Fare hike, service cuts: TTC board approves 2023 budget

After announcements about funding increases from Mayor John Tory last week, city councillors and special interest groups are still waiting for what's to come as the budget process unfolds. Mark McAllister reports.

The TTC board approved a new operating budget on Monday which means most riders could soon be paying a little bit more to ride the rocket.

The board has given the green light for a 10-cent fare increase, on top of the current rate of $3.25 per ride, that will impact cash and PRESTO fares. The proposed fare hike coupled with reduced service hours has transit advocates concerned.

“There could be future service cuts on the horizon so it’s a really critical moment,” says Shelagh Pizey-Allen, spokesperson for the transit advocacy group TTCriders. “The fare increase is cruel. They are really going after the wrong people, the lowest income people in our city.”

“If we increase fares now riders will be driven away. The transit system will be less safe because there will be less people riding it.”

While announcing the increased fares last week, Mayor John Tory said eligibility for the Fair Pass Transit Discount program will be expanded to an extra 50,000 people. Tory added monthly pass users and seniors would see their fares frozen in 2023.

The proposed increase still needs to go to city council for final approval next month. If approved it would come into effect on Apr. 3.

Budget comes with reduced service compared to pre-pandemic

The new budget, a $53-million increase over and above the potential fare hike, comes with a nine per cent cut to service compared to pre-pandemic levels. Critics argue the city has options to find money elsewhere and reduced service hours will only lead to overcrowding and increased wait times.

TTC board chair Coun. Jon Burnside says the “budget balances the need to deliver safe service while managing lower revenues and increased operating costs associated with inflation and new transit lines.”

Pizey-Allen says things like a parking levee on big malls and commercial properties could help the city generate additional funds to deal with increasing costs.

“Of course the provincial and federal governments need to be investing in transit, but there are also transit funding tools that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars,” she says.

Tory outlined several other new initiatives he hopes will be passed as part of the TTC’s 2023 budget process. This includes hiring 50 new TTC special constables in an effort to increase safety along the system.

The TTC has seen a number of high-profile safety incidents in recent months, such as a woman fatally stabbed at High Park station as well as six people attacked at St. Clair station in December, along with a handful of times when people were pushed off of subway station platforms.

Toronto’s police board has unanimously approved a nearly $50-million increase to the force’s budget on Monday. The approval came despite an outcry from critics who said the money would be better invested in underfunded community services.

The TTC budget, as well as the complete 2023 spending document, will be voted on by city council on Feb. 14.

With files from CityNews reporter Mark McAllister

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