Toronto transit riders are upset at the news that cash fares will jump by 25 cents in January, a move by the commission's board to address a projected $53-million budget shortfall.

Tickets and tokens will jump up by 10 cents, while the cost of a Metropass will be frozen for at least the first three months of the year.

"Fares should be frozen like Mayor Tory had promised," Kamilla Petrick said outside city hall Monday. "They should be rolled back because they are unaffordable ... so a lot of people have to make very difficult choices right now."

Broken promise

The mayor did in fact promise to freeze fares last year, but he seems to have abandoned that position.

"I believe that fares should be adjusted every year," he told CBC News Monday. "The cost of running the system, whether it's for labour or electricity, it goes up."

That means riders will pay $3.25 in cash and $2.90 if paying with a ticket or token starting Jan. 1.  The monthly Metropass will stay at its current price of $141.50 a month for adults and $112 for seniors and students for at least the first three month of next year.

Petrick and other members of TTCriders group called on council to consider raising revenue from other sources, including boosting the registration fees for vehicles and parking.

Smallest subsidy

Raising those fees could help the commission roll back fares for people on income assistance, she said.

The TTCriders group packed the meeting Monday, calling on the city to increase its per-rider subsidy, which at 88 cents, sits at the lowest in North America, according to the transit commission.

That subsidy will be considered as part of the city's overall budget consultations, which are set to happen early in the new year. Last year the TTC received a $483-million subsidy from the city. 

But it's impossible to know what this year's subsidy will be until after city budget comes down, Coun. Joe Mihevc said. The St. Paul's West councillor said it makes no sense to increase the fares now, because the TTC doesn't know how much revenue it will need to raise at the farebox. 

Woman St. George Subway

A TTC riders group has called for the city to increase its per-rider subsidy, suggesting it boost vehicle registration fees to pay for it. (Bruce Reeve/CBC)

"It is always best to do the TTC budget after the city does its budget," he said. "Then you know exactly what the deficit is and exactly what combination of fare increases and service cuts you need to balance the books."

A slight dip in ridership numbers partly explains the TTC budget woes. Earlier this year, the TTC projected 540 million riders in 2015 but that's since been amended to 535 million to 537 million riders. Every one million riders amounts to about $2 million in annual revenue for the TTC.

Originally 555 million riders were forecast for 2016, a total a budget report now says should be considered a "stretch target."

That could be because public transit is rising above a comfortable price point for its riders, Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker said.

"Every year we go back to our customers and add a nickel or add a dime," he said. "That is the death of a thousand cuts; eventually people will say [they're] just going to go out and buy a car."