– TTC proposes fare hike

ED. TTC is so successful it has consistently enjoyed over 70% usage rates among the population – as compared to Vancouver’s 13%. The reason: better management and a provincial government not predisposed to catering to the auto industry.

Globe and Mail – Toronto

Jennifer Lewington, Toronto City Hall bureau chief

TTC considers a $126 monthly pass, $3 one-time fare

Toronto transit riders will have to dig a little deeper as of Jan. 3, under a proposed fare hike that includes an extra 25 cents for a token.

The proposal, unveiled yesterday, is the first across-the-board increase since the early 1990s and comes as the Toronto Transit Commission strains to close a yawning shortfall of $100-million in its operating budget next year.

If adopted Nov. 17 by the TTC, which needs six weeks lead time to raise fares, the increase will generate $62-million in new revenue to offset rising labour and fuel costs.

“Riders are going to have to pay more to maintain the level of service we currently have,” said TTC chairman Adam Giambrone, adding that he and other commissioners prefer a fare hike over cuts to a system that carries 471 million people a year.

A spokesman for Mayor David Miller, who ruled out a fare hike this year because of the recession, said the mayor will not stand in the way of an increase in 2010. However, the mayor hopes to limit a proposed increase in the price of a monthly Metropass, set to rise to $126 for 50 trips from $109 for 48 trips spokesman Stuart Green said.

That’s also the view of Mr. Giambrone, who wants to moderate increases for Metropass users and students, whose Metropass is proposed to rise to $104 a month from $91.25.

The TTC last raised fares in 2007, with a 15-cent increase in the price of a token.

TTC commissioner Joe Mihevc says the transit system is a victim of its own success, with 2009 a record year for ridership despite the recession.

“It’s a difficult thing,” he said of the proposed hike. “We would only do this as a last resort.”

The final package of fares will be hammered out at the TTC meeting later this month. In the meantime, Mr. Giambrone said he and other commissioners will lobby budget officials to boost the city’s annual TTC subsidy of $394-million.

But with the city facing its own budget woes in 2010, and the province squeezed by a $24-billion deficit, no one is holding out much hope of a cash injection.

The fare-hike decision rests with the TTC, but other city councillors expressed concern about the move.

“It’s understandable in the [fiscal] climate but rarely makes sense to raise TTC fares,” said Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina). “Senior levels of government have a responsibility in this area.”

Over the past four years, the province has provided annual sums to support the TTC operating budget, without ever pledging to a permanent share of funding. In the late 1990s, a previous Conservative government ended the practice of paying for 50 per cent of the TTC operating budget.

Councillor Doug Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre) unsuccessfully called for a small increase last year to keep pace with rising costs.

“This year they are trying to plug the gap,” he said. “It is really too little, too late,” he added, arguing that a 50-cent hike more accurately reflects what the TTC needs to balance its books.

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