Towards equitable transit: examining transit accessibility and social need in Toronto, Canada, 1996–2006

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, policy - equity, policy - social exclusion


Accessibility, Equity, Travel time, Transit infrastructure


The location of transit infrastructure distributes publicly-funded benefits to residents throughout a region. However, these benefits are not always distributed equally among different population groups. This research seeks to determine whether the benefits of Toronto’s public transit system are equitably distributed, and how these benefits change from 1996 to 2006 after the implementation of several transit projects in the region. We develop a methodology using a social indicator based on census tract level socio-economic characteristics to measure the relationship between social disadvantage and accessibility to jobs and transit travel time in the Toronto region over time. Transit equity is examined at three levels: spatially, temporally, and by job type. We find the range in accessibility and transit travel time narrows over the 10 year period. In addition, the most socially disadvantaged census tracts have statistically significantly better accessibility and lower transit travel times relative to the rest of the region in both 1996 and in 2006. Our findings show that Toronto has a generally equitable transit system that benefits those in social need, who are likely to gain the most from transit. The methodology proposed presents a useful way to bring issues of social equity directly into the land use and transportation planning process.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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