Tory announces fare increase and service improvements for the TTC
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Monday, January 19, 2015 9:07AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 19, 2015 5:01PM EST
Mayor John Tory is proposing $95 million in additional funding to improve service at the TTC, but the move is likely to cost riders an extra 10 cents at the fare box.
The proposal, which still needs to be approved by the TTC commission and city council as a whole, includes the restoration of many services cut during Rob Ford’s time in office, the addition of several new ones aimed at reducing crowding and improving wait times and a move to allow children 12 and under to ride the TTC for free — previously children between the ages of 2 and 12 were required to pay a 75 cent fare, which generated an estimated $ 7 million in annual revenue.
In order to pay for the plan, a proposed 10 cent fare hike, cash fares exempted, would go into effect on March 1, helping to pay for about $48 million of the cost. Another $38 million would then be shouldered by taxpayers in the form of an increased subsidy to the TTC while an additional $10 million would be found elsewhere in the TTC budget. The increase, if approved, would mean the price of a token bought in bulk would go up to $2.80. This follows a 5 cent hike on tokens in 2014.
“To put it bluntly we have starved our transit system to the breaking point and we need to take action,” Tory said in making the announcement at Joyce Public School. “These investments will cut congestion, crowding and wait times on the transit system. I believe in my heart that this is the right decision.”
Tory says decision to raise fares was ‘difficult’
Tory promised to freeze TTC fares while on the campaign trail but on Monday he told reporters that the state of the TTC has lead him to make the “difficult choice” to go back on that assurance.
The mayor, however, stressed that the fare surge will be accompanied by a “very significant increase in service.”
Some of those improvements include:
- The restoration of all day, everyday bus service that was cut by Rob Ford in 2011
- Ten-minute or better bus and streetcar service on key routes from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. six days a week (9 a.m. on Sundays)
- Reduced wait times and crowding at off-peak times
- Reduced wait times and crowding on 21 of the busiest routes during morning and afternoon rush hours
- Proof-of-payment and all-door boarding on all streetcar routes
- Expansion of the Express Bus network, adding four new routes
- Expansion of the Blue Night Network, adding 12 routes
- Two additional subway trains on Lines 1 and 2 during morning and afternoon rush hours
- Additional resources to focus on subway reliability around signals, track and communications systems
The city will also purchase 50 new buses to help reduce crowding and wait times on 21 key routes.
The buses, which will require a new storage facility, are expected to arrive by the end of the year.
“One reason people often get upset by increased government fees, charges, fares and taxes is because they see themselves paying more and getting less, which is exactly what they got under the previous administration which raised TTC fares and reduced services,” Tory said. “What you are seeing today is a reasonable increase in fares accompanied by a very significant increase in service. TTC users will pay a little more and get a lot more.”
Changes to be felt immediately
In August the TTC board released a document outlining nine service improvements that it said would improve transit in Toronto in the short and medium term.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, TTC CEO Andy Byford said it is “particularly gratifying” to see “the vast majority” of those measures supported by Tory.
“This is what we have argued for long and hard. Pretty much since the day I came to Toronto we have been saying that we really need to address the issue of funding at the TTC and talking about what could be done to get this transit system back to where it needs to be,” Byford told reporters. “This is not just about coping with ridership growth; it is about making the transit experience for our existing customers exponentially better.”
Byford said that in addition to a number of service improvements that will be “felt immediately” by riders, the increase to the TTC’s subsidy will allow it to “address a backlog” in needed repairs to its aging infrastructure.
“It is sort of unsexy stuff, but things like pumps, drainage and increasing and excelling the maintenance of our buses will make the whole machine work more effectively,” he said.
While Tory’s proposal was welcomed by Byford, the union representing TTC drivers offered at best tepid praise in a statement issued Monday afternoon.
“We're out there every hour of every day with passengers and I'm telling you these proposals are not going to meet their expectations. We need far more buses than are being proposed and many more streetcars,” Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 President Bob Kinnear said. “Of course we'll take anything we can get but Mayor Tory is being too cautious because he doesn't want to rile up the people who don't use transit by proposing even a tiny tax increase; that's too bad.”
Ford slams plan
Tory took several swipes at Rob Ford as he made his announcement Monday, at one point telling reporters that his predecessor “made deliberate decisions to reduce service and increase crowding” on the TTC.
Ford, however, told CP24 on Monday afternoon that the mayor is being “disingenuous” and predicted that taxpayers would pay the price.
“He should have told the taxpayers that this is what they would be getting when they voted him in as mayor,” Ford said. “He is just spending and spending and spending. I don’t see how he will come in with a tax increase under the rate of inflation when he is spending like this.”
Though Tory said he hopes to implement many of the proposed service improvements "within weeks or months," that timeline may prove to be optimistic, as final approval of the subsidy and fare increase will rest with city council.
"The goal is supportable but it is not a done deal," Coun. and former deputy mayor Norm Kelly cautioned in an interview with CP24 on Monday afternoon. "It is the first step of what could be a long journey over the next few months."
City staff will table the first draft of the city’s 2015 capital and operating budgets during a meeting of budget committee tomorrow.
The TTC board will then hold a special meeting on February 2 to examine their proposed operating and capital budgets.
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