Hamilton has the lowest adult transit fare of seven Ontario cities, a new city report shows. But a local social planner says it also has the lowest household income.
Hamiltonians pay $2.55 to take the transit system. That's compared to $2.75 in London, $3.25 in Mississauga and $3 in Durham, shows the report, which councillors will examine during budget deliberations Thursday.
But Hamilton also has the lowest median household income of those cities, and the transit fare should reflect that, said Sara Mayo of the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, who wrote a blog post in response to the report.
“We have to take that into account.”
The staff report shows that an increase of 15 cents per ride would cover $1.5 million in diesel fuel costs for Hamilton Street Railway (HSR). That equals an increase of $84 per year for a daily rider.
It also shows that a $6-per-year increase in property taxes would pay for upgrades to meet new accessibility standards, which will cost the city about $1.4 million.
Councillors had requested the information at a budget meeting earlier this month. The staff report will be presented at a general issues committee budget meeting Thursday.
It is actually cheaper to park in downtown Hamilton for a month than it is to take a bus, Mayo said. That at least partly explains why ridership has been growing at a slower rate than in other cities.
That gap between monthly parking rates and a monthly transit pass would increase to $33 with a 15-cent fare hike, Mayo said.
“Every cost is part of the decision, so if there's a cheaper monthly rate to park, there's no incentive to take transit,” she said.
Transit fares have risen by 45 cents since 2003, when an adult ticket cost $2.10. That's an increase of $22 on a monthly pass. University transit passes have increased $61.15 in that time.
Thursday's budget meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. at city hall. Councillors will also deal with the Hamilton Police Service budget, which is a 3.71-per cent increase over last year.