Mayor John Tory breaks a campaign promise – surprise, surprise!

One month ago on 2 February, the TTC Board unanimously voted to approve an operating budget that adds $95.3 million of service improvements and increases the price of metropasses and tickets, a move instated this past Sunday 1 March. They also decided to allow children twelve and under to ride for free.

This decision will add more services, such as express buses and Blue Night buses, and reinstate some of the service cut in 2012. Two more subways will be available during rush hour on the Yonge and Bloor (yellow and green) lines, fifty new buses will be purchased to replace older ones, and more fare enforcement officers will be employed to be used on streetcars, where passengers may now enter from the rear doors.

While the service improvements are great, I question why the TTC is raising fares for those who need it most – its loyal daily transit riders.

As a regular commuter, and especially as a student, this fare increase makes public transit much less affordable. The move to only increase the price of ticket and metropass fares directly punishes those most loyal to public transit, and I foresee several problems that will come with this change.

First off, what’s changed?

Student/senior ticket prices increased by 10 cents, from $1.85 to $1.95 per ride. The student Metropass, the unlimited monthly pass, increased $4, from $108 to $112. Cash fare stays the same at $2.

Adult token prices increased by 10 cents, from $2.70 to $2.80 per ride. Adult Metropasses increased from $133.75 to $141.50. Cash fare stays the same at $3.

Now let’s do some math. Consider the average month to have twenty school days.

As a student commuter (in secondary school) who takes the bus twice a day, I would need to use the bus forty times a month, coming to $78 a month, versus $80 in cash fare. $2 a month difference? This is practically no incentive for students or their parents to buy tickets. I’d much rather pay in cash than risk losing a ticket that falls out of my pocket. And since a secondary student Metropass is $34 more expensive than tickets, a student would need to ride the TTC sixteen more times in the evenings or on the weekends to make up the difference. Even if you take into account the 15% tax credit, the Metropass is $17.20 pricier than tickets; you’d have to take the bus or subway nine more times.

Selling the same student Metropasses to both secondary and post-secondary students also makes little sense. Secondary and post-secondary students pay different cash fares (post-secondary students pay as adults), but the same Metropass fee applies to both groups. This is why so few high school students use a Metropass–it’s just not worth it.

One of the biggest things that irks me about the fare changes is the motion to give free rides to children twelve and under. This was estimated to cost the TTC $7 million a year. John Tory claims this will “provide real relief for families.” Schools will also have an easier time using transit for field trips. However, this involves a whole host of new problems.

Any child that is twelve and under needs no identification to prove their age. It is up to the bus driver’s discretion when they doubt a rider’s age, but I don’t see how they can enforce this. A fun-sized fifteen-year-old may still look under twelve, and it’s not unheard of for twelve-year-olds to be as tall as a small adult. The honour system is the only way this will work, but why would anyone want to pay more when they turn thirteen years of age? What if the bus driver stops some kids who are actually twelve and under, believing them to be older? They won’t have any way to prove their age (unless they get a TTC Proof-of-Age Card, but not every tall student may get one from their school). If they are not let onto the bus, they will just have to wait for the next one, increasing their travel time. This is a problematic and inefficient system.

If one group of citizens truly deserves a break, it’s the elderly. The York Region Transit offers senior monthly passes for less than half the cost of an adult pass. In Ottawa, seniors (those 65 years of age or older) ride free on Wednesdays. In Calgary, senior passes are $95 per year with unlimited access to Calgary Transit services; they even offer a Low Income Monthly Pass that costs just $44 per month. In Toronto? Sorry, seniors pay the same ridiculous price as students. Furthermore, no programs exist to help low income individuals and families.

The TTC has not increased cash fares since 2010, and I do not understand why. Although it’s nice that they are at an even $2 or $3, if the TTC really needs to increase revenue, cash fares must go up. In the coming years, a hike in cash fares is inevitable anyway (the student tickets are only five cents cheaper, they really can’t go up any more). In the Greater Toronto Area, Toronto daily commuters pay the most for their monthly passes but the least cash fare. This is great for tourists and occasional riders, but why are the loyal customers the ones who are punished? Regular transit users help reduce congestion on roads and leave a smaller environmental footprint. Thanks for caring, TTC.

Below is a list of fares in other parts of the GTA compared to those of the TTC:

  • TTC: Cash fare $3, monthly pass $141.50
  • Brampton Transit: Cash fare $3.75, monthly pass $118
  • York Region Transit: Cash fare $4, monthly pass $132
  • Durham Region Transit: Cash fare $3.25, monthly pass $106

Increasing the cash fare would generate a greater income for the TTC while increasing Metropass sales among people who currently only use transit to get to and from work or school .

The TTC is actually the least subsidized transit system in North America. In 2014, the city’s subsidy accounted for $0.78 per ride. If the government invested more into improving the infrastructure of our public transit (and much faster, please!), it would solve so many of our emissions and congestion problems. Long term, this brings great benefits to the city–we just need our politicians to see this too.

This is how Toronto compares to other transit agencies:

  • Toronto: $0.78
  • Montreal: $1.16
  • Vancouver: $1.62
  • Chicago: $1.68
  • New York City: $1.03
  • Mississauga: $2.21

Public transit truly makes or breaks a city, and it’s especially important in a city as big as Toronto. The TTC is an archaic system greatly in need of improvement. If we are to catch up to other major cities, the TTC board and city council need to step up their game.

Photo: Jackie Ho

Photo: Jackie Ho


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