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TTC increases fares by 10 cents, $5.70 increase for postsecondary monthly pass

Fare increase “considered a last resort”: TTC spokesperson
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FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY
FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY

Toronto City Council approved a fare increase for TTC fares in its 2020 budget, which went into effect as of March 1. The cost of a postsecondary monthly metropass will rise from $122.45 to $128.15 — an increase of $5.70. In comparison, the cost of an adult monthly metropass will see an increase of $4.85. The fare increases have raised concerns among some student leaders and city councillors as to whether they are perpetuating the problems of an already unaffordable system, especially for students. The only fare category that will remain the same is the adult cash fare, which costs $3.25 — all Presto fares will see a 10-cent increase, bringing the adult fare up to $3.20, the youth Presto fare to $2.25, and the youth cash fare to $2.30.

Before the most recent changes, Toronto City Council passed a motion on October 2 that asked the TTC Board to explore options to make transit more affordable for students. The motion followed the provincial government’s changes to postsecondary funding in January 2019, which drastically reduced student financial support through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

The original motion asked that the TTC explore options and “report back in the 2020 Budget process on revisions to the system.” However, it does not appear that the October 2 motion influenced the 2020 budget that raised fares.

When the TTC adopted the motion, it modified the wording to say that it would refer the matter to staff and that it would be reviewed in the TTC’s five-year fare policy review, if necessary.

University of Toronto Students’ Union Vice-President External Lucas Granger wrote to The Varsity that the increases were “unfortunate,” and that the changes to the adult fare and the postsecondary monthly pass “specifically will impact students as they attend classes, extracurriculars, and their jobs.”

City Councillor Josh Matlow, who represents the Toronto–St. Paul’s ward, also expressed concern that the price increase for a postsecondary monthly pass was disproportionate. “It’s already too expensive,” said Matlow about the pass in an interview with The Varsity.

Matlow created a petition on his website to reverse the fee increase for the postsecondary monthly metropass after being approached by students who were concerned about the changes. He said that the motivation behind the petition was “to demonstrate to my colleagues that students had concerns” and “to raise awareness about the issue.”

He ultimately put forward a motion at City Council to amend the changes by removing the fare increase for the postsecondary monthly pass. The motion failed with a vote of 10 in favour to 15 against. Matlow reflected on the failure of the motion, saying that “the lack of care just astounded me.”

Going forward, Matlow said he would be interested in exploring either a means-based fare system, where low-income riders can get discounted transit, or have the fare structure reflect that certain demographics, such as students, are often of lower income.

In an email to The Varsity, Stuart Green, Senior Communications Specialist for the TTC, wrote, “We know fare increases are not popular and they are always considered a last resort.” He noted that the TTC is more reliant on customer fares than other North American transit systems.

How students use transit in Toronto

Research by Student Move TO in 2015 found that a majority of U of T students use public transit to get to school across all three campuses.

At the St. George campus, 51 per cent of school-to-home trips were taken by public transit, as opposed to walking, biking, or driving. At the Scarborough campus, that number was 64 per cent, and 66 per cent at the Mississauga campus. The median one-way travel time for these transit trips ranged from 40 minutes for students commuting to UTM, to 55 minutes to get to the St. George campus.

A survey conducted by the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union found that 64.3 per cent of graduate students surveyed relied on public transit to get to school, with the TTC alone accounting for 97 per cent of those trips.

More fare increases “will encourage students to either skip transit altogether, or in some cases not to pay for their fares entirely,” wrote Granger.

A report by the TTC found the use of child Presto cards, which allows the user to ride for free, was used 89 per cent of the time for fraudulent travel. The stations at which child Presto cards were most used were Dundas Station — which is the closest station to Ryerson University — and York University Station.

Raha Salarzaie, a third-year student and one of Woodsworth College’s off-campus representatives, told The Varsity that she commutes daily from North York, which takes her about 45 minutes to an hour.

She said that the fare increases will not affect how she uses transit, as she “[doesn’t] have any other option” but to continue buying monthly passes. Salarzaie expressed frustration at the expenses that come with being a student in Toronto, noting that she pays higher fees as an international student as well.

“It puts more pressure… you have to work more, it’s going to both impact your academics, and financially,” said Salarzaie. “I’m definitely not happy about it.”