York students to pay less, Rye students to pay more
By Kenny Yum
Toronto-area university and college students won’t be spared a hit to their bank accounts when the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) drives fare prices up September 5.
“It’s really tough on students who at this time are most in need,” said Andre Bastian, of the Metro Universities and Colleges Caucus (MUCC).
Premier Mike Harris recently slashed funding to the TTC by $6.5 million this year and as a result the TTC will raise fares. Ticket fares will increase by 13.3 per cent, from $1.30 to $1.50, and monthly Metropasses will go up by 14.1 per cent, from $67 to $78.
For already cash-strapped students, it means paying up to an extra $130 dollars annually to use the transit system.
Previously, there were fears that ticket prices would go up by 10 cents in January 1996 as a result of Metro funding cuts. Metro has since stabilized funding, but the new provincial government, which funds 16 per cent of the TTC’s annual budget, forced the TTC to make up for the shortfall by increasing fares earlier than planned.
“We’ve got to fight hard to keep what funding we’ve got,” said Joe Pantalone, TTC commissioner and Metro Councillor. He says the provincial government wants to cut even more funding from the TTC in the future. Pantalone sees little chance for extra funding from Metro to make up for lost provincial money.
“There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell,” said Pantalone of potential extra funding from Metro. He says another fare increase is possible in the near future.
But the TTC’s manager of public affairs, Rob McLaughlin dismisses any talk of further fare hikes as “speculation.”
The TTC’s current financial woes means few price breaks for passengers. But students at York University may be the first post-secondary students to get a discounted student Metropass.
The York subsidized pass is likely to go into effect next January. Bastian, who is a member of the York Federation of Students (YFS), said York administration has been talking to the transit commission about a cheaper pass for its students.
McLaughlin says before the plan is reality, the TTC will have to calculate how much they can afford to subsidize the pass. The current plan calls for students fees to be used to subsidize the discounted pass, while the TTC would also absorb a percentage of the cost.
York University will have a referendum to decide if students want to fund part of the discount through a fee levy. Bastian is confident that the project will be successful and that a student pass will be available for York students in September 1997.
RyeSAC president Paul Cheevers says that the chances of subsidized transit passes for Ryerson are “very slim.”
“The possibility of (discounted) TTC passes has been around for eight years, and it really hasn’t gotten anywhere,” he said.
But creating such a pass is not only a matter of student lobbying the TTC, says McLaughlin.
“Every time we give somebody a discount, someone else is going to have to pay,” McLaughlin says. He says since most Ryerson students are commuters, the revenue the TTC stands to lose would mean less of a discount than the one proposed for York if a student Metropass is implemented.
The TTC’s financial crisis took a back seat last month when the commission’s sparkling safety record was tarnished in a fatal two-train collision on August 11. The accident left three passengers dead and resulted in a lack of passenger confidence in the transit system.
McLaughlin and Pantalone say they expect ridership to go down because riders may be afraid to ride the subway. Pantalone also expects that the accident will have an effect on the TTC’s budget.
“The crash was a (financial) hit that we didn’t need and didn’t expect,” Pantalone said. Recent figures show the TTC will lose up to $6.5 million in repair costs, overtime wages, and replacing two subway cars valued at approximately $2 million each. The crash loss is equal to the latest provincial cuts, and if the TTC is to keep up service, some say it will have to further hike fares.
With the current budgetary and public image problems faced by the transit commission, university and college student fares are not a prominent issue. But Bastian says politicians and officials don’t understand the damage each fare increase does to students trying to pay for a post-secondary education.
“The TTC is a necessity for students,” he said. “Fare increases may not seem like a lot, but if you are a couple of hundred short of tuition, you can’t enrol in school.”