A 10-cent fare hike effective Jan. 1 and restoration of full bus service on some busy routes like Finch, Dufferin and Don Mills have been approved by the Toronto Transit Commission.
The commission on Wednesday okayed a compromise plan from the TTC chair, Councillor Karen Stintz, that uses about $5 million in expected 2012 diesel fuel savings to continue bus service.
“The TTC management will go back and give us a breakdown on which routes will be maintained,” Stintz said. “And they would likely be the busiest routes like Finch, like Don Mills, like Dufferin. But the exact details are still being worked out.”
TTC chief general manager Gary Webster said the money would restore half the rush-hour bus service that had been on the chopping block. Transit advocates vowed to keep pushing council — which meets in mid-January to pass the city’s budget — to come up with $14 million to keep current bus service operating.
“It’s up to councillors now to find the remaining money to avoid service cuts in the TTC,” said Jamie Kilpatrick, of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
The 10-cent fare hike, the first since January, 2010, when fares went up 25 cents, will increase the adult token to $2.60. The cash fare remains at $3.
For future TTC budgets, the commissioners granted their approval in principle to levy regular 10-cent fare increases in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Transit advocate Steve Munro said regular fare increases are one of three strategies to place the TTC on a stronger financial footing.
“Fares should go up regularly by reasonable amounts; the city must be prepared to increase TTC funding from (property) tax revenues; and if we get more money from the province or the feds…it should contribute to actual improvement of service,” Munro said.
Also Wednesday, the commission decided to find $2 million to continue Wheel-Trans service for about 800 ambulatory dialysis patients who need to make 5,000 trips a week for treatment. The dialysis trips would continue for the first six months of 2012, providing time to lobby the province for funding.
Stintz said that of the $5 million in expected diesel fuel savings, $1.5 million would go to retain 2011 service standards through January, and $3.3 million would go into retaining bus service on busy routes.
A complicating factor is that the TTC needs to buy 54 buses to maintain the higher level of bus service in 2013, Webster said.
“We don’t know where that money is coming from at this time,” he said. “We’ve been asked to go away and work with the city to find what alternative financing approaches we might be able to use to buy the buses.”
About 80 people had signed up to share their outrage over the proposed service cuts. [Toronto] ACORN, a social justice advocacy group, even delivered a seasonal sack of coal to the TTC board — one lump for each of 282 buses that will no longer be available to riders in 2012.
Most speakers made it clear they understood their words wouldn’t move the TTC off its insistence of a 10-cent fare hike or prevent it from reducing service on routes across the city to pre-2004 levels.
Many were furious not just about service cuts and fare hikes, but with the cutting climate pervading the city hall budget process.
What they told the commissioners
“Scarborough is being excluded from future transit expansion. The Sheppard subway extension and the failure to build any line to the Scarborough campus of U of T won't do anything for residents there.
“Scarborough residents should have the benefit of transit just like residents in any other part of the city.”
Beverly Thompson, Scarborough Transit Action community group
“Approving a fare increase while cutting service is like lowering the allowance and giving more chores to a good kid.
"I think it is disrespectful to raise fares while cutting service. I wanted to voice my opinion because I think my views represent many taxpayers who want a functioning, affordable city."
Gilleen Witkowski, daily TTC rider
“Cuts to the TTC do not make sense when there are more people riding the TTC. It’s unsafe to the TTC drivers and the general public at large to ride an overcrowded bus, streetcar or train during the rush hour. Why would the TTC commission suggest something knowing it was not safe? I say ‘yes’ to the increase in TTC fares even though it’s hard to swallow. I say ‘no’ to the decrease in service. It’s the city’s job to figure out this problem, not ours.”
Paulette Hamilton, Danforth area resident who expects cuts to her Coxwell bus route
“I don’t have a car. They’re very expensive and I don’t want one. I use the services you’re thinking of cutting. It’s also an issue of climate change. We can step up and provide a transit system that is reliable and funded fairly.”
Ryerson University employee Jessica Bell
“You guys really suck at your job. Sometimes I make it to work on time, sometimes I don’t, but most of the time I don’t know when I’m going to make it. It’s safe. Your employees, that’s another matter, and I know you’re working on it. Preparing for the future — that’s where you guys are failing taxpayers of Toronto. What we really need is creative, clever, visionary thinking. We even need some leadership. Raising a fare is old, tired, lazy thinking. Cutting services is stupid, stupid thinking. We’ve done that. Study after study shows that raising the fare cuts transit ridership.”
Jennifer Foulds, rider
“The TTC is becoming a mode of transport people increasingly want to take. Riders get less service for more money. We have a minority at Queen’s Park right now so we do have an opportunity (to restore some provincial operating funding). We’re the only G8 country without a national transportation strategy. We can’t cry poor when we’re projected to lose about $65 million on Transit City. You owe to everybody in our city to have a full and honest discussion about road tolls and congestion charges or a personal vehicle tax.”
Robert Cerjanec, York University
“It’s time a lot of us draw a line before this administration spends us into oblivion. It’s the poor that are going to take the brunt of this. It’s just going to be harder.”
Thom Vernon, St. Lawrence Market area resident