Photo by Ben Spurr
For the second year in a row TTC fares will be going up on January 1, and the commission chair says riders can expect to pay more in 2014 as well.
On Wednesday the TTC board approved a 5-cent increase on non-cash fare media, which will take effect in 2013. The hike is roughly in line with the rate of inflation, and will see the price of tokens go from $2.60 to $2.65. Metropasses will cost $128.50, up from $126, but adult cash fare will remain at $3.
The fare raise was tentiavely approved in September, and will add an additional $18 million to the TTC's bottom line.
After the vote, TTC chair Karen Stintz said asking passengers to pay more was a regrettable but necessary move.
"We don't want to raise fares if we don't have to, there's no question," she told reporters. "We understand the people who rely on the system the most are most affected by fare increases. But we also recognize that our costs are rising."
Stintz also warned that there's little chance of avoiding another 5-cent increase in 2014.
"It's likely that if ridership continues to grow and our costs continue to grow, there will likely be an inflationary fare increase" in 2014, she said. "What we don't want to do is... keep them frozen, and then raise them by higher than the rate of inflation to catch up."
As part of its 2012 budget process, last year the board approved, in principle, inflationary increases for three consecutive years. Each increase has to be ratified separately however. This year, fares went up 10 cents.
Public transit watchdog TTCriders slammed the board's decision to continue squeezing riders, issuing a press release Wednesday claiming that the commission was "poised to penalize transit riders."
"This is unfair and sends exactly the wrong signal to Torontonians," Lisa Pozhke of TTCriders told the board. "City Hall rightly wants to encourage people to take ‘the better way' more often. Yet, it makes it more expensive for people to do this and does little to improve service."
Instead of hitting up riders for more money, the group is calling on the city to increase the annual subsidy it gives to the TTC. Despite growing ridership, the 2013 subsidy is being frozen at its 2012 level of $411 million, in accordance to Rob Ford's demand that all city departments flatline their budgets next year.
In 2012, the $411 million represented a subsidy of 82 cents per passenger, well below levels of public transit funding in other major North American cities. Next year, ridership is expected to grow to a record 528 million, effectively decreasing the TTC subsidy to 78 cents per trip.
While Stintz has agreed to meet Ford's demand to freeze the subsidy next year, she says that she's initiated discussions with the city manager to have it increased in 2014.
She also wants the TTC to be able to keep any year-end surplus it may generate. In 2012, higher than expected ridership levels led to a $22-million surplus. All that money went back into general city coffers.
"The TTC has done its part. We have managed our costs," Stintz said.
"But there does come a point when you're not just holding the line, you're actually starving the system. And we're at that point right now."