Dec 31, 2009

Is the TTC worth $3 a fare?

"Happy New Year from the Toronto Transit Commission: Please pay up.

On Sunday, TTC cash fares go up 25¢, or 9%, to $3, and a Metropass jumps from $109 to $121, a 10% increase.

These are hefty hikes. Is the TTC worth the extra money? The short answer is no. I visited New York over Christmas, where the subway costs $2.25 (US), and takes you all over town, 24 hours a day. By comparison, we are getting hosed.

Transit users here probably wouldn’t begrudge the TTC a steep fare hike if we saw improvements. But six years after David Miller won re-election as the “transit mayor,” turning down the mayor’s traditional seat on the Police Services Board to take a seat on the TTC, in what way is the transit system better?

The other night, after the city hall press gallery’s Christmas party at the Hard Rock Café, I waited at midnight for the 505 Dundas streetcar westbound with Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone and John Barber of The Globe and Mail. Mr. Barber flagged a cab. That left two of us. Mr. Pantalone told me he is running for mayor. We waited some more.

“People used to love and respect the TTC,” said Mr. Pantalone. “What happened?”

“Back then,” I replied, “the TTC used to show up on a regular basis.”

In fairness, the streetcar soon rumbled up, and we got home safe. And isn’t it nice to have a deputy mayor who takes transit after midnight?

Still, we just don’t have the transit system we once did. Compared with 1980, the year Mr. Pantalone first won election to City Council, today’s TTC is dirtier, more crowded and less reliable. Major improvement appears a long distance away.

“You’re packed in like a sardine and you’re paying more for all of this,” says Patricia Sinclair, who lives on Finch Avenue East in Scarborough and does not drive. Ms. Sinclair has launched a group called “Save our Sheppard” to protest the new streetcar right-of-way on Sheppard Avenue East, the first bit of the Transit City plan.

“We want them to go back to their original plan for a subway on Sheppard East,” she says. “The Spadina [light rail] line goes 12 km an hour. Is that rapid transit? We’re being hoodwinked.”

There is some good news for transit users in Toronto. Yesterday, I tested the new streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair Avenue West, from Dufferin Street to Yonge Street. The streetcar came promptly, filled quickly, and ran smoothly.

In another spot of good news, university students -- who apparently lobbied the TTC pretty hard -- will see the price of their transit pass actually drop next year, from $109 right now to $99 in September, 2010.

But overall, the TTC predicts that the fare hike will discourage use. A record 473 million people will have ridden the TTC by midnight tonight (up from 467 million in 2008). Once the fare goes up, in 2010 just 462 million people will ride the Rocket, the TTC estimates. The fare hike will generate $36-million. The TTC also says its costs will rise 6% in 2010, but it will provide no new service.

Am I the only guy who finds it wacky that, even as our mayor professes to fight global warming, we expect transit use to drop?

Over the long term, the TTC predicts that subway and light rail expansion (on Sheppard, Finch and Eglinton avenues, Jane St. and Don Mills Road) will bring in an additional 175 million riders by 2021. If this does come to pass, Mr. Miller will indeed look like a hero. But I would like a better transit system before then.

The other day Councillor Karen Stintz (Eglinton-Lawrence) described being stuck on the Yonge train in a tunnel southbound for 20 minutes, with no one explaining the delay. She decided then to run again for council, because, “we have to fix this.”

Transit users are looking forward to very specific proposals from all the mayoral candidates as to how they will improve public transit within their term of office."

Is the TTC worth $3 a fare? - Posted Toronto


Anonymous said...

it seems that people will have to get used to the fare hike. The TTC must able to survive their bottom line....

TomW said...

Torontonians are unwilling to pay more tax to support TTC. It's either fare increase or service cuts, and I'd rather pay more.

Andy said...

Toronto home owners have the lowest property tax in the GTA