Just over an hour ago, the TTC concluded its meeting to discuss and vote on measures to deal with its budget shortfall. Based in part on the results of its survey––which, in spite of widespread distribution, received only 17,000 responses––the Commission members voted unanimously in favour of raising fares over cutting service.
With the exception of the new jump in Metropass prices, the cost increases per fare are relatively modest and around what most were expecting. For adults, ticket or token costs will rise 15¢ to $2.25, Metropasses will rise to $109 a month or $102 on the Metropass Discount Plan, and the weekly pass will rise to $32.25. For seniors and students, the ticket price will rise 10¢ to $1.50, the Metropass will rise to $92.75. The Metropass Discount Plan price will rise to $85.00, with the weekly pass rising to $25.50. For children, the cost of a ticket will rise three cents to $0.50. The cost of paying for individual fares will remain fixed at their current prices across the board, and the U-Pass––the Metropass for university students that will be rolled out eventually––will stay frozen at $60 a month. The TTC determined that fare increases are a superior option to cutting service; they will likely lose some 6 million rides if fares are increased, but some 10–20 million rides if they cut service instead. The new fares will all go into effect on November 4.
The most contentious items, then––the Sheppard subway closure and the closure of “underperforming routes”––will remain unchanged. The TTC determined that closing the Sheppard Subway and the Spadina Subway north of St. Clair would each produce an annual cost savings of “approximately $200,000 and $330,00 per line.” and recommended that because of that fact, coupled with the “considerable inconvenience that would be caused to customers,” both lines should continue to function as they currently do. The underperforming bus routes will also continue to function as they currently do. (You can view the TTC’s complete recommendations online; minutes from the meeting are not yet available.)
Even after the fare hike, however, the TTC isn’t back in black: the organization will be in a $35 million hole in 2008, and a $169 million hole in 2010 if ridership continues to grow as quickly as it has. No one present at the meeting today would rule out an additional fare increase of 10¢ or more––or the possibility that those underperforming routes would be trimmed or cut––depending on how Toronto City Council voted in October with respect to the proposed property and car taxes. Chair Adam Giambrone and Vice-Chair Joe Mihevc were both quick to note that the TTC will need its money from a diversity of sources, not just the city, with Giambrone saying that “there’s a lot of room today for the province to step up to the plate.”
As for our TTC survey, we got a few minutes to give a cobbled-together public presentation, in which we tried to get across the importance of the TTC’s survey to the political process and why, then, its brevity and minimal options were so disappointing. In the end, our 2,200 respondents doesn’t sound so bad when compared to the TTC’s 17,000-–though that number still is, as Vice-Chair Joe Mihevc pointed out to us, the largest response to any survey that the TTC’s ever done. (Plus, we totally made a joke about the TTC’s response rate being bad, seeing as they had “a hundred billion riders a day”––which Mihevc seemed to like, adding that it was more like “a gazillion.”)
All that’s left now is one more waiting game, until October when City Council will vote on the land transfer and vehicle ownership taxes. Disaster may be averted for now, but as Chief General Manager Gary Webster put it in his presentation, “we’re not improving service, we’re treading water.” And who knows how long the TTC can keep its head above water without some help.
Photo of Adam Giambrone after today’s meeting by David Topping.