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Toronto TTC board approves fare hike, free rides for children under 12

Mayor John Tory first revealed details of his TTC plan last month, which includes 50 new buses, reduced waiting times and free fares for kids aged 12 and under.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto transit riders will see a hike in their fares starting in March, after Mayor John Tory's $95-million plan for the Toronto Transit Commission cleared its first hurdle at its board meeting.

The transit board voted unanimously Monday in favour of the proposal, which promises a long list of service improvements. And though the overall plan still needs to be approved by council, the ten-cent fare hike only requires the sanction of the TTC board and will automatically become effective March 1.

As a result, the price of a token will increase by 10 cents from $2.70 to $2.80, and a regular Metropass from $133.75 to $141.50.

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"Our preference for sure would be to not have any increases of fares at all, but we don't have the luxury of that position around this table," TTC chair Josh Colle said Monday.

"I think this budget means a ton of new services for TTC riders. That's been something they've been calling for for a long time."

Mr. Tory last month first revealed details of his TTC plan, which includes 50 new buses, reduced waiting times and free fares for kids aged 12 and under. The proposal comes at the same time the city looks to fill an $86-million hole to balance the 2015 budget.

"To me, this was the most important board meeting of my three-year tenure, without question," TTC CEO Andy Byford said after the vote. "This will be totally transformative."

But not everyone was supportive. A large group of transit riders attended the meeting to speak out against the hike, which represents the fourth time the transit commission has increased fares in the past five years.

"This is important to us because every single time the TTC proposes a fare hike, we leave pockets of our city in isolation," said Jennifer Huang, the campaign chair of TTC Riders, an advocacy group for transit users.

"There's lots of people who cannot afford to take public transit as it is, and when you increase it, people are just not riding the TTC."

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Both Mr. Colle and Ms. Huang placed part of the blame for the fare hike on the province, arguing it should cover part of the TTC's operating cost.

"We're all kind vigorously agreeing with each other that the city's done their part, the riders have more than done their part and that the [other] piece of that are the other levels of government," Mr. Colle said.

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