TTC fare hike highlights Ford's budget announcement
A TTC fare hike for 2011 highlighted Rob Ford's budget announcement this morning. Unless the mayor and the TTC can find certain "efficiencies" that will allow them to reduce or avoid such a step, starting February 1st, commuters will be paying an additional 10 cents to take the TTC.
"I did not want to agree to this... I am not happy about this," Ford told press gathered at city hall. "My staff has been working night and day...to find another option. We will meet with the City Manager and the TTC to try and reduce the fare increase or avoid it all together."
The TTC has called a Special Commission meeting on Wednesday morning to consider the recommended operating and capital budgets, at which time we're likely to learn about why the fare hike has been deemed necessary and whether or not any headway has been made in avoiding/reducing it.
Update (10:15 a.m.):
According to a press release from the TTC, the fare increase is necessary "to meet service levels required for the projected increase in ridership [up to 483 million rides]." Should the increase go through, the new fare chart will look like this: cash fares remain the same, tokens go up to $2.60, metropasses come in at $126, student fares at $1.75.
The TTC also proposes "the reallocation of some weekend and/or late night weekday bus service on routes where ridership is extremely low... to ensure service levels at rush hour and midday." In a brief question period after Ford's announcement, TTC Chair Karen Stintz did, however, note that no routes will be cut.
Other highlights from the proposed 2011 budget include the fact that there will be no property tax increase, one of Ford's chief goals for 2011. The budget is also expected to be finalized roughly two months earlier than in years past, so as to avoid what the mayor called "spending without a plan," which "no successful business does." Although the budget is balanced without subsidy from the provincial government, it would appear, that this was primarily made possible by the 2009 ($78 million) and 2010 ($268 million) surpluses insofar as only $57 million was saved via so-called efficiencies (worthy of note: that's less than the $64 million that was lost in cutting the vehicle registration tax).
Along with the proposed TTC fare hike, Torontonians will be paying more for garbage removal (3 per cent hike) and water (a 9 per cent hike). And as far as "minor service cuts" go, it looks like the Urban Affairs Branch at Metro Hall will indeed be closed, despite last week's vote by the library board.
In fact, Ford sounded quite the warning regarding those "arm's length agencies" who haven't been able to deliver budgets that are on target. "If they're unable to manage efficiently, we'll have to find new managers," the mayor vowed before revealing that he'll be meeting with Police Chief Bill Blair at 2 p.m. this afternoon (the library and public health are likely also targets of this threat).
The mayor noted that the 2011 budget is just a warm up for 2012, at which time his administration will address Toronto's "structural debt." Ford promised that "no stone will be left unturned" in his staff's search for efficiencies and savings, but one would assume that more significant service cuts lay on the horizon as city staff continue "to get our financial house in order here at city hall."
Photo by sssteve.o in the blogTO Flickr pool.
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