ttc free

It would cost every Toronto homeowner $1 a day to make the TTC totally free

It's become apparent in recent weeks, amidst a widespread crackdown on people who skip out on paying for public transit rides, that much of Toronto no longer thinks the TTC's fares are fair.

With rates set to go up by another 10 cents this weekend — the ninth such fare increase in just 10 years — the sentiment is only heightening.

Add in chronically unreliable service, ridiculously high evasion fines, questionable enforcement tactics and condescending ads that make loyal customers feel like criminals... well, a lot of Toronto commuters are wondering what, exactly, it is they're paying so damn much for lately.

During a marathon meeting of the TTC Board at Toronto City Hall on Tuesday, the topic of public transit fare came up a lot.

City councillors and TTC staffers discussed a wide variety of issues raised by a recently-released report which concluded (based on a six-week-long observational study) that the transit organization is now losing as much as $73 millon per year to fare evasion.

Questions were raised about how much the TTC is spending to more than double its current fleet of fare inspectors to reach 183 guards by the end of Q3 2020.

No definitive answers were given, but the topic of reallocating funds from heavy-handed fare enforcement campaigns to keeping transit fares lower in the first place sparked an even more interesting question: How much would it cost the city to make public transit free?

Ward 22 councillor Jim Karygiannis asked at one point during the meeting how much it cost per household if taxes were to cover free public transit in Toronto.

After what City News' Tina Yazdani described as "some very rough calculations," staffers came back with the figure of one dollar per day. 

That's right — if every homeowner in Toronto were to pay an additional $365 per year in taxes, the entire city could ride its subways, busses and streetcars for free.

Considering that a monthly TTC pass already costs $151.15 per month (just over $1,800 a year), homeowners would not only be providing free public transit for entire city, they'd be getting quite a deal on rides themselves.

"If it would cost Torontonians a dollar a day for free transit, then why is the Metropass $150 per month, one of most expensive transit passes in the world?" commented one Toronto resident in response to the notion.

"Transit doesn't need to be free, just affordable. Make it $1 to ride and we'd have no fare evasion."

"Woah," wrote another. "For context, if the $3.6 billion in repairs on the Gardiner last for ten years, that's about $0.82 per day, per household. JUST THE GARDINER."

While some transit buffs expressed skepticism over the "one dollar a day" figure, cautioning that it seems way too low, many agree that free public transit would be an excellent thing for Toronto.

It's already working in more than 100 European cities, as pointed out in a recent New York Times feature. Successful pilot studies across the U.S., several of which are still underway, have shown that making public transit free can lead to greater social equality, less traffic on roads and a better environment for everyone.

Karygiannis told reporters after yesterday's TTC board meeting that he plans on introducing a motion asking staff to investigate the possibility of doing something similar in Toronto.

"There are cities in the world that have free transit, why can't the city of Toronto?" said the councillor to Yazdani following Tuesday's board meeting.

"The fourth-largest city in North America? The most diverse city in the world? Why would be not have free public transit?"

"We're going to get a lot more people on the TTC and we're going to get a lot more people out of their cars," he continued. "Less congestion, less environmental pollution... boy am I for it. Let's go for it."

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