Dear Politician: TTC Fare Hike Unaffordable

The TTC Commissioners are voting on a fare hike. You know it's a slam dunk because of the restriction put on token sales before the vote was even cast. Whatever tokens I have left and can find before the end of the year is pretty much what I'm going to have left to use. Budgeting will become a truly skilled art after this.

I wrote my Councillor, MPP, and MP about this issue. This is a provincial issue; it's a Canadian issue. Gridlock has dropped the productivity of Torontonians. Stress is higher here in the city than anywhere else in Canada. Yet the TTC Commissioners think that upping the fare way beyond inflation in the midst of a recession is a good idea. The province thinks that restoring operating subsidies is not needed. The Federal government likes all things American except how the Bush administration funded capital expansion of subways. And our City Council has rolled over and played dead in the face of such intransigence instead of digging their toes in and lobbying the higher levels of governement to give to Toronto when every other city in the world receives: proper subsidization and expansion. How can Toronto call itself green with a straight face when its public transit system is so inadequate and so expensive?

Excerpts from my letter:

I'm writing about the unaffordable TTC fare hike. Has anyone stopped to think that a 15% fare hike in a recession that's seen some deflation is so expensive that the population who requires the TTC the most can't afford it?

What is the point of having good service if you can't afford to ride it?

And good service today would've been considered bad service when I first started using the TTC back in the 1970s and 1980s.

The problem is that the province pulled out of subsidizing the TTC, both operating expenses and capital expansion, in the last decade. We're seeing the destructive fruits of that now. The Mike Harris government decimated subway building and created this learned-helplessness attitude that we cannot build subways in Toronto proper and can't expect the province or Federal government to fund our transit. Yet, at the same time, fares keep going up and up for the privilege of riding on a garbage-strewn, packed train, or un-air-conditioned streetcar, or a claustrophobic bus you can't get off once a stroller boards.

The other problem is that, unlike the George Bush administration in the US, the Federal government does not fund capital expansion in Toronto. How can the government talk about spending our way out of a recession without putting in a place reliable, annual funds for subway building? Every city on the planet continues to build subways, even cities with mature systems like London's do. Ours is only a skeleton still, barely serving the city.

It is unreal that all the levels of government expect Toronto to go green when only the users are, for the most part, funding the best way to reduce pollution in the city. It is unsustainable.

And for the working poor, the ones who don't have welfare funding their transportation, including people like me who can't work but have medical appointments to get to and have too much savings to qualify for ODSP, the LAST fare hike was too expensive. What do you expect people like me to do? Dip into the food budget and go to the food bank cause that's OK? Or perhaps you expect us to somehow find less expensive housing? Or maybe you figure we can walk instead? Tough if you can't walk though. Our only real option is to cadge lifts.

After the last hike, I was fortunate to be able to decrease my appointments, and for the ones left, I got a drive. Basically, you caused one person to move from public transit to a car, increasing air pollution. How many "me"s were there after the LAST hike? With this hike and with the egregious restriction on token sales -- I mean, I cannot believe the mean mindedness that made Council think that restricting token sales BEFORE the fare hike was even voted on was OK -- clearly you know this fare hike is unaffordable. Anyway, with this hike...I can no longer afford tokens. Congratulations on making life in the big city for the financially hard up even worse than before. I didn't think it was possible after all the hard-on-the-poor-and-ill changes Toronto has made in the last few years.

I'm writing to my MP and MPP because this is a Canadian issue. Toronto is the engine of Canada. We already know productivity is down because of gridlock, we already know Torontonians are more stressed than any other Canadian. You want us to become a healthy, vibrant economy? Then you need to stop stressing us and start funding affordable, comprehensive public transit and that includes building more subways IN the city, starting with the Queen line and the Downtown Relief Life AN subsidizing operating costs so that fares will go back down to affordable levels.

And by the way, how do you expect all the crowds for the Pan Am games to get around with a crushingly expensive TTC that has inadequate carrying capacity for just us who live here now? Given how long it's taken to extend the Spadina line north and given the attitude of we-can't-build-a-subway-in-Toronto-gasp, I can't see anything happening fast enough to accommodate the athletes and visitors. It's going to be a nightmare.

Instead of making this an either-fare-hike or service-cut issue, it's time to lobby the province loudly and persistently -- peskier than a mosquito -- to restore previous pre-Harris funding levels and the Federal government for capital expansion funds. Anything less is NOT serving the people of Toronto.

I supported the rider boycott. Given how apathetic Torontonians are and how they don't seem to scream until it's too late, the fact thousands joined the boycott is impressive. It's time you listened to us because eventually the golden goose dies.


robbie said…
I've started walking 1 hour to work and 1 hour home to get myself ready.

In the worst weather, I intend to take the TTC TO work, then walk home if need be.

It's time to bring in a zone system. I'm tired of subsidizing people who come in from timbuktu
Anonymous said…
I started biking and walking to work. It takes roughly 30 mins biking. 1 hour if I speed walk. I think this is great for me. It gives me a break from having to cram on the subway in the morning. It's cold. But I actually don't find it if I turn into a form of exercise.
It's a good feeling walking to work or school, if you can manage it (physically and time-wise). I used to do that and arrive invigorated, except in the heat of summer.

The TTC is not nearly as large or comprehensive as the London Underground or New York subway system to warrant a zone fare system. The TTC subway is designed for the 1970s and hasn't expanded to serve today's population. A zone fare would just discourage even more from using it. If it was tied in to GO or the regional systems, with each system a zone, then I could see it working.