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TTC fares heading north

Commission says police budget woes, province to blame

Joseph Hall

VALUABLE: Tokens will go up 10 cents a ride, to $1.80, and cash fares go from $2 to $2.25.

TTC fares are set to soar with the summer temperatures as the transit system prepares to charge passengers up to 25 cents more a ride come June.

Blaming provincial downloading and a bloated Toronto police budget, TTC commissioners voted yesterday to raise fares across the board - with people who pay cash taking the biggest hit.

Adult tokens will go up 10 cents a ride to $1.80, the monthly Metropass will rise from $88.50 to $93.50, and senior and student tickets will jump from $1.13 to $1.20.

Riders who are content to drop cash into the fare box will have to cough up another 25 cents - for a total $2.25 - every time they board a system subway, bus or streetcar.

“No one likes to do this, obviously, but this just allows us to hang on to the edge of the toilet bowl by our fingertips,” Toronto Transit Commission chair Brian Ashton said.

“And if we are forced to take any more financial hits, they might as well just pull the plunger and flush us down.”

Ashton tossed the blame for the fare hikes directly at the provincial government, saying it reneged on a long-standing commitment to help fund Ontario’s public transit systems.

For 40 years the province had paid 75 per cent of the TTC’s capital costs and some 20 per cent of its operating budget, he said.

“Let’s be very clear on this: This is a strong message that this is the last stand,” said Ashton, councillor for Ward 36 (Scarborough Southwest).

“If we don’t get some help in the future, we’ll just enter a period of decline and all we’ll be able to do is try to manage that decline.”

Senior TTC staff say the increased fares will do little more than get the system through the next nine months.

TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme said the new fares, which will bring in about $28 million a year, provide only a stop-gap funding source that will allow the system to stave off decisions on significant service cuts until January.

“This does not guarantee there will be no service cuts next year and it doesn’t guarantee there will be no fare increase next year,” Ducharme said.

He said the TTC would still have to cut about $8 million worth of services next year and would still be faced with increased labour costs that could lead to further fare hikes.

TTC commissioner David Miller said the fare increases were made necessary by the city’s refusal to honour a promise made two years ago to fund at least 20 per cent of the system’s operating budget.

That promise, which would still have generated the lowest government subsidy level received by any North American transit system, would have seen the city give the TTC $167 million this year to cover operating shortfalls, said Miller, councillor for Ward 13 (Parkdale-High Park).

Instead, the city’s powerful budget advisory committee recommended last month that the TTC’s funding be set at $147 million - a mere $3 million increase over 2000 levels.

“That (extra) money was available, but instead the committee caved in to the police demands to increase their budget,” said Miller, whose motion to exempt Metropass holders and students from a fare increase was defeated by his commission colleagues.

The budget committee agreed to recommend a $16.7 million increase to the police budget this year.

Miller said the police budgetary demands were based on the force’s inability to control its overtime expenses, a problem the TTC had tackled and overcome years ago.

Gord Perks, of the transit advocacy group Rocket Riders, warned that two fare hikes in a row could lead to a repeat of massive ridership losses the TTC faced in the early 1990s.

“The last time the TTC brought in fare increases two years in a row going into a recession, the system lost 60 million riders,” Perks said.

“And that put them into a downward spiral that we’re not even back out of yet… . We will lose tens of millions of riders from public transit if, as they say, there’s another fare increase next year.”

Meanwhile, the commission voted to delay any decision on a controversial proposal to create a streetcar transitway on King St. until public consultations take place.