Let me reintroduce myself.
While I have been fixated on transit governance, I always had a social justice tinge in me. My senior paper during university focused on spatial mismatch and reverse commuting which was mainly based on personal reasons. My rationale stemmed of my childhood spent in “The Jungle” better known as Lawrence Heights and later on at Bathurst and Lawrence where my family never owned a car and I obtained my driver’s licence at 30 years old. While we lived within proximity of Yorkdale Station and 2 branches of the 109 Ranee, options were still limited to nothing outside of the subway line.
Suburbia was always foreign land to me even though I spent time with friends in Vaughan and Brampton. On those occasions that I would travel to points north and west, I would either be among or witness those travelling to their industrial locations. A mix of people of colour and older Europeans. I was fixated more on the people of colour. Hence my fixation to understand the racial component of spatial mismatch.
Much of my research at the time was centred around Los Angeles, which became my home for 2 years. While I resided there, I witnessed the racial disparities between transit riders and modes. I couldn’t fathom why so many African-Americans and Latin Americans were on the bus while rail had predominantly white passengers. The exception was the Blue Line.
All of my experiences precipitated the Regional Transit Summit. While I did not have a panel discussion on the social component within the agenda, this may have been because of my unconscious bias and privilege as a black person with white European roots.
Fast forward to 2018, 10 years after my departure from Los Angeles and I have been fixated on my time there. While my career encompassed transit planning and housing policy. I went through personal tragedy. Something still bothered me but I still had a burning desire. Something was missing. I just didn’t know how to express it.
It brought me back to my childhood and formative years living in Metro Toronto and the newish Megacity. I wanted to find a way to give back. I became visibly frustrated and impatient.
Throughout my career, while I am grateful for what I accomplished, it still is challenging to incorporate a social justice lens to transit planning because of the nature of the industry – siloed, technical and very few people of colour in leadership positions.
Whether it is innovations in transportation, regionalization or housing opportunities, there is room to understand social justice within the intersection of equity. It is about the diversity of lived experiences and bringing those people to the table to make policy decisions better.
I am now focused on moving forward as I embark on this re-envisioned journey. I have ambitions and dreams. I want to listen to your stories and to understand your lived experiences so that we can make our workplaces and professions more diverse and inclusive.
I know my mother is surely looking down on me from above.