Thursday, November 05, 2009

The TTC is on crack

Most cities want people to take public transit. They see value in getting people to park their cars and take the bus or subway. They even encourage such behaviour. Not so in Toronto. In Toronto, transit users are an annoyance to the transit system, something to be barely tolerated, and even loathed.

Yes, the TTC is set to hike fares again, and I don’t mean by a little. They’re proposing major fare hikes that will, bizarrely and stupidly, hit Metropass holders the hardest.

The cash fare for a single trip is proposed to rise by a quarter, fro, $2.75 to $3. Token fares would also go up by a quarter, from $2.25 to $2.50. A weekly pass would rise from $32.25 to $36. And the big daddy, a monthly Metropass, would skyrocket from an already pricy $109 to a ridiculous $126.

The problem, according to the TTC? It seems too many people are taking transit. The horror!

I accept that riders do need to pay their fair share to fund the transit system but it’s worth noting that the TTC already gets 71 per cent of its revenue from riders, one of the highest percentages in North America.

The TTC needs to control costs internally, and the province and feds need to step in with stable operating funding. They’re quick to do flashy capital acquisition photo-ops, but operating funds keep the trains running.

There’s a reason we as a society subsidize transit: it gets cars off the road, reduces congestion, and is good for the environment. Maybe less money on highways and more money on transit would be an idea.

But back to the TTC. Even if you accept the need for fare hikes, the decision to disproportionately punish Metropass holders, your best and most loyal customers, is asinine. You want to be encouraging people to buy Metropasses, not discourage them.

Already a pretty shitty deal, under the new fare regime a Metropass holder needs 50 trips to break even over token fares. That’s a round-trip to work every weekday, and at least another roundtrip every weekend. And THEN you start to have a better deal over tokens. That’s an exceedingly shitty deal that is only made less shitty, ironically, by the Harper government’s transit pass tax credit, which lowers the break-even number to about 42 trips.

(Although, it’s worth noting that the credit is also part of the problem: it encouraged people to buy passes, yes, but with no more operating funds for the TTC it leads to congestion and the need to either lower service levels or hike fares, thereby driving some back to their cars.)

It’s stupid for the TTC to be discouraging pass holders like this. They should want to incent people to buy passes. It’s better for them. They get the money in one hit at the beginning of the month, instead of having to collect it over the course of the month in cash and tokens, that cost them money to process. Pass holders generate steady, predictable revenue and are loyal customers. Most transit systems price cash, token and pass fares to encourage pass buying over tokens, and tokens over cash. Not the TTC.

These hikes will undoubtedly encourage many to just go back to their cars, as the TTC is making the transit value proposition less and less attractive. Which may be their goal; those pesky transit users only clutter up the subway cars.

But for many, such as me, there’s no choice but to take the TTC. Buying a car isn’t really an option right now. So we’re held hostage to the TTC and its ridiculous fare hikes. And it’s hard to see any sanity on the horizon.

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9 comments:

Andrew said...

I have to ask, how much is the idea of the Metropass tax deduction worth to you? No one seems to be bringing it up at all. For me, that adds value greatly in excess of the Metropass itself.

Kyle G. Olsen said...

If Toronto would actual have tax rates at a similar level to the 905, perhaps they would be able to fund the system. Even Calgary taxpayers are fine with picking up 50% of the operating cost at the farebox.

Plus a big part of the budget gap was just created a week or two ago with the TTC decided to implement 'Bus Transit City' where a bunch of routes were made to be 10 minute frequency 24 hours a day.

They should roll back proposed service improvements that are beyond congestion relief and start budgeting from there.

McLea said...

It's interesting that you think that Canadian taxpayers should help subsidize your use of the Toronto public transportation system.

If you think that your usage of the transit system creates positive externalities (which I suppose is a valid argument) which would warrant your transportation costs being subsidized, then I suggest that maybe the people benefiting from those externalities should be picking up the tab (namely people living in the GTA) rather than Albertans or BCers who don't benefit in the slightest from your subway usage.

I'm going to guess that they had to raise the prices because the alternative, raising taxes, is a political non-starter.

Funny how people always want more, more, and more. More of this, more of that, right up to the point where they have to pay for it. Just like how everybody professes to be concerned about the environment, right up until the point where an incremental cost is imposed on them. Then all of a sudden they don't give a shit.

Jeff Jedras said...

mclea, don't let the facts get in the way of dogma. All transit systems are taxpayer subsidized. And Toronto is one of, if not the least subsidized system in the country. Calgary's system, for example, is more subsidized. So, to use your logic, why am I paying taxes for Calgarians to have cheaper transit fares than me?

You know what else is hugely subsidized, to a much, much, much greater extent? Roads. Do you drive, mclea? I don't. So why am I paying to subsidize your driving with my taxes? Maybe we should put tolls on every road and made it entirely user-funded, since that seems to be your preferred model.

I'll let you know where you can send the cheque.

Andrew, I did mention the tax deduction. IIRC, its worth about 8 trips/month. So it makes it a slightly less shitty deal, but its still a bad deal. And as I mentioned in the post, there are sideaffects.

Gene Rayburn said...

mclea is bitching about what probably costs him 5 cents. What is it about conservative math? A nickel makes them angry when it goes to helping others but no problem when it comes to spending millions on propaganda.

Jeez. Such pettiness

McLea said...

Maybe we should put tolls on every road and made it entirely user-funded, since that seems to be your preferred model.

Maybe we should. Are you somehow opposed to this argument? Seems to work in countless places all over the world, London being one of the better examples. Even Vancouver has figured out that matching users to costs and is most efficient way to manage and pay for transportation assets.

I really don't give a shit if this and that is already subsidized. That's an incredibly lazy argument. My argument is that we should be working towards a system where the people who use, or indirectly benefit from, the existence of a transportation system should be the ones that benefit from it. So given this stance, the people who should be paying for your transportation costs should be, in order:

1) You
2) The People of Toronto

This post is just sour grapes over the fact that you have to pay closer to the real cost of hauling your ass around Toronto everyday. So it sucks that your share of taxpayer provided entitlements has decreased, but I don't know why anyone else should give a shit.

Mike514 said...

Jeff,

I'm surprised at your bitter response and personal attacks towards Mclea. It's not like you.

In response to Maybe we should put tolls on every road and made it entirely user-funded

I totally agree. Here in Montreal, the Quebec gov't started to wake up, and will charge tolls on its new A-25 bridge to Laval. Hopefully more examples will follow.

On the other hand, there are many "spin-off" benefits to having roads. For example, all the groceries you buy arrive in trucks. And trucks use roads. This is just one example, and shows how tricky the subject of toll roads can be. Your analogy, therefore, is not very good.

Andrew said...

Andrew, I did mention the tax deduction. IIRC, its worth about 8 trips/month. So it makes it a slightly less shitty deal, but its still a bad deal. And as I mentioned in the post, there are sideaffects.

I see that now - sorry for missing it originally. It seems like a lot of people aren't looking at that part of it, though.

Lorne said...

Fuck all your arguments, especially fuck the TTC. Close down the monopoply, instead allow private companies who will probably prefer more customers unlike our public garbage of a system. What kind of a fucking garbage excuse is too many customers anyways?

I guarantee there will be a tens of companies FIGHTING to serve even 1/10th of the TTC's forced customer base