New report says TTC has to lower fares if they want people to use it as much as pre-COVID
A group of residents who have long advocated on behalf of public transit commuters in Toronto has come out with a new report that it hopes can shed light on how the TTC can change to gain its ridership back after a severe pandemic lull thanks to work-from-home trends and COVID-19 transmission fears.
Among the calls for upgrades to the city's transit network from the organization TTCRiders is greater reliability, less crowded and more frequent service, and, most importantly cheaper fares.
"World class cities are introducing lower fares and more frequent, reliable service to win back riders and address inequalities," the new report reads, acknowledging that TTC ridership dropped significantly during the pandemic and that the commission needs to "win" riders back.
The organization suggests a system that expands free TTC to more groups (including those on welfare and high school students) and times (such as extreme weather days), lengthen the timed fare window, introduce fair capping, and more.
Also notably on the list of recommendations are ending fare enforcement, which has been controverisal over the years, entirely.
Other suggestions include increasing service frequency overall and building more bus priority lanes, as well as making PRESTO cards more available and hassle-free to acquire and use.
As the #TTC creates a new 5-Year Fare Plan, transit rider group @TTCriders has written a report and recommendations for fares policies that will win riders back and make the system more equitable. Read it here: https://t.co/ghqUqzrKAi pic.twitter.com/nGoGRwJ6S0— Maytree Foundation (@maytree_canada) June 29, 2021
The report is based on the outcomes of focus groups and conversations with more than 300 residents in the city, the vast majority of which cited affordability as their biggest challenge when facing the TTC. Service level, reliability, and crowding were others that made the list, alongside accessibility, safety, PRESTO issues and language barriers.
The report notes that 25 per cent of the focus groups contained people who claim they have before given up paying for food in order to pay for transit, and/or have risked a fine because they could not afford to pay.
"After taxes and rent, a transit-dependent family of four with two working parents earning minimum wage spends between 20% and 35% of their remaining income on TTC fares. Participants who lost work during the pandemic say that the fare has become unaffordable," it reads.
Given that the TTC Board has expressed worry that ridership levels may never recover post-COVID, perhaps it would be prudent for the commission and various levels of government to take what TTCRiders is saying into account as it overhauls its fares in the coming weeks.
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