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Toronto Transit Commission’s fare increases will kick in at the beginning of 2016, with 25 cents added to the cash fare and 10 cents to the price of adult tokens.Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

The TTC board has voted to raise fares for people paying with cash or tokens, at the same time freezing the cost of the monthly transit pass and offering short-term protection to seniors and students.

After a lengthy debate featuring impassioned public pleas to protect lower-income riders, the politicians who oversee the Toronto Transit Commission concluded Monday they couldn't help paper over the budget gap without asking more of their passengers.

"I think we've taken a pretty balanced approach," TTC chair Josh Colle said. "I think that considering that the cash fare has been unchanged for the better part of a decade, and we are trying to transition people away from cash because of how inefficient it is, and our move to Presto, that that was, I think, a fair balance."

The fare increase, which does not need council approval, will kick in at the start of 2016. It will add 25 cents to the cash fare, which is now $3, and 10 cents to the price of adult tokens, now $2.80. These changes will affect about 37 per cent of riders, according to the TTC.

The Metropass remains at $141.50. The senior and student fares were also flatlined pending a city report on fare equity, coming as part of the city's poverty-reduction strategy.

Monday's fare increase still leaves a $41-million hole in the TTC budget. If that is not filled by an increased subsidy from the city, the only options will be to cut service or hike fares again.

A wrinkle of the budget process is that the TTC board won't learn until April of next year the extent of the city's subsidy, leaving it to debate fares lacking that key information. An attempt by Councillor Joe Mihevc to defer the fare decision was voted down, with critics saying it would deprive the agency of crucial funding if a fare increase were not implemented until months into 2016.

Mr. Colle also found backing for a series of motions trying to raise new revenues – through parking and licensing – and by consolidating TTC properties and divesting the agency of unnecessary ones. Those efforts are not expected to bear fruit in time to affect the 2016 budget.

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