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TTC ponders 40-cent fare hike

More cash needed from governments

Ridership drop, gridlock feared

The Toronto Transit Commission could be charging 40 cents more per ride by the spring, chief general manager Rick Ducharme says.

A fare hike of that size could touch off a huge drop in ridership, paralleling that of 1992, when fares went from $1.07 to $1.30 and the system lost 20 million rides annually.

“This is a real crisis,” Councillor Brian Ashton, a TTC commissioner, said yesterday.

A memo written by Ducharme and obtained by The Star said bulk fares could rise to $2.20 from the current $1.80 by May or June unless the city and provincial governments come to the rescue.

The transit system faces a $78 million shortfall in 2003, due to rising wages and other costs. Management has offered to absorb $21 million and raise $22 million through a 10-cent fare hike and parking rate increase in January. That leaves a $35 million hole, and the commission wants the city to cover $27 million of that, and the province $8 million. But what if the money doesn’t come through?

“The commission would then be dealing with a possible additional fare increase of 25-30 cents implemented in May/June 2003,” Ducharme said in the memo.

That kind of increase could result in up to 16 million fewer rides, the memo says, dropping total annual ridership to 396 million rides.

“It’s a horrifying prospect,” said Gord Perks of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. “This would be the largest one-year fare increase in TTC history.”

Perks said the TTC has already been hurt by the fact ridership isn’t growing in pace with the economy. “Adding a double fare increase on top of that could be the straw that broke the TTC’s back,” he said.

Councillor David Miller, a TTC commissioner, said the ridership loss would only worsen traffic congestion.

“If we lose that many riders, the whole city has problems, including car drivers,” Miller said.

The city gave $152 million in operating subsidies to the TTC this year, which covered about 20 per cent of its operating costs, with 80 per cent of costs coming from fares. Next year, the TTC needs an extra $27 million from city council to maintain the 20 per cent subsidy.

But there’s no guarantee city council will approve it, prompting Ducharme to investigate what happens if it doesn’t.

The $8 million requested from the province is to offset initial losses of the Sheppard subway line, which opens Nov. 24