Toronto

TTC board 'reluctantly' hiked fare, but CEO says there are 'silver linings'

The head of the Toronto Transit Commission says the board "reluctantly" hiked fares by 10 cents on Monday, but the increase comes with "silver linings" in that the board voted to have no fare increases in 2018 and did not approve harsh service cuts.

Andy Byford says the board voted to have no fare increases in 2018 and avoided major service cuts

TTC CEO Andy Byford says the TTC 'reluctantly' hiked fares by 10 cents on Monday, but there are 'silver linings' in that the board agreed to freeze fares in 2018 and did not approve harsh measures to keep its budget in line. (CBC)

The head of the Toronto Transit Commission says the board "reluctantly" hiked fares by 10 cents on Monday, but the increase comes with "silver linings" in that the board voted to have no fare increases in 2018 and did not approve harsh service cuts.

Andy Byford told Metro Morning that a decline in TTC ridership and a growth in the number of people using Wheel-Trans — and the accompanying lower revenues — left the board no choice but to approve the fare hike.

"We did not want to increase fares," Byford said on Tuesday. "We had no choice but to make it up in terms of fares. It does mean, reluctantly, to close the gap, we did have to ask for an additional 10 cents."

The fare increase is expected to raise $27 million, but even with that the TTC will be $61 million short in its 2017 budget. Byford said the TTC has had to deal a 2.6 per cent reduction in city subsidy, a request made by the mayor's office. The TTC has only two sources of revenue, the subsidy and fares, he said.

"I hear my customers. I understand their frustration. For me, it wasn't something that I wanted to address, but we had no choice but to fill that gap," he said.

Riders at a TTC board meeting Monday voiced their objections to the hike, saying it will hurt those living in poverty.

Byford said one silver lining is that the TTC board passed a motion endorsing no fare increases in 2018 and the other is it did not approve harsh measures to keep its budget in line.

"At the end of the day, my job is to make do with what I am given," he said. "I think, actually, for what the TTC is given, 90 cents per rider, the lowest subsidy in North America, I think the TTC and its employees work miracles every day."

Byford said he hoped the 2017 budget would not mean service cuts, would preserve improvements made in the past five years and would minimize any impact on customers, but he said the impact on customers could not be avoided.

He said by the end of next year, customers will begin to see improvements, in the form of 800 new buses, 70 more streetcars, WiFi everywhere, the opening of Toronto-York Spadina subway extension, and the rollout of Presto at all stations.

"It's not all bad news," he said.

And he promised that the TTC will bring what he called "game-changers" over the next five to 10 years in terms of how the service is delivered. He said these will usher in fundamental changes in the way in which the way the TTC is run.

"I don't want people to migrate away from the TTC. That is anathema to me. Our job is to expand transit," he said. "There will be huge improvements. I think people will come back to the TTC."

The fare hike affects the single adult ride fare, which will increase from $2.90 per token to $3. Presto rides and weekly and monthly passes will also be increased proportionately. The only exception is cash, which jumped from $3 to $3.25 in 2016.

The fare increase is the sixth in as many years.

With files from CBC's Metro Morning

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