The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) voted in favour of a 10 cent fare increase early last week, making it the sixth time in as many years that the TTC has increased costs for riders. The 10 cent fare hike means that PRESTO fare and tokens are now $3.00; postsecondary metropasses are now $116.75 per month; and adult metropasses are now $146.25 per month. Cash fare will stay at $3.25.
Despite the seemingly minute nature of the increase, I cannot help but be exasperated. Forget that the TTC is usually unreliable; forget the bothersome weekend closures, slow service, frequent stoppages, unbearable rush-hour congestion, and extensive inaccessibility. Even if the TTC were the best transit commission in the world, it would still be too expensive.
On the average day, I spend about three hours in transit, so my commute is time-consuming, tiring, and very expensive. I spend upwards of $400 a month on transit, and the added monthly cost on top of my already-expensive tuition is something we have to budget for in my household. This occurs even though I have two working parents and my family has a comfortable annual income, so I cannot imagine what a blow this fare increase must be to students who are not as privileged as I am.
Commuter students suffer because of high transit costs. When planning my schedule and picking my courses, I cannot prioritize interesting classes, and instead limit myself to classes on three days of the week. I cannot take classes that are too early or too late, because it would disrupt the rest of my family’s routine. Often, I have stayed home and skipped a lecture because it didn’t feel worth it to spend nearly $20.00 and commute for three hours total for a class that was only 50 minutes long. I am hardly ever home in time to have dinner with my family and spend a considerable amount of money every month on food for that reason.
Now, tolls are being considered on the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway, which might increase transit usage in the long-term. For now, however, there seem to be no plans laid out to ease the burden of transit costs for students and other commuters.
U of T should be doing more to accommodate commuters, who make up the majority of students at the university — especially considering that many other universities in Ontario cover local travel costs for their students. At the moment, we are offered a poorly-advertised 10 per cent discount on GO transit, which has to be renewed every year through an annoying process of getting a special discount card from Robarts. Imagine the money students could save, for instance, if there was a Union Station-to-campus shuttle bus like the UTM-UTSG shuttle.
The TTC should also make a few small but significant changes. For instance, the commission could update their transfer rules by following Oakville Transit’s PRESTO system, which does not charge people for tapping their PRESTO cards on the bus if they have tapped on within the last two hours. If the TTC didn’t charge people for tapping their PRESTO cards to get onto the subway until an hour after their most recent ride, it would make a substantial difference. Small changes like this would make the TTC a lot more popular and would create major savings for students and other transit users.
Going into 2017, the TTC is facing funding problems, with a deficit of $88 million. The most recent fare increase is supposed to bring in just $27 million more for the commission, which will still leave them with a $61 million gap in funds.
Clearly, a fare hike is not the sole solution to the TTC’s funding problem, and considering its detrimental impact, riders should not be squeezed for more and more money. After last year’s hike, the Toronto Star reported a sharp drop in ridership — 13 million people stopped using the TTC altogether. If money is to be raised, it ought to come from somewhere else.
Seemingly blind to the public outcry against the hike, the TTC is now selling merchandise — everything from onesies to posters to mugs. This is unlikely to be well-received.
Disdain for the TTC remains a uniting factor among Torontonians, and I’m tired of spending $6.00 a day to hear announcements of delays, closures, and slow-moving trains. Here’s to hoping the next conversation I have on the subway isn’t sparked by mutual eye-rolls and groans.
Shailee Koranne is a third-year student at Victoria College studying Equity Studies. She is the Opinions Editor for The Strand.