Committee unanimously endorsed the plan, which would see the TTC give eligible residents 33 per cent off of single adult fare and 21 per cent off an adult monthly pass.
The mayor’s executive committee has approved a plan to give discounts to low-income transit users, but without the amendments pushed for by anti-poverty activists.
During a late evening session on Thursday, the committee unanimously endorsed the plan, which would see the TTC give eligible residents 33 per cent off of single adult fare and 21 per cent off an adult monthly pass.
The landmark Fair Pass Program has been under development for years and would radically shake up the TTC’s concession system by linking fare discounts to riders’ ability to pay.
More than a dozen anti-poverty advocates spoke at the committee, and, while most lauded the policy, they also urged the mayor’s inner circle to make it more robust.
“We are requesting that the discounts are deeper, the rollout is faster,” said Jessica Bell of TTCriders and the Fair Fare Coalition.
She asked that the discount fare program, which would cost $48 million a year when fully phased in by 2021, not be paid for by reducing concession fares to other groups.
The city currently spends $72 million on discounts for seniors, secondary and post-secondary students and children under 13 years of age.
The mayor has suggested the cost of the low-income discount could be offset by “reviewing” the existing programs.
Several deputants asked that people on social assistance be given free transit passes, and that the Fair Pass program, which won’t start being phased in until 2018, be implemented right away.
“Why keep 193,000 low-income citizens waiting when the need has been identified and the solution is right here?” asked Yvette Roberts, coordinator of Young Parents With No Fixed Address. She said economically marginalized residents are forgoing job opportunities and medical appointments because they can’t afford transit.
“We’re seeking immediate implementation. No more delays. Do the right thing now!” she said.
City staff told the committee that the fare plan couldn’t be implemented until the Presto fare program is in place. The TTC’s full network will be Presto-enabled by the end of the year, but the agency won’t phase out its other payment methods until sometime in 2017.
In a speech to the committee, Mayor John Tory said he understood the deputants’ urgency.
“It’s never fast enough. It’s never enough. The discount is never deep enough. I understand that. We’d like to do a lot more. But, at the end of the day, I think we’re doing something substantial here,” he said.
Under the policy, which still has to be approved by city council, Toronto adults who make less than 15 per cent above the low-income measure would be eligible for the fare discount. The cutoff would be $45,075 for a two-parent, two-child household; $31,522 for a single-parent, one-child household, and $22,537 for a single person.
Slightly fewer than 200,000 transit users would qualify, according to a report by city staff. Residents already receiving provincial transportation supports wouldn’t qualify.
The program would be rolled out in three phases, starting in 2018 with Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works clients, followed by residents who receive housing and child care subsidies in 2019, and all others in 2020 and 2021. Most eligible transit users wouldn’t get the discount until the third phase.
The plan will be debated at council’s next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 13 and 14.