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Mayor Rob Ford's proposed 2012 budget includes $15-million in cuts to TTC service.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Toronto transit riders will likely pay more for less come January.

Toronto Transit Commission staff are recommending the agency hike ticket and token prices by 10 cents a year through 2015 as a way of shoring up its unsteady financial foundation.

The increase would come as the city's transit operator is lopping service from more than 50 routes across Toronto to meet City Hall's demands for 10-per-cent cuts from every department and agency.

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The TTC's chief general manager admits the fare increase could turn away riders but says he can't get any commitment from the city or other levels of government to make up for an annual TTC funding gap that could reach over $200-million by 2015.

"We're doing the best we can do with the least impact on customers with the money that we've got," said Gary Webster. "I've said many times this is not what anybody would like to do, with ridership growing, to actually make service worse."

Ridership is expected to hit a record for the fifth consecutive year in 2012 with over 507-million trips.

The recommendation would jack up the price of a Metropass to $141 from $121 by 2015. Child and senior fares would increase by five cents and 10 cents a year, respectively.

The fare-box provides roughly two out of every three dollars the TTC spends, the rest coming largely from a city subsidy that is expected to total $406-million next year.

Joe Mihevc, former vice-chair of the TTC, applauded the agency for implementing a long-term fare strategy but argued the fiscal uncertainty will remain until Queen's Park chips in. "The answer to the TTC's budget woes are going to have to be solved by the province sooner or later," he said "They will have to become partners."

Provincial Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne shot down any immediate hopes of the Liberal government riding to the rescue on Thursday, telling MPPs the city is on its own when it comes to TTC budget issues.

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The TTC will debate the staff recommendations on Dec. 14.

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