August 3, 2010

Why a TTC boycott could happen

CANADA - If you live in Canada's largest city, Toronto, you are probably all too familiar with the Toronto Transit Commission which operates Toronto's subways, street cars and buses.

What you don't know is that the TTC wants to make changes to how people pay for their fares.

One of the things they want to do is introduce a swipe system which allows travelers to use a SmartCard, their credit or debit card, or even their SmartPhone. They want to do this to make it more convenient for people to pay.

Apparently its also cheaper for the TTC if people use a card system because then they don't have to worry about collection booths and selling tokens all the time, which will allow tokens to eventually be phased out.

HOWEVER! The TTC is also thinking of switching to a controversial new system where people would pay more depending on how far you are going. So if you live way out in the middle of nowhere (the suburbs) pay attention to this because this will effect people in the suburbs most of all.

And to add insult to injury people who live in the suburbs have the worst transit service. They live farther away from subway stations, they have to wait longer at the bus stops because the service out there is so infrequent, and when they likely have the option of driving a car instead it doesn't make much sense for them to take the TTC because it isn't very convenient.

So to add insult to injury, why not make people in the suburbs pay more because they have to travel farther?

And what about people who live far away from their work place and have to commute an hour or more by the TTC just to get to work? Well, lets make them pay more too.

The point I am making here is that its really none of the TTC's business how far we go when we use the subway or buses. Its a necessity. Charging people more because they go a greater distance may seem logical from a financial viewpoint, but if the TTC's goal is to get people out of their cars and using transit instead then this concept is really counterproductive.

Decades ago people used to have to pay an extra fare to go north of Eglinton Avenue. By todays standards that just seems silly. The extra fare system was scrapped because it was unfair to people who lived farther away and was counterproductive to the goal of getting more people to use transit.

Going back to a controversial system where people have to pay extra to travel farther is just shooting themselves in the proverbial foot and it will certainly spark a boycott as people go back to driving their cars instead.

Or if you're like me, relying more on a well-oiled bicycle.

As Toronto expands and grows there is increasing demand that the TTC expand its boundaries. Some places may require extra fares, like going north of Steeles Avenue currently does, but charging extra for distance isn't the only option.

The TTC is also toying with the idea of charging based upon:

Different times of day.

Different prices for subway, street car or bus travel.

A higher rate for one time users, a decreased price for frequent travelers.

Introducing anything controversial will likely spark a boycott and a drop in ridership, something which the TTC should try to avoid doing.

The problem at the heart of all this is the lack of funding support from the three levels of government: Toronto, the provincial government of Ontario and the federal government of Canada. The city pays for most of it, but Queen's Park and Ottawa are also obligated to help pay for it for the same reasons they also pay for road repairs, bridges and traffic cameras.

"Cheap, efficient transportation is the most important aspect of a strong economy."

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