Updated: Further information on the history of seniors’ fares has been added at the end of this article.
With the never ending problems of balancing the TTC’s budget, the question of trimming or eliminating various forms of fare subsidy are back on the table. This shows up as a quick fix to revenue problems with the assumption that “if only riders paid more, there wouldn’t be a problem”. The target group varies from time to time, but the premise is the same – somebody is freeloading and “my tax dollars/fares” should not be paying their freight.
A basic problem with this argument is that it will not fix the revenue shortfall permanently, only increase the cost of using transit by whichever group is targeted. If, for example, all discount fares were eliminated in 2017, we would be right back at the same position in 2018 wondering how to deal with increased costs, but without that convenient list of scapegoats.
A quick review of the “concession fares” is in order to put the question in context.
- Adults who are willing to purchase tokens up front (or preload their Presto cards) get a discount relative to riders who pay cash.
- Adults who want to prepay even more can purchase daily, weekly or monthly passes which cap their costs within a time period.
- Special passes and validation stickers are available to extend the range of services covered by adult passes to premium fare routes and to other transit systems.
- Daily pass holders get a special “family” deal on weekends and holidays when up to six people, maximum two adults, can travel on the pass.
- Monthly pass holders can obtain various extra discounts based on a commitment to buying 12 months’ worth of transit (the Metropass Discount Plan or MDP), and bulk-buy discounts are available to organizations that resell passes (the Volume Incentive Program or VIP).
- A Convention Pass is available to allow for bulk purchase of transit service for large groups at a price considerably below the cost of a day pass.
- Students and seniors have passes priced at a 20% discount from adult passes, and MDP pricing provides for a further discount. Cash and ticket fares are discounted about 33% from adult rates.
- Children ride free.
- A limited number of designated groups (the blind and war amputees) travel free.
- WheelTrans users are entitled to be accompanied by a Support Person at no extra charge.
Some of the concession fares have been around for a very long time:
- Children’s fares predate the TTC’s formation in 1921 and until recently floated between 1/3 and 1/2 of an adult fare. A “child” was defined by height with rings embossed on the stanchions at vehicle entrances to give operators an unambiguous measure. Older vehicles (PCCs and the Peter Witt) bear witness to how the standard was changed over years as the average height of children rose.
- Scholars’ fares date from the 1950s, and they lie partway between the fare for children and adults.
- Seniors’ fares came along by the 1970s in recognition of the then-new issue of a growing aged population and their relative poverty. The CPP was less than a decade old, and “house rich” oldsters benefiting from the real estate market were unknown.
- The Metropass dates from May 1980, and its cost has fluctuated between 52 and 47 “token” fares depending on the prevailing political and fiscal mood.
- Post-secondary student passes were added to the mix in 2010 after several years of lobbying by student groups.
- Free rides for children were granted in early 2015 as a political move by then-new Mayor Tory to “do something” quickly on the transit and poverty files.