ttc fare hike

TTC wait times are about to go up and riders aren't happy

The release of the City of Toronto's 2023 Budget this week has spiralled into flurry of heated discussion among residents both online and off, with many up in arms over a proposed increase to the police budget by nearly $50 million.

While that item has, naturally, proven to be the biggest pain point, people are also taking issue with some similarly unwelcome potential changes; among them, a 10 cent fare hike for adults and students on the TTC that feels poorly-timed given it comes in the midst of a string of violent, at times fatal incidents that have made some afraid to take public transit.

And a few additional details in the TTC budget specifically are now prompting further ire from the public.

As shared by transitgoer advocacy organization TTCRiders, the commission's operating budget for this year has some recommendations that may negatively impact commuters, including the aforementioned fare hike and, notably, a decrease in service that will lead to longer wait times for the next bus, subway or streetcar.

The TTC is proposing a slight reduction of 14,800 weekly service hours across the network (versus November 2022 totals), which will put service at 91 per cent of pre-COVID levels across all modes of transportation.

The biggest pruning will be on the subway line, which will be cut to just 75 per cent of pre-COVID service levels, compared to 87 per cent for streetcars and 94 per cent for buses. This will mean some users will have to wait up to 10 minutes for the next train, depending on demand — something that TTCRiders is pushing back against.

"Mayor Tory has proposed deep budget cuts that will leave transit users waiting longer for their bus, streetcar, and subway. And when their TTC vehicle arrives, it will be more crowded," the group wrote in a press release on Thursday.

"Service cuts and fare increases will only drive more transit users away, reducing safety and wrecking Toronto’s chances at meeting our climate goals."

TTCRiders and others have also pointed out that along with the crowding that may come from less frequent service, the TTC is increasing its crowding standards — but it is noteworthy that these numbers are changing only to what they were pre-pandemic, before they were lowered in the name of physical distancing.

Also important to keep in mind is that the budget states that subways will continue to come every six minutes "or better in most periods," and that 10 minutes is only a worst-case scenario wait, again based on changing customer levels, which have informed all aspects of the budget.

"Route adjustments will be based on ridership demand in the busiest portion of the route, in the busiest direction and hour within each time period of service," the doc continues.

"The continuation of work-from-home and hybrid work arrangements are constraining further ridership recovery. While modest ridership recovery has continued in the fall of 2022, the pace of ridership recovery has slowed and current forecasts indicate that ridership will be 75 per cent of pre-COVID levels by year-end 2023."

When questioned on the topic in a media briefing on Thursday, Mayor John Tory said that he is encouraging the TTC to minimize any service reductions, as the city has increased its subsidy to the agency by $53 million (or 5.87 per cent) this year.

The focus of the TTC's operating budget of $2.380 billion is on system safety — with a recommendation to hire 50 more Special Constables —as well as service improvements where needed (overcrowded lines and priority Neighbourhood Improvement Areas), increased cleaning and litter removal, and transit expansion and conversion, all amid inflation.

The budget will go into effect next week, pending TTC Board approval.

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