What Should We Do About Fares?

In my previous article, I reviewed the TTC staff report about the proposed fare increase, but didn’t say much (except in the comment thread) about my overall view on the situation.

The most important fact about Tuesday’s TTC decision, whatever it will be, is that it will not set, once and for all, either the fare and service levels for 2010, nor general fare policy for the future.  Any attempt to do so runs directly into the limitations of the TTC’s mandate and the simple truth that neither the City nor Queen’s Park have clearly stated how much the TTC might get in operating subsidies for 2010.

For next Tuesday, as I have said many times, I support the proposed 25-cent token fare increase with all other fares rising proportionately.  The attempt to grab $5 extra a month from Metropass holders is an unfair, precipitous action brought forward by TTC staff who have always fought against making the pass “the better way” to travel.  That the scheme was announced by a press release rather than by a formal proposal from the Commission itself raises serious questions about who is setting policy at the TTC.

If the Commission adopts this fare scheme, the TTC will still be about $50-million in the hole going into the 2010 budget process.  At this point we have no idea what sort of tradeoffs this might entail, and the Commission is asked to implement a fare change without all the facts on the table.

As I mentioned in my previous article, TTC staff claim that the system’s costs will rise by 7% per annum for the foreseeable future, but they do not quantify the source of this magnitude of change.  Some factors listed in the staff report are non-recurring or have a limited effect on future budgets.

Next Tuesday, as we always see when fare increases are on the table, there will be many groups calling for various changes in fare structures ranging from a complete freeze to new discounts for certain groups of riders.  I believe that the Commission, and by extension the City, should not be making fare policy on the fly.  We are all badly served by “debate” that is inevitably presented as a decision that must be taken today lest the sky fall tomorrow. Continue reading