TTC Riders’ Strike

While not exactly an LRT issue, I thought I would comment on the proposed TTC Riders’ Strike this Friday, November 13.

It would be nice to not have any fare increases (heck, it would be nice to not have any fares!), the cost of things keeps going up and there is no sustained operational funding coming from upper levels of government. Perhaps if there was a serious effort to lobby those levels of governments during the not-too-distant elections, we might see some change at the fare-box. My big concern is that the proposed fare increase is somewhat misdirected at the most loyal users of the system. The occasional user who pays a cash fare will see an increase that is just over 9%, token users will see a jump over 11%, and Metropass users will see a jump that is nearly 16%! Do we really want to encourage transit use and all the wonderful ‘green’ thoughts that come with that?

I won’t go on anymore about the proposed increase itself, as what I wanted to comment on is the idea of a riders’ strike on Friday. I am not a fan of boycotts of something with the idea that doing so will alter the pricing of the item, particularly when the item is not exactly discretionary. We have all seen the “don’t buy your gas from X on Tuesday and they will have to lower their price” boycotts. In theory, these should work, but the theory does not take into account some of the strongest characteristics of basic human nature: apathy and laziness. Boycotts against products and companies have worked, when the underlying issue was some form of outrage besides price. These work by leveraging other traits of human nature that can bring out greater numbers and can be sustained for a longer period of time. Outrage over a change in the price of something quickly dies when that change is relatively normal. If we woke up tomorrow to find gas at $2.50 per litre, I suspect there will be some very serious action taken by some and oil companies will react to it. I suspect they are aware of that - it is the “put a frog in boiling water versus put it in warm water and slowly raise the temperature” issue.

That said, I will say that the proposed Riders’ Strike on Friday is not a bad idea. They are not trying to get everyone to avoid the TTC on Friday. Hearing the sound of crickets at Bloor-Yonge station on Friday is not their intent!

The intent is to demonstrate what effect a fare hike could have on ridership. The proposed fare increase is not going to drive hordes of people from the TTC, most will just pay the increase because they have no choice, or what choice they do have is has other issues they would rather not bother with. At the same time, an increase in fares will result in some people re-assessing what their options are and some will find other alternatives. Maybe only 5%, or perhaps as much as 10% might find alternatives.

A boycott that aims to demonstrate this effect can easily reach its goal. That is likely to have a few more politicians sit up and take notice.

3 Responses to “TTC Riders’ Strike”

  1. W. K. Lis Says:

    The problem is Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill not supporting public transit. The TTC is getting the lowest subsidy from government in North America. Fix that first.

    Cal’s comment: For sure, but it starts with making the politicians pay attention. This boycott is a nice start, but I sure hope that the follow-up work is carried through. It really does not take a whole lot of effort to get things changed in this country, but for too may of us, any effort is too much effort.

  2. Tom West Says:

    W. K. Lis Says “TTC is getting the lowest subsidy from government in North America”, but I say it has one of the highest cost recovery ratios because it has one of the higehst mode shares.

    I think that Transit operations should aim to recover 100% of costs. I also think gas tax should be high enough to recover 100% of the cost of maintaing our roads. Transit would work out cheaper then…

    Cal’s comment: There are many things in life that we don’t pay the true cost for. Does anyone realize what the cost of using recycled paper would be if we paid for all the labour that goes into it (including the labour of all of us putting it in a separate container from general garbage for pick-up)? Likewise, one cannot compare recycled paper with virgin paper unless the subsidies are taken out of that industry (i.e.: the extremely low fees charged for cutting down trees on crown land).

    I agree that transit operators should aim for 100% recovery of the costs, but at the same time, there is a case to be made that certain things in society are for the ‘better good’ of the society at large and should be funded, to some extent, out of the pool of taxes collected. The point of contention is just how much should be covered this way and how much should be ‘user pay’.

    One problem I have with too much of a focus on aiming for 100% of cost recovery is that it can promote a tunnel vision that leads to things like the TTC standing firm against time-based transfers citing that they will ‘lose money’ on the idea. Some latest figures suggest that it would only cost $10-15 million annually. This is a tiny cost, that I believe that would either be made up by attracting new fares in situations where people are now opting to walk a few blocks. I also question how much of that ‘cost’ is not a cost at all because it will amount to people who are currently bending the transfer rules by making a quick-enough stop over when technically they should not be. Those situations will become ‘legal’ with zero loss in collected fares.

  3. OCAP Says:

    Cal’s comment: The following was posted to this site. There was a preamble with instructions regarding distribution of flyers containing this message, and I have removed that from the posting. Though there are some points in this that drift away from transit, I am leaving it unedited. There are points in here I agree with, and points I do not agree with, but I am leaving it intact without further comment…

    Angry about the TTC Fare Hike?

    It’s time to make transit affordable!

    Public Action Against the Transit Fare Hikes
    Saturday, December 12th 1pm
    Toronto City Hall (Queen and Bay)

    The Toronto Transit Commission is facing a $100-million deficit in its operating budget for next year. On November 17th the Commission ignored community outrage, and instead voted for a TTC fare hike of 25cents/fare and an increase of over 10% per monthly pass. In the new year, they expect us to pay $6 for ONE round trip on transit! Riders already cover more than 80% of TTC operating costs and it is by far the least-funded mass transit system in North America. This increase is outrageous and unacceptable - and we should refuse to pay!

    Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about shortfalls and deficits. We cannot forget where these deficits come from. When the economic crisis hit, the federal and provincial government quickly found BILLIONS of dollars of public money to bailout banks and corporations. Now these same governments want us to believe that they can’t find any money to support public transit? As usual, big business gets bailed out, and the people get sold out. Worst of all the bourgeoise socialists affiliated with the NDP on Toronto City Council behind such trying to end the special diet and trying to prevent those eligible for Ontario Works from receiving it.

    For poor and working people in this city, especially for families, transit costs are already too high and often unaffordable. This fare hike will hurt the people who are already struggling to make ends meet. The TTC deficit should not be loaded onto the backs of people who need transit.

    It should not be paid for by riders and it should not be paid for by the workers who run the buses, subways and streetcars.

    Paying more for transit is only one attack on already inadequate public services. Lay-offs and deeper cuts to all essential services like Welfare, Disability, and the Ontario Drug Benefit are coming next if we don’t fight back. Our communities demand affordable transit, real income levels, affordable housing, childcare, and education.

    Transit is a necessity and it is a basic right. Not only are we fighting this fare hike, but we are demanding that transit be federally funded and affordable for everyone. If we mobilize, and together refuse to accept this fare hike, we can take back transit.

    Come out December 12th

    Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) / 416-925-6939