In a posting last week, Steve Munro opines that, “the TTC is hurt by the absence of small, regular fare increases to cover, at least in part, its increasing costs.”
I agree that fares should at least increase with inflation. Small increases have little to no effect on ridership, but holding fares the same puts more pressure on those fares as costs rise and eventually a nasty jump in fares is needed that has a drastic effect on ridership.
In yesterday’s Toronto Star, columnist Heather Mallick speaks against this idea claiming a hike is like “poison for the poor”.
Mallick must not be a frequent user of the TTC, as she tries to make the case that the working poor are paying the $3 cash fare to get to and from work each day instead of purchasing 10 tokens for $25 once per week. She claims that coming up with $25 to purchase tokens ten at a time can be a hardship for the working poor, but this is really a personal planning issue. She claims that a 10 cent fare increase adds up to a dollar per week that the working poor don’t have, while making the claim that the poor must be already spending $5 per week by paying cash fares.
I say she must not be a frequent user of the TTC because, unlike other GTHA transit agencies, the TTC does not make its riders purchase TEN tokens in order to be able to get on board for $2.50 instead of $3.00. Every location where tokens are sold will sell five for $12.50. In addition to this, some subway stations have token machines that will sell you 4 for $10 or 8 for $20. Granted, these machines do not accept five dollar bills, but many stations will sell you tokens in 4 and 8 quantities from the collector booth, even though those quantities do not appear on the “official” fare chart. I know from personal experience that tokens are sold in 4 and 8 in addition to 5 and 10 quantities at Don Mills station. The collector booth has a hand-written sign indicating the 4 for $10 and 8 for $20 availability.
Is purchasing $10 of tokens every two days that much of a hardship for someone needing to carry $6 each day?
Incidently, for those using a transit agency other than the TTC that now accepts Presto, it is now easy to add $10 to the card balance at a time online, instead of having to go out and purchase 10 tickets at a time.
Mallick also holds the point of view that transit should be free because it has a social value. I agree that it has a social value, but is that a reason for it to be free? I argue that things that are ‘free’ (meaning that you don’t pay as you use it, but through general taxes) are too easily taken for granted. So much so, that when budgets are tough, cuts are made far too easily by those in charge and the public does not get mobilized against those cuts until it is too late. When the public must pay something for a service, there is an inherent interest in making sure it continues. When cuts are being considered, well before they are a done deal and often when they are just trial balloons, people get motivated and take action. How much of the cost should be paid by the user versus covered by general taxes is a whole other debate, but zero fares leads to zero concern for preservation of service.