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Mayor asks TTC to freeze fares for 2009


December 11, 2008

Mayor David Miller has asked the Toronto Transit Commission to freeze public transit fares next year as the city braces for an economic slump.

“We need to make sure TTC riders … have a break,” Mr. Miller told a news conference before city council’s daylong debate on its $1.6-billion capital budget. “It’s an appropriate time not to raise fares, certainly this winter.”

Mr. Miller said he spoke with Adam Giambrone, the city councillor who chairs the nine-member commission, and asked him to “do everything in his power to be able to recommend a fare freeze.”

Mr. Giambrone said the move was necessary to alleviate anxiety over the worsening economy, but would likely force the review of a plan to make all buses on the system run a maximum of 20 minutes apart next year.

The proposed fare freeze - after increases in the past two years - contrasts with news out of U.S. cities. In New York, a financial crisis has gripped the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and passengers could face fare rises of anywhere from 8 per cent to 23 per cent or more, along with the shutdown of two subway lines.

The TTC, which has been expanding service, estimated last month that it needed an extra $87-million in 2009 to balance its approximately $1.2-billion operating budget, due to rising wage and fuel costs. The current number is likely closer to $75-million, officials say, due to a less-than-anticipated rise in diesel costs. A 10-cent fare increase would have brought in about $20-million in revenue.

Senior TTC officials had been preparing to recommend a fare increase this year. TTC chief general manager Gary Webster said balancing the budget now will mean either increasing the city’s $282.6-million subsidy, cutting costs, or both.

TTC fares are now $2.25 for an adult token, or $2.75 cash.