10/15/2014 05:10 EDT | Updated 12/15/2014 05:59 EST

Vote Compass shows Torontonians divided on transit plans

CBC's Vote Compass results so far show Torontonians are deeply divided on how the city's next mayor should tackle transit, which is often cited as the No. 1 issue in the pending election.

"Transit far and away exceeds any other issues," says Clifton van der Linden, the founder and director of Vox Pop Labs, an independent, non-partisan group of social researchers and data scientists that developed Vote Compass.

Vote Compass helps voters see how their views stack up to the positions of candidates vying for Toronto's top job.

So far, nearly 42,000 people have answered a series of questions on the Vote Compass site on issues like taxes, transit, and law and order.

When it comes to transit, Torontonians are divided on whether they prefer subways or light-rail lines. About 47 per cent of respondents disagreed with building subways over LRTs, while 43 per cent preferred subways first, according to Vote Compass results so far.

The three top mayoral candidates have presented vastly different transit plans.

Olivia Chow wants to build an LRT system in Scarborough and to make a downtown relief line a high priority. She also wants to improve bus services.

John Tory is basing his campaign on building a four-stop subway in Scarborough and using existing GO railways to create commuter trains.

Doug Ford is promising to build lots of subways, with plans for Scarborough, Sheppard and Finch extensions. He wants to phase out streetcars.

Not just subways vs. LRTs

But it's not clear to everyone that the city needs more of one or the other.

Murtaza Haider, the associate dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management, counts urban infrastructure development and transport among his research interests.

He says the city has to look at its existing system and make adjustments to ensure all subway lines operate at full capacity.

"Are we carrying 40,000 passengers per hour during rush hour? And the answer is no," he says. "So build that system to its design capacity so that we can get those extra passengers moving."

To him, it's not clear that any of the candidates are presenting the most effective transit system. He says those come from city planning experts.

"There's nothing in CVs of John Tory or Olivia Chow or Doug Ford that shows that they understand the very basics of public transit planning or construction."

You can take part in the Vote Compass here.