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Time for a TTC fare freeze

Now that the TTC has raised fares for metropasses, tickets and tokens, it seems like a good time to remind everyone that Howard Hampton has promised a two-year freeze on transit fares if elected. It’s the kind of promise that usually proves foolhardy, because you never know what will happen to make costs go up. If the price of oil or electricity suddenly spikes, the promise could prove hard to keep. But the idea of a fare freeze is one whose time has come.

The TTC’s “fare-box recovery,” or the percentage of operating costs paid for by fares, was in the neighbourhood of 75% before fares went up. And given that the system is overcrowded—we are cramming into the buses like sardines, which means that each bus’s fare box is more full than usual—it’s probably even healthier than that. As it stands, the TTC’s fare-box recovery is the best in North America, well ahead of major American cities, which hover around the 65% range.

The TTC made a big show of the public consultation it held, in which Torontonians said they preferred a fare hike to service cuts. But the best way to encourage transit ridership is to keep fares competitive. In addition to the fare freeze, Hampton has promised to pick up 50% of the operating cost shortfall for transit—in other words, to pay half of the 25% of costs that aren’t covered by the fare. This used to be the accepted formula in the pre-Harris era, and the promise should be a no-brainer for all parties given that, compared to any other city in North America, Toronto transit riders pay more than their fair share.

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