TTC: Why are we paying more for less?

By Victor Ferreira
Ryersonian Staff

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) approved a five-cent fare hike on Nov. 20, the third increase since Karen Stintz was named TTC chair in 2010.

With decreased service, riders waiting hours for buses and daily subway delays caused by signal loss, where is all the money going?

Stintz and CEO Andy Byford were appointed in November 2011 after Mayor Rob Ford won the municipal election. Before the Stintz and Byford era atop the TTC, tokens could be bought for $2.50, and an adult metropass cost $121. Fares were increased twice in 2012 before the most recent case. In January, tokens will cost $2.70, while the price of a metropass will be raised to $133.75.

Riders might be content with reaching deeper into their pockets if they were receiving something in return. Increased service? Additional subway routes? No, riders aren’t getting improvement. Just more dreadful service from the third largest transit system on the continent.

Services were slashed by 10 per cent in 2012 with 62 different routes plagued by slower transit times. Loading standards also reverted to 2004 numbers when 418 million riders were using the TTC. Ridership has increased to a projected record of 528 million in 2013.

Service has slightly increased since, but in other words, we’re paying more for less. That’s saying something when some routes are atrocious.

The 60 Steeles Avenue West is widely known as one of the worst buses in the city. At times, the pathetic service makes me believe the route isn’t monitored at headquarters.

In the summer, a friend and I arrived at the line’s Kipling stop at 1:30 p.m. We were headed towards Steeles Avenue West and Dufferin Street for a 2 p.m. shift at work. Ten riders were already waiting when we arrived. At 2:30 p.m. my co-worker and I were still at Kipling with another 40 riders wondering what could have stopped service for an hour. There were no traffic accidents and no service incidents. It was as if the TTC had stopped for a lunch hour or two.

But the mediocrity isn’t exclusive to buses.

I rely on the subway to bring me from my home near Kipling station to the downtown core. I can speak about frequency, signal loss, and a slew of other issues that affect the subway system but the frequent closures are the most concerning. It’s pitiful.

The Kipling Station platform has been closed over three separate weekends since late September for repair, forcing riders to take shuttle buses or alternate routes. If I’m paying a premium amount for a service, I want to be able to use it.

But the blame can’t be placed solely on the shoulders of Stintz and Byford.

The City of Toronto is responsible for giving what TTC officials says is the lowest subsidy in North America. The TTC has received a $411-million subsidy over the past two years. Toronto has agreed to increase that subsidy to $428 million which amounts to 79 cents per rider.

With ridership hitting record highs every year, the TTC requires a larger budget to properly operate as a company. About 90 per cent of the annual budget is funded by ridership. Without greater support from the city, the TTC will continue to hike fares to stay afloat.

Stintz has said that a yearly 10-cent hike should be expected for the TTC to continue to operate at the current standards, and when those standards are already low to begin with, riders should prepare for the worst.

Get ready to open your wallets and dress warmly this winter. You’ll be paying more and waiting just as long for public transit.


This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on November 27, 2013.

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