Transit fares are going up slightly at the start of next year as the TTC struggles to keep pace with the service demands of a surging ridership.
The decision on the increase came as commissioners also approved an operating budget that leaves the TTC $6-million short for 2014, a hole staff pledge to cover through internal savings if the city doesn't further increase its subsidy.
The vote on the $1.6-billion budget was unanimous. But the prospect of a fare increase laid bare divisions on the commission, with sharp debate between those who said riders couldn't be expected to pay more for an overcrowded service and those who said the current fare revenue was insufficient.
Although CEO Andy Byford was blunt in his warning that the TTC can't "continue to ask users to pay more and more," he said this rise was necessary. The motion to increase most fares was carried by a vote of 5-2.
The $3 cash price for a single fare will remain the same. The cost of tokens purchased in volume will go up by 5 cents each on Jan. 1, climbing to $2.70, with senior and student fares rising proportionally. At the same time, the price of adult monthly passes will increase by $5.25, to $133.75.
The TTC has been hurt by a freeze in its subsidy from the city, which has been fixed at $411-million for two years. Given the continuing rise in ridership during that time, the result has been an effective reduction in the amount of money available per passenger.
"We believe we've done our part to be as efficient as we can," TTC chief financial officer Vince Rodo told commissioners. "If we're going to continue to grow, that subsidy per rider can't continue to slide."
The TTC has been told it can expect $428-million next year from the city. That will need to be approved by council in January, though, and falls short of the $434-million the transit agency says it needs.
The special TTC meeting came after the regularly scheduled meeting Monday was disrupted and delayed by the vote on Mayor Rob Ford. At the first meeting dozens of citizens turned up to protest a fare increase. Many were not heard and only a few returned as the meeting re-convened Wednesday afternoon.