Nicole Foth

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

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


transit accessibility, social disadvantage, Toronto, access to jobs, transit equity, mode choice


This project is presented in two parts as independent, yet related, articles. Part 1 is "Towards equitable transit: Examining transit accessibility and social need in Toronto, Canada, 1996-2006". It focuses on how Toronto's transit system serves various socio-demographic groups over time. 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. The methodology develops a social indicator based on census tract level socio-economic characteristics. This indicator measures the relationship between social disadvantage and accessibility to jobs, as well as transit travel time, in the Toronto region over time. Transit equity is examined at three levels: spatially, temporally, and by job type. Findings show that 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. The conclusion is 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. Part 2 investigates the influence of job type on commuting in more detail. Part 2 is entitled “Does your job matter? How a changing transport system affects transit mode share among different occupations in Toronto, Canada". Most mode choice studies aggregate job types when determining commuting travel behaviour, which masks differences in mode choice decisions for different job categories. This study seeks to explain how transit mode share varies by job type, and to assess whether explanatory variables change over time. Using linear regression analysis, Part 2 explores the influence of job accessibility, transport infrastructure, and social disadvantage on transit mode share for three job categories over time in Toronto, Canada, from 1996 to 2006. We find that the aggregate all jobs model dilutes some significant differences between the transit mode choices of job categories, such as for the influence of subway station proximity and accessibility by transit to skills-matched job categories. Further, changes in transit infrastructure over time show that new transit infrastructure does not necessarily attract more transit commuters and it affects job categories differently. Yet, new highway infrastructure hampers transit mode share, regardless of job type. Finally, accessibility by transit increases transit mode share, while more socially disadvantaged areas are more likely to commute by transit in any job category. The conclusion is that job categories should be included in mode share policy and research because aggregating job types diffuses important differences in commuting patterns, and trends over time. These considerations are important for land use and transportation planners trying to boost regional transit ridership and attain social equity goals.