Toronto proposes $53M increase to transit budget, hike fares amid security concerns
Published Wednesday, January 4, 2023 11:48AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 4, 2023 7:32PM EST
Toronto has proposed a $53-million subsidy increase for The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) in the 2023 municipal budget in an effort to “keep both riders and hardworking frontline TTC employees safe," Mayor John Tory announced Wednesday.
The TTC also plans to hike fees by 10 cents.
In total, the transit agency will receive $958 million for conventional service this year if the proposal passes.
The $2.38 billion combined operating budgets for both conventional and Wheel-Trans services would represent 4.2 per cent year-over-year increase, the agency says.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the TTC said $43 million will go to the opening of Line 5 Eglinton-Crosstown and Line 6 Finch West, along with the bus replacement of Line 3 Scarborough RT.
An additional $4 million will be allocated to safety, security and cleanliness. That money will go towards hiring 10 additional Streets to Homes outreach workers, adding 25 new special constable positions, filling 25 vacant special constable positions, and introducing enhanced daily streetcar cleaning.
The transit agency says nearly $3 million will go to service improvements in routes serving Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and the expansion of the Fair Pass Program to an additional 50,000 lower-income Torontonians.
A more comprehensive breakdown of the remaining funds is expected on Jan. 10.
While the TTC plans to increase fares on single cash and presto rides by ten cents, Fair Pass program users and those with PRESTO monthly and annual passes will be frozen, the TTC said. Fares for seniors will also remain the same.
Children under the age of 13 will continue to be able to ride for free.
“I know that nobody likes a fare increase,” Tory told reporters. “But I think it does provide the additional funding that will help us to make the investments I'm talking about today, and helps us to protect the transit system.”
Tory said the changes are meant to ensure security and safety amid a time of low ridership and increased violent crime on the city’s transit system.
In the TTC’s statement, CEO Rick Leary said the new budget “balances [the] need to deliver safe service while contending with lower revenues and increasing operating costs associated with inflation and new transit lines.”
“As we come out of the pandemic and our ridership patterns evolve… The TTC is positioning itself to keep Toronto moving and to be there for those who need us most.”
This year’s portion of Toronto’s Capital Budget Plan allocated to the TTC is approximately $1.34 billion, comprising $800 million for infrastructure and state of good repair projects, $455 million for vehicle purchases and overhauls, and $88 million for transit expansion-related work.
President of ATU Local 113 Marvin Alfred. issued a statement Wednesday afternoon in response to the proposed budget, calling it a “step in the right direction.”
“Local 113 welcomes any investment in operating and maintaining the TTC to improve service and safety for transit riders. If we want people to come back onto the system, we need to rebuild trust,” Alfred said, adding this would be achieved by “improving service and keeping fares down.”
The union said it’s “looking forward to seeing details on the service increases.”
Alfred pointed to Toronto’s ongoing housing crisis “combined with a lack of mental health services” as factors contributing to the violence seen on the network.
“The TTC has ended up filling the gaps in our social safety net. Policing alone can’t fix it and Streets to Homes can’t get people into homes that don’t exist or are unaffordable,” he said.
“We need a comprehensive safety and security plan that provides real housing solutions and a better way to respond to people in crisis.”
CALLS TO PROTECT AGAINsT FEES INCREASES
On Wednesday, TTCRiders, an advocacy organization representing users of the transit system, issued a statement calling on Tory to protect fees from increases.
“TTCriders is calling on the Mayor and City Councillors to protect the TTC from service cuts by increasing the transit budget subsidy,” the statement said. “Tory is asking the lowest-income Toronto residents … to pay more to get to school and work, rather than raising revenue from those who can afford it.”
The group suggested the Mayor could raise hundreds of millions for more TTC service “with a parking levy on big malls and commercial landlords.”
“Instead, the women, shift workers, racialized, and low-income people who continue to rely most on the TTC are being asked to pay more,” the statement read.
The group called the expansion of the Fair Pass discount to 50,000 more people “an important step,” but expressed concerns over who may be eligible.
“It does not appear to cover all of the eligible low-income Toronto residents who need fare relief and who have been waiting for this program since it was approved in 2016.”
BUDGET INCREASE FOR POLICE
On Tuesday, the mayor proposed a $48.3-million budget increase for the Toronto Police Service, which he said would allow 200 more officers to join the force.
Multiple acts of violence have taken place across the GTA in recent weeks and months, including some incidents that have occurred along Toronto’s transit system. Tory said Tuesday that members of the public have become anxious about riding the TTC.
“We must do everything we can to address crime, and to keep people safe and have them feel safe in our city,” he said.
As of Dec. 8, the City of Toronto had a $726-million hole in its 2023 budget, which officials say is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the city has asked the provincial and federal governments to fill the gap.
It is unclear if the new investments promised for the 2023 budget will widen this gap, or be made up by revenue elsewhere.
Tory said that number is “not up to date” but would not elaborate further.
“We have run the city in such a prudent manner as to make sure that, while we need and expect and I think deserve the support coming from the other governments with COVID-related expenses, that we will make sure the city can protect its services,” he added.
Public consultations for Toronto’s budget will take place over the next few weeks before the mayor presents the final version to city council in February. The public can register to make deputations by submitting a request to email@example.com.