by Don Peat
Start hoarding your tokens, again.
Just 13 months after a massive 25-cent fare hike took effect, the TTC is proposing to hit Torontonians with a 10-cent hike starting Feb. 1, despite Mayor Rob Ford and TTC chairman Karen Stintz vowing to derail it.
Ford lamented the hike — estimated to raise $24 million for the transit service — while lauding the city staff for coming through with his property tax freeze.
TTC commissioners will meet Wednesday to discuss the proposed hike as well as reducing hours on 48 bus routes for $7-million saving.
“I did not want to agree to this,” Ford told reporters Monday. “I am not happy about this. In fact, my staff has been working night and day, through the weekend to find another option.”
The mayor also vowed he wants to see measurable improvement in the TTC’s customer service by Sept. 1.
“No matter what happens, folks, I’ve made it quite clear, the TTC must improve station cleanliness and customer service,” Ford said.
The cash fare would not change but tokens would cost $2.60 instead of $2.50. Weekly passes, Metropasses, day passes and post-secondary Metropasses would all see an increase. Child fares would remain the same.
TTC chairman Karen Stintz said she does not want a fare hike.
“I would go so far as to say that nobody in this city wants a 10-cent fare increase if we can find a way to avoid it,” Stintz said. “That is our work over the next few days and I take that work very seriously.”
Increased ridership were forcing costs up, she said. She stressed the TTC has already found some internal efficiencies.
“We were given a direction that the city subsidy would be stable and in light of that, and with growing ridership, we needed to find a way to close the gap,” she said.
While hours will be adjusted on 48 “underperforming” routes that have no more than 12 passengers boarding in an hour, Stintz stressed “nobody will be losing a route.”
Councillor Paula Fletcher said she never would have supported cutting the personal vehicle tax if she knew a fare hike was going to be proposed a month later.
“It’s respect for taxpayers who own cars,” she said. “Eliminating hours on 48 bus routes is actually a major service cut.”
TTC chief general manager Gary Webster said it costs $3 to put each additional customer on the TTC.
“We only get through our average fares, less than $2,” Webster said. “If our ridership was to go up 10 million rides year over year, the average impact on the TTC is going to be an increase in our costs of $10 million.”
“As much as increased ridership is exactly what the city is challenged to do and challenged us to do to get people out of their cars because we’re not building, according to the official plan, any more roads in the city, ridership growth is a good thing but it costs us money,” he said.
Former budget chief Shelley Carroll said the last 25-cent fare hike led to the TTC’s booming surplus and she’s not willing to vote for another increase.
“I think they will find the community is loath to accept that they need another dime at this point in time,” Carroll said.
Councillor Josh Matlow calculated the proposed $5 increase on the cost of a monthly Metropass works out to exactly $60 — the annual cost of the now scrapped car tax.
“How could we possibly withdraw a vehicle tax, which I never agreed with, but then put the onus of paying the city’s finances on TTC riders?” Matlow said. “It’s the wrong shift. That’s just fundamentally wrong. It sends the wrong message to everybody in Toronto.”
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