Saturday, November 14, 2009

Transport: Un-Canadian TTC

TORONTO, ONTARIO - The Toronto Transit Commission has not even officially decided to raise fares yet. It may at a meeting on Tuesday. However, on 4-November-2009, after rumours had been swirling for some time, the TTC made the highly un-orthodox move of issuing a press release that it was going to recommend a fare increase of about 10%. Furthermore, the press release announced an intention to increase the "multiple" for pass prices from 48 rides to 50 rides, making the price of a standard adult "Metropass" over $125.

The need for a fare increase, while pathetic if viewed from the perspective of where the TTC's funding comes from (a topic for another day), is not widely questioned. In current economic times, the options are basically to reduce service or raise fares, and on that point the TTC staff are probably correct that the public would prefer a fare increase to the rollback of service improvements.

However, the TTC's actions since reaching that conclusion are at best sloppy and at worst inexcusable. By announcing their fare increase proposal in a press release, they made it seem like a sure thing and created a run on tokens, which currently cost $2.25 when purchased in bulk. As a result, it is now impossible to buy tokens (no station I've visited in the past four days has had any), which means that all non-pass holders must pay the full $2.75 cash fare. That's more than multiple-ride users will be paying ($2.50) once the fare increase goes into effect. In fact, that's an immediate double fare increase, when no fare increase has even been approved. And who uses tokens? Mostly the poor, who cannot afford the major cash outlay or a Metropass each month, or who do not take 48 rides to justify such a purchase. In other words, the TTC has decided to take out its financial frustrations on those who can least afford it.

While a fare increase is likely, some of the details may not actually play out as the staff recommended. TTC Chairman Adam Giambrone has already gone on record as saying that he does not wish to increase the "multiple" on a Metropass, which is already higher than those on most North American systems (in Boston, for example, the multiple is about 35 or lower, depending on how it is computed). As transit activist Steve Munro has repeatedly pointed out, penalizing the system's best customers, the pass holders, is counter-productive on several levels.

Frankly, in a country more concerned with equality and the environment (by its citizens, if not its government) than most, it is un-Canadian of the TTC to take advantage of the poor and penalize its most active customers. I'm not usually one to call for firings at public agencies, but it is clear that at least someone on the TTC staff doesn't understand the transit agency's mission, and needs to be replaced for what has happened in recent weeks.

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