work because they can’t afford public transportation. Raising property taxes was actually a suggestion given to the board by a Toronto resident.

Byford has done all he can do in terms of finding efficiencies, cutting the budget by another 2.6 per cent for the second year in a row. During a time where the TTC is working with the city to build more transit and improve service, this is not a time for cuts.

Now, it’s the city’s turn to take this budget and commit to investing in public transportation. Residents have said they are willing to contribute through taxes, and there are other forms of revenue such as tolls that can be used to help decrease the shortfall, so let’s run with it! It’s time to seriously invest in transportation, especially if Toronto has any hope of completing our integrated transit network.

Should Toronto use tolls to maintain transit network?

The City of Toronto has completed the first round of negotiations with the province over funding for the Transit Network. Staff will present their updated financial report to a special executive committee meeting Tuesday afternoon for approval prior to the November city council meeting the following week.

The report outlines the funding model for the various elements of the Transit Network, including the amount of money being provided by the Ontario government. As of Nov. 1, the province has offered $3.7 billion for Regional Express Rail (RER) and $7.84 billion for Light Rail Transit (LRT).

The biggest blow to the transit-funding model is that city council will now be responsible for the day-to-day operations or maintenance of the Finch West, Sheppard East, and Eglinton Crosstown LRTs. These are projects that will be built by the province and Metrolinx; yet, Toronto residents will be on the hook for its maintenance.

Aspects of SmartTrack will be covered under the provincial funding; however, it will not be enough. The federal government has said they will make a contribution — but there has been no firm commitment yet. In the meantime, the city will have to come up with other ways of finding revenue to pay for the project, as well as the maintenance and operations of the network once it is complete. This could mean raising property taxes, something the city has promised not to do.

But, why should Toronto residents pay for all of these transit plans when they benefit the GTHA region in its entirety? Maybe the more economically feasible form of revenue can be found in the use of tolls, something that everyone entering and driving in Toronto can contribute to.

If drivers were asked to pay a toll when using the Don Valley Parkway or the Gardiner Expressway, a lot of these funding problems could be solved. First of all, tolls would encourage more people to use the new transit network, thus freeing up the roads and alleviating the insane gridlock Toronto faces on a daily basis. Second of all, the money collected from these tolls could be funnelled directly into a transit fund — to be used in conjunction with the money collected from fares, ect. — to pay for the daily operations of these projects.

On Tuesday’s meeting, staff will be recommending that city council approve the current funding model and authorize further negotiations and agreements with the province, Metrolinx, and other agencies in order to gain extra funding for SmartTrack.

But, I don’t think Toronto should hold its breath. It’s time to come up with some realistic solutions to the transit-funding problem instead of hoping that other levels of government will bail us out. Embracing tolls is the logical solution — but is there someone brave enough to say it on the council floor?

The city has until Nov. 30 to finalize financial arrangements for SmartTrack to keep the provincial deadline.

Presto fare system not working up to standard

What is the deal with Presto these days?

On three separate occasions, I have gone into subway stations to fill up my Presto card and the machine is either broken or refuses to load my “e-purse”. The machines on buses and streetcars have also been malfunctioning, and an internal audit has confirmed that five to six per cent of machines aren’t working at all times on TTC transit.

Presto is supposed to be running on the entire transit system by the end of 2016, and will eventually replace the metropass and TTC fare tokens. Considering that the machines malfunction so often, it is inconceivable to think that Toronto’s entire TTC system will rely on the Presto fare system. If you think that TTC delays are long now, can you even imagine?

The Ontario government signed a $250 million contract with Accenture and other vendors to develop and operate Presto by the end of 2016. As the operator, these companies must design the software, test it, manufacture, implement, do rollout and support the project for 10 years. It appears that Accenture and the other vendors aren’t living up to its promise considering rollout issues, due to the machines malfunctioning. The project’s glitches and high costs have also been criticized by the Auditor General of Ontario.

When a student or senior tries to get their fare for a lower price on Presto, it is necessary to commute up to Davisville Station to get the specialized rate. This surely prevents seniors with limited mobility from accessing the service and is not user-friendly. When the Presto system was implemented in TTC, more planning and implementation of these issues should have been considered and solved. With the end of 2016 looming, machines not working and not having specialized fare options available at every station shows how poorly the Presto card system is working.

TTC had hoped to implement the Presto fare system instead of tokens or the metropass by sometime in 2017. It has been delayed and a lot of questions remain on how that will happen. How will a pay-asyou go system be implemented without crashing the system? How will single-fare transfers be managed? What will be the daily cap? How will the metropass work as a part of the Presto card? Accenture and other vendors will also have to really step up to the plate and fix a lot of unnecessary issues before anyone believes Toronto commuters can rely on Presto as one of their main transit options.

The idea of integrating the GO transit system and TTC into one fare was a spectacular idea for Toronto and Ontario. It is frusturating that the rollout of the Presto machines has been so disappointing. It will be interesting to see if Accenture and the other vendors can fix the operating issues with the system, and then TTC can move forward with integrating the Presto system into Toronto successfully.

5 must-read books set in Toronto

Toronto is a beautiful city and sets the perfect stage for a novel. From the downtown cityscape to the heritage buildings that seem to emit stories from their very foundations, it is easy to imagine a tale of romance taking place or the plot of a horror story being set in a dark subway tunnel. Many famous authors have used Toronto as the setting of their novels. Here are a few of my favourites.

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

In the Skin of a Lion is by the renowned Canadian-Sri Lankan Michael Ondaatje and is one of the most famous novels set in Toronto. The storyline takes readers back in time to Toronto in the 1930’s and focuses on key themes of that era. The separation of immigrants in Cabbagetown was considered normal at the time, and Ondaatje uses the novel as a way of showing how immigrants are mostly left out of Toronto’s history.

A fictional story develops around R.C Harris, Toronto’s commissioner of Public Works. Harris built several of the city’s most important landmarks, most noticeably the water treatment plant and the Bloor Street Viaduct. In the Skin of a Lion is a story that converges two storylines, between immigrants who built the structures and Harris who commissioned them, leading to a shocking conclusion. Upon moving to Toronto, I read this book and it helped me to understand the true history of this city. Furthermore, Ondaatje captures a sentiment that permeates through Toronto to this day, and it lends a new perspective to living and surviving in the Big Smoke.

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

Cat’s Eye is set in Toronto and follows the life of fictional artist Elaine Risley through her childhood in Toronto to her eventual return to her hometown. The novel begins with Risley riding on a streetcar, or the “the iron lung” as Atwood describes it, with two friends. Risley ends up getting bullied by her friends, and almost freezes to death in a ravine mid-way through the book. The setting of the ravine is a common theme in novels set in Toronto because of the recognizable topography in the city. When the artist returns to the city of her birth, she realizes integral things about her past. Atwood really sets the scene of the non-linear relationship all of us have with life. Cat’s Eye discusses a child’s perspective of growing up in Toronto and paints a special picture of the large metropolitan area.

Headhunter by Timothy Findley

Timothy Finley’s Headhunter is a dystopian novel set in Toronto at a time when a disease called sturusemia has swept through the city. The disease is carried by birds and, as a result, the city decides to kill them off.  The storyline is focused around a schizophrenic librarian named Lilah Kemp and two psychiatrists named Kurtz and Marlow, drawing a parallel with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Mental illness is rampant and Kurtz uses his wealthy patients to his own ends,

The novel is set around Rosedale and the Parkin Psychiatric Institute based on the Clark Institute of Psychiatry located at University of Toronto’s College St. location. Findley’s perspective of Toronto paints a frightening and fascinating picture of downtown Toronto and its surrounding neighbourhoods.

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies begins in a small town near Toronto known as Deptford, Ont. The central character is Dunstan Ramsay and the novel follows his life from small-town Ontario to big-city Toronto. Ramsay stays in contact with friends from his childhood and always plays a supporting role in their lives instead of taking charge of his own — known as the “fifth business”, a term coined by Davies.

After a series of tragedies occurring in WWI and WWII, Ramsay finds his destiny and his own sense of self. This novel discusses wealth and how dangerous it is in the hands of people who don’t deserve it. Davies draws an interesting connection between academia and capitalism, which is relevant to Toronto’s culture even today. Davies is one of the great Toronto writers in the last century and most of his novels bring in Canadian themes. This book is a great read and every Canadian should be familiar with Davies’ works.

Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig

Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig is a relatively new novel, released in 2008. It is a dystopian novel set in the underground subway tunnels as a disease spreads throughout the city. The setting scene describes Toronto as a cold place, with subway tunnels and ravines that “slice around and under the streets, where the rivers, the Don and the Humber and their tributaries, carve into the heart of the city.” The storyline focuses around a group of girls that contract this disease, and the subsequent result of everyone beginning to die. One of the characters also becomes obsessed with capturing the devastation on film, which is quite fitting considering Toronto is the center of Canadian film. This is a great novel to read on the subway and was even nominated as a must-read by the TTC Toronto book club.

Books about Toronto shed light into various themes and imaginings that plague this city. It is a metropolis that creates endless opportunities for settings in novels that embrace the history of the city and its future. Reading all of these novels often makes me think what I would write? Which setting would I use for my Toronto story? In Canada’s largest city, the options seem endless.

What is your favourite novel about Toronto? Let Women’s Post know in our comments below.

Media seems to be one-sided towards TTC and Metrolinx

It often seems that the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Metrolinx are getting roasted by everyone — the local media, twitter, and even people sitting at the dinner table.

Transit services provided in Toronto have a tough time catching a break and their achievements are often buried under the criticisms constantly being launched their way. It is no easy feat providing public transportation for a city of six million people. If you think of the massive population that TTC and Metrolinx serve on a daily basis, it’s a miracle these services get off the ground, let alone get each and every one of us home!

As a member of the media, I am going to temporarily ditch the table of media sharks and take a moment to appreciate the successes of TTC and Metrolinx. I may be burnt at the proverbial stake for professing my love of local transit, but I will bravely stand up and say this: thank you TTC for getting my tired buttocks home after a long day at work!

First off, kudos to the tireless efforts of City of Toronto politicians, the province of Ontario, and both the TTC and Metrolinx boards for the massive transit plans that are being actively adjusted and carried out every day. Toronto may not have the transit it needs right now, but the relief line is on the table and many other transit projects are being pushed forward with diligence. As someone who attended the public consultations on the relief line assessment, the TTC planners of the project were repeatedly roasted by the public and I commend their professionalism and perseverance through this process.

Another joint success of the TTC and Metrolinx is their ability to work together and launch the PRESTO fare integration. Being able to use one form of payment across the Metrolinx and TTC systems has made my commute much easier. It has been difficult to integrate the system in some circumstances, and the TTC drivers have been patient towards customers using PRESTO from the beginning as well.

Another major success was Mayor John Tory’s move to make the TTC free for kids under 12. As a single mom, this has made an incredible difference in my life. I never have to worry about taking my daughter with me on transit and it is such a financial relief. Seeing the City of Toronto support its children first-hand makes me feel as if I am a part of a community.

Lastly, I would like to demonstrate my appreciation for TTC drivers. The amount of flack these employees receive is inconceivable, and I’ve witnessed many acts of kindness from drivers that help people onto the streetcar or take the time to direct an old man to his destination. These are the true heroes of these transit systems. Overall, there are always new subway routes to be built or new trains to be provided, but without the TTC and Metrolinx, I wouldn’t be able to get home. Next time you are reading another hate-piece on transit in Toronto, think on that and maybe TTC and Metrolinx won’t seem so bad after all.

TTC to tackle safety using ‘gender-specific lens’

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) discussed safety at Monday’s board meeting, with a special focus on women.

City Council requested that the TTC “apply a full safety audit using a gender-specific lens…to address safety concerns of women and women with disabilities.” Suggestions included adequate lighting, clear sightline design for stations, more security, and more women employed in the transit process.

The board, however, chose to focus on an app that would allow a TTC rider to take a photo of a person who is harassing or assaulting someone and report it. The hope is that it will draw less attention than pushing the yellow emergency strip and stopping traffic. The app should be ready to launch by the end of the year.

As a woman who takes public transportation at least twice a day — if not more — I understand the type harassment that can take place on an enclosed streetcar or subway car. But, I’m not sure this app is the solution.

As with a lot of Toronto’s safety plans, it puts the onus on bystanders to help out. Bystanders are notorious for…well…being bystanders. There is no guarantee that someone will capture the moment on film, and if that person did take time to take a photo of the harassment, I hope they would also step up and stop it.

The idea is that the app will automatically turn off flash and sound so that those making the report won’t have to worry about drawing attention to themselves. But, with the size of cell phones nowadays, it’s almost impossible to be conspicuous when taking a photograph in a small space. And has anyone thought about the many false accusations that will have to be filtered through to find the legitimate complaints?

I also don’t think that silent reporting is enough — anyone who assaults or harasses another person should be afraid to do it again. They should be worried they won’t get away with it. They should be made to seriously consider their actions. Pushing the yellow emergency strip and forcing them to wait for the authorities is exactly what people should be doing, and encouraging them to do otherwise is just another way to say “don’t worry about it, the authorities will deal with it the situation…maybe.”

If someone is harassing a woman (or a man for that matter), someone should speak up and tell them to get lost. People should rally around victims of assault and let it be known that it’s not okay. Women should also feel comfortable telling the driver of the bus or streetcar about the incident, which means that all drivers, toll operators, and TTC workers should be trained on how to deal with harassment and assault.

It is imperative that future designs of stations, streetcars, and subways take public safety into account — better lighting, a more secure waiting area, and a bigger authority presence after sunset are all integral to the safety of women and women with disabilities. But, let’s not diminish this importance by creating silly apps that allow us to spy and report people to authorities.

Let’s focus on what really matters: making people safe and training staff do handle numerous types of emergency scenarios, including harassment and assault. If you have to make an app, I would rather an app that allows me to reload my PRESTO card on my phone – thank you very much!

Toronto and GTHA integrating fares for easier travel

Have you ever had to commute between the Toronto boundary lines and the GTHA and pay two full fares? The cost of transit quickly adds up and often prevents people from traveling by transit in the region.

Metrolinx and TTC came together for a joint meeting on Wednesday to discuss an integrated fare system to make public transportation more accessible in the region. The meeting will address the fare barrier at the Toronto-905 boundary and present three possible solutions to the issue. The current system is disjointed and can create confusion for some commuters. Having to purchase fares twice is inefficient and can slow down or prevent people from transiting around the GTHA.

The first option is called the Modified Status Quo  and would provide a common transfer rule across the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and the 905 regions. The transfer would be free or have a consistent price determined by the network. The TTC would remain the same, providing transit users with the same cost on the streetcars, buses, subway and LRT. The cost of regional services would be reduced to ensure that the cost principles were fair, but the fare would gradually increase with longer trips. This system would be the easiest to integrate because it wouldn’t involve a lot of changes for the TTC itself. The concern with the first option is that without zones, it is difficult to assess fair costs for various trips across the large GTHA region.

The second concept is based on Local and RT Zones. This option would develop an entirely new fare structure for the region and would add local and regional zones into fares. This regional network would have very specific pricing considering the distance of travel, and would only use one service provider for fare integration.

There would be three types of service under this option; Local transit, which includes streetcars and buses, Rapid Transit (RT), consisting of subways, SRT and LRT, and the Regional GO transit network.  Zones would be approximately seven kilometres and RT would share the same zone boundaries as local transit. Go Transit fares would increase with distance, but all the systems would have a free transfers. The downfall of the system is the expense of commuting from areas in Toronto that are far north to the downtown region. The TTC fare would increase substantially under this system. This option would arguably be a money-maker for TTC and Metrolinx.

The third option is a Hybrid, which is a popular option being used in Amsterdam and Melbourne. This system also uses zones and divides the three types of transit into Local, RT, and Regional. The difference in this approach is that the fare structure is not strictly divided between the local and RT systems. Instead, distance would be the facilitator of differing costs. The cost would be the same on short-distance local and RT trips within the city limits and would increase as the distance grows. The transfers would be free within a set time period as well.

The Hybrid option combines the fare integration system into a united whole and still uses the organized zone structure. It also attempts to lower costs of local trips in the city.

Consultations with the public and the city will occur in May and June.

What if Uber and the TTC worked together?

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) shouldn’t be afraid of ride-sharing services like Uber.

In fact, according to study released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) earlier this month, they should embrace ride-sharing services that allow commuters more options during the hours public transportation is unavailable.

There’s been a lot of talk in Toronto about whether or not Uber is competing against public transportation agencies with the creation of services like UberHOP or UberPool. Last year, the TTC spoke with their lawyers about their monopoly on public transit in the city. They were concerned that UberHOP’s shuttling service was illegal under the City of Toronto Act, which says the only exemptions to this monopoly include rickshaws, pedicabs, taxicabs, vehicles used for providing sightseeing tours, and buses owned and operated by a corporation or organization solely for its own purposes, without charging a fee for transportation, among others.

There has still been no confirmation about whether or not UberHOP is illegal, but they probably shouldn’t be concerned.

The APTA study found that people who use ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft are also more likely to use public transportation. To make this determination, the APTA, which includes Canadian representatives like TTC CEO Andy Byford, surveyed over 4,500 users of ride-sharing services in seven cities.  About 57 per cent of respondents said the bus and train was the mode of transportation they used the most, followed closely by bike-sharing, ride-sharing, and car-sharing.

These “supersharers”—people who use various shared modes of transportation— also own half as many cars per household and spend less on transportation over all. They are also more active. Twenty per cent of respondents said they had postponed buying a car, 22 per cent decided not to purchase one, and 27 per cent sold their vehicle and didn’t replace it.

One of the most valuable conclusions of the study is that ride-sharing and public transportation shouldn’t be considered as competitors. They simply serve different trip types. Ride-sharing, for example, is mostly used for recreation and social services during hours when public transit doesn’t operate; around 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Public transit was still the most common form of transportation for daily use.

Since these services are no longer competitors, the APTA recommends collaboration, especially when it comes to technology and mobile payment.

“Everyone can benefit from a transportation system that provides more mobility options through seamless transfers, integrated fare payment methods, and improved information,” the study reads. “However, such a system is only possible if public sector entities make a concerted effort to ensure that collaboration with private mobility providers results in services that work for people of all ages, incomes and mobility needs.”

Public transit agencies and private operators who were interviewed for the study showed a strong interest in finding ways to harness shared-use models and technology, especially associated with the paratransit service experience. A good example of this type of collaboration is Milton’s Go Connect, a ride-sharing service that allows Go Transit commuters to book rides to the station.

At the end of the day, ride-sharing services and public transportation both aim to do the same things—help citizens get from one area of the city to another. Why not open up to a partnership and focus on customer experience?  Why not invest in technologies that will allow commuters to use their mobile phones to reserve spots on paratransit or to pay for any transportation service.

Why is Toronto fighting this? Whether someone uses a bus, subway, Go Train, or ride-sharing program, that’s one less car on city roads. Shouldn’t that be what Toronto strive for?