TTC fares going up 10 cents, more special constables coming in Tory's budget plan
Mayor says transit agency’s budget is going up by $53M
TTC fares will increase by 10 cents per ride, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced Wednesday.
Tory also pledged to add some $53 million to the transit agency's budget this year.
Riders are being asked to pay more following two years of fares being frozen, even though ridership remains lower than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. A single ride currently costs $3.25.
If approved by city council, Tory said the new funding will go toward hiring 10 additional Streets to Homes outreach workers who will help connect with homeless people who are increasingly turning to the TTC's stations and vehicles for shelter.
"While this is a challenging year for the city, we are investing to keep transit safe, improve service, and support seniors and low-income residents," Tory said in a news release.
The proposed plan will also allow an additional 50,000 low-income residents to opt in on the Fair Pass Transit Discount Program, aimed at making the TTC and Wheel-Trans more affordable, the city says.
Riders are currently allotted free two-hour transfers, and children under the age of 12 can ride for free. TTC fares will also continue to be frozen for seniors and all monthly passes, the city says.
New initiatives 'distractions': advocacy group
The city says the "much-needed" initiatives from the updated transit budget will "offer relief to Toronto's most vulnerable residents." However, the executive director of public transit advocacy group TTCriders told CBC News they are "distractions."
"Most transit users are low-income, shift workers, women, racialized people, and they're being asked to pay more," said Shelagh Pizey-Allen. "It's unacceptable."
CBC Toronto has previously reported that TTC ridership in the summer was at 57 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
"Welcoming back riders with lower fares and more frequent, reliable service should be the mayor's top priority," a statement by TTCriders said. They add that the discount program expansion is a good step, but "does not appear to cover all of the eligible low-income Toronto residents who need fare relief."
The public transit advocacy group says a possible solution is for the mayor to raise funds for transit service with a parking levy on big malls and commercial landlords.
'Not the time' for increase, says councillor
Ward 12 Coun. John Matlow also expressed his dissatisfaction with the fare increase, telling CBC Toronto that the city's goal should be to incentivize Torontonians back onto the TTC.
"This is seriously not the time to increase the cost of our transit system," Matlow said. "In fact, I want to see it be more accessible and more affordable."
Matlow also says the Mayor has failed to provide a "thoughtful and cohesive" budget plan that would provide a better explanation of where funds are going, and where savings are needed.
"He's saying it's necessary without showing us the entirety of the budget he's proposing yet," Matlow said, referring to Tory's new $53 million transit budget.
50 more special constables to be hired
Tory is also planning to hire 50 more special constables for the TTC, which has recently seen a string of violent attacks, including two homicides within the last year. A recent report by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 also found that 73 per cent of respondents have reported violent experiences on public transit and 50 per cent reported harassment.
Pizey-Allen says a "thoughtful approach" to safety is needed.
"We don't think adding more police is the right approach," she said. "Special constables aren't equipped to create more accessibility [or] welcoming environments."
ATU Local 113 president Marvin Alfred said in a statement that while the transit workers' union welcomes any investments in improving TTC service and safety, the city needs to better address the issues leading to conflict on public transit.
"Policing alone can't fix it and Streets to Homes can't get people into homes that don't exist or are unaffordable," Alfred said. "We need a comprehensive safety and security plan that provides real housing solutions and a better way to respond to people in crisis."
The release says the city is spending $958.7 million on the TTC this year.
A spokesperson from the TTC says the transit agency hopes to release their full report tomorrow, which will then need to be approved by the Board of Commissioners and City Council. The TTC is set to discuss the proposed budget on Jan. 9.
With files from Shawn Jeffords and Naomi Barghiel