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TTC fare hike looms next year

By Paul Moloney
Toronto Star City Hall Bureau
Friday September 18, 1998

Transit fares are likely to go up next year, the Toronto Transit Commission warns.

It would be the first increase since 1996.

The TTC faces paying higher wages to its employees, and expects higher bills to run low-floor buses and buy American-made parts that cost more due to the falling Canadian dollar, chief general manager David Gunn said yesterday.

“If you ask me: do I think there’ll be a fare increase? Yeah, I think there’ll be a fare increase. The odds are in favour of it,” Gunn told reporters.

Gunn wouldn’t estimate the size of the increase, but provided these details:

  • It will cost $6.6 million more to operate the expanding fleet of low-floor buses and buy parts. If wages rose 1 per cent, that would add $5.5 million annually to operations.
  • A 10-cent fare hike, to $1.70 a token, would bring in an extra $16 million. The last time the cost of tokens went up was 1996, when the price jumped 10 cents to $1.60 each when you buy multiples of five.
  • Another scenario would be to scrap the break given to seniors and students - who pay $1.07 per ride - and hike their fares to $1.60. That move would raise $15 million.

Gunn said hitting students and seniors would cause a lower ridership loss than hiking regular fares by a dime, which would cut ridership by up to 5 million trips annually.

In 1996, the price of a monthly Metropass increased $5 to $83. That year, tickets for seniors and students increased to $10.70 for 10, up $3.20; cash fares rose to $1.35; and both the senior and student Metropasses rose to $73, up $22 for seniors and $14.50 for students. The adult cash fare jumped from $1.30 to $2 in 1992.

“The full-fare paying passenger has an option, they can walk away from transit,” Gunn said. “If you try to squeeze too much out of them, they walk.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot to push the ridership into steep decline - that’s all I’m saying - and that is ultimately self-defeating.”

Gunn said transit workers haven’t had a raise in six years, other than a 1 per cent hike that took effect this month, and will be seeking more in their new contract next spring.

“We understand that,” Gunn said. “We know there has to be some give on our part.”

City councillors have the power to prevent a fare hike, Gunn said.

The TTC is budgeting to receive a taxpayer subsidy of $149 million next year but council could vote to increase the amount, he said.

Two stations on Sheppard line might be scrapped

And politicians could authorize the TTC to scrap marginal bus routes, saving $7 million, he added.

Council also must grapple with up to $58 million in cost overruns on the Sheppard subway project. About $875 million has been budgeted but the project threatens to cost $933 million, and the extra money has not been allocated.

Gunn said if council doesn’t come up with the cash, he’ll have to scrap stations at Bayview Ave. and Bessarion Rd., leaving a 6.4-kilometre line with only three stops, at Yonge St., Leslie St. and Don Mills Rd.

“It would be a real fast ride to Don Mills Rd.,” Gunn said. “But if we’ve got as much sunk into that thing as we have, then I think we should build it out.”

TTC chair and Councillor Howard Moscoe said he will fight to save Bayview station, but Bessarion may well have to be sacrificed.

Moscoe said a three-station line isn’t sensible.

“We could rename it the Fairview Mall line,” he quipped, referring to the shopping centre at Sheppard and Don Mills.

Moscoe agreed with Gunn that a fare hike may be the only way out of the TTC’s fiscal bind.

But Moscoe said he first wants to consider ways the TTC might be able to pare its $720-million operating budget. He suggested one move would be to scrap special constables to save $5 million.

Next Wednesday, Gunn is to provide a budget briefing for the seven city councillors who sit on the commission.