TTC chair Karen Stintz says a proposal to hike transit fares by an additional 5 cents this year to save service is out of the question.
“I don’t think that’s helpful,” said the Toronto councillor, responding to the idea being floated by the Toronto Board of Trade to add an extra nickel onto the 10-cent increase that took effect at the beginning of this year.
“We have made it clear that increases will be linked to the rate of inflation and we are sticking to that principle,” Councillor Stintz said. “We can’t ask those who are least able to afford it to pay for these services.”
The suggestion from the business group comes days before Toronto city council will sit down to decide on the final numbers for this year’s budget. The budget, which must first be debated by the mayor’s executive committee Thursday, includes proposals for about $86-million in funding cuts and would eliminate more than 1,000 city jobs.
The Board of Trade also is recommending a 3-per-cent increase to residential property taxes – a jump from the 2.5 per cent rise that is on the table – to save other services. The higher tax rate, it finds, would add about $11-million to the city’s coffers.
Among the money-saving measures contained in the proposed budget is a 10-per-cent cut to the city’s subsidy to the TTC, a move that will result in reduced off-peak and rush hour service on some bus routes and less streetcar service during off hours.
At its last meeting, the TTC commission took measures to maintain rush-hour service on half of the bus routes threatened by the cuts. Several city councillors have said restoring all service is a top priority for them and TTC funding is shaping up to be one of a number of contentious issues that council will need to grapple with during next week’s budget debate.
The board of trade argues that an additional 5-cent fare hike would preserve the remaining routes by generating an additional $15-million at the fare box.
Councillor Stintz pledged that the transit system’s funding crunch will not be solved at the fare box. “If we are going to do anything we need to consider an increase to the [city]subsidy or some other measure, but asking people to pay more in fares is not something I would consider.”
Jamie Kirkpatrick, a transit advocate with the Toronto Environmental Alliance, said riders are already picking up more than 70 per cent of transit costs. “I don’t think it is fair to ask riders to pay even more when the city is cutting its support of transit,” he said.