Cash-strapped TTC jacks fares

Toronto Sun

By JONATHAN JENKINS, QUEEN’S PARK BUREAU

The TTC is done with nickel-and-diming riders — it’s going for quarters now.

“No one wants to raise fares for transit, but we’ve heard very clearly from other levels of government that they’re constrained, that there’s likely not to be large increases to the commission’s budget,” TTC chairman Adam Giambrone said, moments after the commission approved a 25 cents fare hike, effective in January.

“Obviously there are going to be a lot of people who are going to have trouble coming up with transit fare,” Giambrone said. “No one wants to raise fares at all and we know that for many people in the city it’s very difficult.”

The fare hike will raise the cost of an adult fare to $3 from $2.75, with the price of tokens rising to $2.50 from $2.25.

$5 OFF

Monthly Metropasses are also going up to $121 from $109, although a motion from Giambrone shaved $5 off the hike proposed by TTC staff.

The one concession to hapless strap hangers-on using the overcrowded system was a nominal $3 million in service improvements and the extension of student discounts to commuters in college and university, starting in September 2010.

Previously, only high school students and seniors received a lower rate.

Now anyone enrolled in a degree or diploma program, regardless of their age or course load gets a break on price.

“They’re the people we’re trying to attract onto transit because we know if we can keep people around in their early 20s, they’ll become lifetime riders,” Giambrone said.

Before the vote, a steady stream of student reps from local post-secondary institutions paraded before the commissioner, pitching just such an exemption.

“Students have had enough and they can’t stomach another fare hike,” said Hamid Osman, a spokesman for the Canadian Federation of Students.

TTC staff originally proposed a slate of fare hikes that would have contributed $62 million toward an operating budget deficit of $100 million, but the package the commission approved pared that down to $50 million.

NO SERVICE CUTS

Giambrone and TTC general manager Gary Webster said service cuts are not on the table and the remaining shortfall will have to be squeezed out of city hall and higher levels of government.

“Quite frankly there are some very tough decisions for all levels of government and those decisions will determine what the future of transit is in this city,” Giambrone said.

Premier Dalton McGuinty, strapped with a $25-billion deficit, and the federal government, which faces a $56-billion shortfall, will be hard pressed to come up with extra cash for the TTC, which gets less support from government than any other big-city transit system in North America, according to numbers the commission compiled from 2007.

And even if they do, Webster said riders will likely still face annual fare increases, albeit more modest ones.

“We need to have a multi-year strategy so we know what modest regular increases in fares are going to get us in terms of revenue, we need to know how much subsidy we’re going to get and that will tell us what kind of service we can actually afford,” he said.

“Without, that we’re going to lurch from year to year and every couple of years we’re going to come back talking about another 25 cents,” Webster said.

“Nobody wants that.”

Fares were frozen for the past two years and the poorest in the city will be hurt the most with that ending, said John Clarke, of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

“It will increase suffering, it will increase hardship,” Clarke said.

“Public transit is, for poor people, a necessity,” he said.

FARES FAIR?

TTC UNVEILS NEW FARE HIKES

The Red Rocket needs some cash to fill a $100-million operating budget deficit. Half of that money is expected to come from fare hikes approved yesterday by the TTC.

– Adult fares rises to $3 from $2.75 and tokens goes to $2.50 from $2.25, starting Jan. 3.

– A monthly Metropass will now cost $121, up from $109.

– The student and senior Metropass will cost $99 and the Metropass Discount Plan will be $89 a month for a 12-month subscription.

– College and university students get a price break for the first time, as student pricing will be extended to anyone in a degree or diploma program starting September 2010.

 

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