Toronto Transit Commission riders told the TTC board on Monday that a 10-cent fare increase would mean paying more for less service.
But the transit agency's board approved the fare hike, which is set to begin in 2017, anyway.
The increase affects the single adult ride fare, which will increase from $2.90 per token to $3. All other fare media, including Presto rides and weekly and monthly passes, will also be increased proportionately, with the exception of cash, which was raised from $3 to $3.25 in 2016.
Coun. Shelley Carroll, who voted against the increase, said there's only so much that commuters will pay to take public transit. She said she's concerned the extra cost could lead to a decline in ridership.
"You can raise fares so far in a certain economy and then the elastic snaps," Carroll told reporters following the vote.
"We're going to be there very soon."
Board Chair Josh Colle admits the increase "sucks" but said it lays the groundwork for asking the city to invest more money in the transit agency. Even if the increase nets the predicted amount of money, the TTC will still be facing a shortfall of around $60 million.
Herman Rosenfeld, of the TTC Riders advocacy group, said the city needs to increase taxes for everyone to help pay for public transit rather than taking money directly from those who use the service.
For now, he's "disgusted" with Monday's decision.
Cuts will hurt working poor, riders warn
Butterfly Gopaul, a Toronto resident, said the fare increase, combined with any cuts in service, would affect the working poor in marginalized communities.
"On the ground level, people don't know this is happening," she told CBC Toronto on Monday.
Gopaul, who was concerned in particular about cuts to the 35 Jane bus, spoke to the TTC board before it met to discuss its 2017 budget. The TTC faces a shortfall of $61 million if the 10-cent fare increase is approved by the board. The fare increase would raise an estimated $27 million. The TTC shortfall is partly due to a decline in TTC ridership and a growth in the number of people using Wheels-Trans.
TTC CEO Andy Byford told the meeting that he supports an increase because it means there would be no service cuts other than the reductions in service announced this month.
"I set out with this budget with three objectives: number one, to protect, as best as possible, the system against any major service cuts; number two, to protect the improvements we have made in the past five years; and number three, to minimize any required fare hike," Byford said.
TTC CEO Andy Byford talks to board about budget recommendations, which includes proposed 10 cent fare increase. pic.twitter.com/At0SLLRxjm— @MakdaGCBC
Earlier, Colle said he hopes a fare increase would not be accompanied by a decrease in service.
Colle told CBC' Toronto's Metro Morning that the TTC has limited choices because it has only two sources of revenue, transit fares and the subsidy from the city.
"My message is we are going to preserve the service levels we've had in the last couple of years. We are going to make sure that the cash fare doesn't increase again," Colle said.
Colle acknowledged that some Toronto bus and streetcar routes are overcrowded during rush hour but he said he thinks trying to fit more people onto packed buses or streetcars is not the solution to TTC budget woes.
He said the problem is the TTC, unlike transit systems of other major cities, doesn't get funding from higher levels of government for operating costs.
"I don't think we're going to have a shining knight come forth from the province in time for this budget," he said.
'Absolutely not fair,' transit advocate says
Jessica Bell, executive director of the transit advocacy group, TTCriders, told Metro Morning that a fare increase is "absolutely not fair" to riders.
"The reality is, we're going to be paying more for less service in 2017 and that's not right," Bell said.
"The reality is, city council has a choice. By cutting the TTC's budget, by hiking fares again and again, they're making a choice not to prioritize the commuting experience of transit riders. We think they should make another choice."
She said council, to help the TTC, could look at a range of revenue tools, including reviewing property taxes, bringing back a vehicle registration tax, and introducing a parking levy.
Bell said hiking fares punishes those who take transit, which is environmentally friendly, while reducing service is not acceptable. "When you hike fares and cut service, riders leave," she said.
Service cuts are also not the answer, she said. A quarter of all TTC routes are overcrowded, she said. A total of 1.8 million people take the TTC every day.
"Quite frankly, we're sick of the delays. We're sick of the overcrowding. We're sick of the breakdowns," she said. "People have had enough."