[URBAN NOTE] “Who Deserves a Fare Subsidy?”
Steve Munro takes a look at the complex history of fare subsidies on the TTC.
With the never ending problems of balancing the TTC’s budget, the question of trimming or eliminating various forms of fare subsidy are back on the table. This shows up as a quick fix to revenue problems with the assumption that “if only riders paid more, there wouldn’t be a problem”. The target group varies from time to time, but the premise is the same – somebody is freeloading and “my tax dollars/fares” should not be paying their freight.
A basic problem with this argument is that it will not fix the revenue shortfall permanently, only increase the cost of using transit by whichever group is targeted. If, for example, all discount fares were eliminated in 2017, we would be right back at the same position in 2018 wondering how to deal with increased costs, but without that convenient list of scapegoats.
A quick review of the “concession fares” is in order to put the question in context.
•Adults who are willing to purchase tokens up front (or preload their Presto cards) get a discount relative to riders who pay cash.
•Adults who want to prepay even more can purchase daily, weekly or monthly passes which cap their costs within a time period.
•Special passes and validation stickers are available to extend the range of services covered by adult passes to premium fare routes and to other transit systems.
•Daily pass holders get a special “family” deal on weekends and holidays when up to six people, maximum two adults, can travel on the pass.
•Monthly pass holders can obtain various extra discounts based on a commitment to buying 12 months’ worth of transit (the Metropass Discount Plan or MDP), and bulk-buy discounts are available to organizations that resell passes (the Volume Incentive Program or VIP).
•A Convention Pass is available to allow for bulk purchase of transit service for large groups at a price considerably below the cost of a day pass.
•Students and seniors have passes priced at a 20% discount from adult passes, and MDP pricing provides for a further discount. Cash and ticket fares are discounted about 33% from adult rates.
•Children ride free.
•A limited number of designated groups (the blind and war amputees) travel free.
•WheelTrans users are entitled to be accompanied by a Support Person at no extra charge.