I recently stumbled on a map I made last year that plots present and proposed transit lines against population density. Density shown at the level of the city block using information from the 2011 Census.
Higher-density areas — those where the density is above 50 people per hectare — are shown in pink. Lower-density areas are shown in blue. Very low-density areas, which are typically employment lands and utility corridors, are white or grey. The threshold of 50 people per hectare is considered by some to be the minimum threshold for the provision of frequent-service transit.
What the map shows, I think, is that the case for surface LRT over subways is strong along the corridors proposed by Metrolinx and the TTC. The proposed LRT lines along Eglinton West and East and Finch would largely run through lower-density areas. Much of the existing subway system runs through broad areas of high density corresponding to the prewar city. The underground central portion of the Eglinton Crosstown line also runs through this zone.
While some corridors and transit station areas (but not the broader residential areas that would feed into them) have been intensified over the past 20 years — the North York City Centre area, the Sheppard corridor east of Yonge, and the Kipling/Islington Station areas — I’m not convinced that this can be replicated, at least anytime soon, in the blue zones where Mayor Ford wants to run subways.
Through a chance encounter with City of Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean I gained access to ward-level statistics on where complaints to her office originate. I had the suspicion that, much like voter turnout and election campaign donations, the parts of the city where more immigrants and economically disadvantaged people live would be less likely to use the formal mechanisms through which residents can complain about how they have been treated by the City.
Where does the money come from?
Running in a City of Toronto election is expensive — so expensive that only the very well resourced can do it, either because they can access partisan fundraising machines at the provincial and federal levels, or because they can self-finance their campaigns.
But where does this money come from?
Why does turnout vary across space?
I argue that at least some of this variation is due to demographic and socio-economic differences.
The maps on the left show wards with below-average turnout. (The above-average ones are not shown.) On the right I have mapped census tracts in which there is:
- a majority population of first-generation immigrant residents;
- a majority population of visible minority residents, which typically corresponds with more recent immigration; and
- below-average median household income. (These are census tracts in which the average income of all households in the tract is less than the citywide average.)
Last week I was invited to speak on a panel with Dave Meslin on civic engagement in Toronto. I thought it might be interesting to revisit the geography of turnout — how some parts of the city seem more included to vote than others, election after election. I had earlier looked at this in the context of the 2010 election. Using City of Toronto Elections data, I made ward-level maps of turnout for the 2003, 2006, and 2010 elections.