Would you pay 15 cents more for better TTC service?

Update: see previous posts – November 26, 2011 TTC Service Reductions Beginning January 8, 2012,  September 17, 2011 Longer Waits on the Street & Over-Crowded Buses – TTC Service Standards Lowered, September 15, 2011 TTC delays and Road Closures – Weekend of Sept. 16 -18/11, December 17, 2010 TTC Streetcar & Bus Collide, Injuring TTC Passengers et al, June 11, 2010 Idling Laws – Toronto, October 12, 2009 T.T.C’s Fines Increase effective October 12, 2009

A 15-cent fare increase could be on the table at next week’s TTC board meeting, instead of the 10-cent increase that was expected to be approved.

But the extra nickel will be considered seriously only if the city and TTC find a way to maintain current service beyond next year. Nobody wants to go for that, if it means the agony of reducing buses for more riders next year.

The TTC expects to provide 15 million more rides next year — 503 million rides in total.

TTC vice-chair Peter Milczyn prompted the city’s budget committee to have staff check into the impact of a 15-cent increase as a means of maintaining current service levels rather than going back to pre-2004 standards.

The extra nickel would raise $15 million.

The staff report will consider a 15-cent hike in conjunction with a guarantee that the city’s 2012 transit subsidy of $404 million would remain stable for the next three years — and the expectation of a modest, predictable fare increase in each of those years, probably a dime each time.

It’s a complicated scenario because the 15-cent solution only works for a year, said Milczyn, the city councillor for Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore. He hasn’t decided yet whether to table the 15-cent option at the transit commission next Wednesday.

“We run into a brick wall in 2013 because we would have no buses to provide that (level of) service,” he said, citing the TTC’s looming capital budget shortfall.

Will the public happily shell out an additional .15 cents if the TTC defers the service reductions they were planning on implementing on January 8, 2012? The Toronto Transit Commission (the "T.T.C") turnstile above has an "Out of Order" sign hanging on it

In September, the TTC projected an $800 million capital shortfall over 10 years. The city has agreed to pay that.

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Would a higher TTC fare hike in January be worth the pain if it prevents service cuts on 62 bus and streetcar routes?

A 15-cent fare increase could be on the table at next week’s TTC board meeting, instead of the 10-cent increase that was expected to be approved.

But the extra nickel will be considered seriously only if the city and TTC find a way to maintain current service beyond next year. Nobody wants to go for that, if it means the agony of reducing buses for more riders next year.

The TTC expects to provide 15 million more rides next year — 503 million rides in total.

In the New Year, Bus fares will increase, as service reductions will lead to longer waiting times in the cold of winter or the searing heat of the summer

TTC vice-chair Peter Milczyn prompted the city’s budget committee to have staff check into the impact of a 15-cent increase as a means of maintaining current service levels rather than going back to pre-2004 standards.

The extra nickel would raise $15 million.

The staff report will consider a 15-cent hike in conjunction with a guarantee that the city’s 2012 transit subsidy of $404 million would remain stable for the next three years — and the expectation of a modest, predictable fare increase in each of those years, probably a dime each time.

It’s a complicated scenario because the 15-cent solution only works for a year, said Milczyn, the city councillor for Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore. He hasn’t decided yet whether to table the 15-cent option at the transit commission next Wednesday.

“We run into a brick wall in 2013 because we would have no buses to provide that (level of) service,” he said, citing the TTC’s looming capital budget shortfall.

In September, the TTC projected an $800 million capital shortfall over 10 years. The city has agreed to pay that.

However, anticipating that fewer vehicles will be needed, transit officials had already cancelled an order for 108 new buses. Unless it can re-order those by spring, the system won’t have enough buses to serve its growing ridership, said TTC chief general manager Gary Webster.

Adding the vehicles would cost about $90 million, including the $23 million price of a storage garage.

Also the TTC has already scheduled its workers for January based on less service. It will be a scramble to draw up new staff assignments, but it could be done, Webster said.

However, he conceded, “There’s not a lot of time for us to put the service back in place and buy some buses.”

TTC staff didn’t recommend a higher fare increase in the first place because nobody wants to restore the service in January only to have it pulled again next year, Webster said. He also worries that ridership will be driven down by hiking fares and running fewer buses.

“I’m encouraged that people are trying to find a way to maintain the service level we have today. The challenge is to find a way that’s affordable on the capital and operating side — and in the long term,” he said.

Although she wants to preserve service, TTC chair Karen Stintz said she has “a lot of discomfort with 15 cents.”

“Fares should go up consistently and people should be able to budget for it, but when you’re looking at who you’re asking to pay, you can’t ask those with the lowest income to be paying for a subsidy reduction,” she said.

TTC riders don’t want fares to rise at all, particularly given that the city is sitting on a surplus from 2010, said transit advocate Jamie Kirkpatrick, of the TTCriders lobby.

Although polls show riders prefer fare increases to service cuts, the fact that the province doesn’t subsidize the TTC’s operating costs at all “means Toronto taxpayers and the riders are always going to be hit with more than their fair share of running the TTC,” he said.

The fare hike is another example of literally nickel-and-diming taxpayers, said Councillor Paula Fletcher.

“There’s $2 for swimming pools, there’s another 5 cents for the TTC — while we’re sitting here with a $139 million piggybank of taxpayer dollars,” she said, citing a proposal by budget chief Mike Del Grande to introduce a $2 fee for leisure swims at outdoor pools, currently free.

Mayor Rob Ford has made it clear he doesn’t want the projected end-of-year surplus to be used for maintaining the status quo.

It’s commendable that people are looking for solutions, Fletcher said, “But what really needs to happen is taxpayer savings need to be applied to services.”

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