Toronto’s Transit Troubles

While at work a few evenings ago, I ran into a colleague of mine.

In the midst of our chat, he told me about going to buy subway tokens on his meal break … and having to go to THREE subway stations for tokens.

At the first two stations, the ticket booth collectors told him they were out of tokens. When he arrived at the third, there was an enormous lineup.

It’s stories like these that I’ve either read or heard, since the TTC approved their impending fare hikes last Tuesday.

The approval was then followed by the official announcement on Wednesday …

And was almost immediately followed by a colossal shutdown on two sides of the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line.

(Which – while completely unrelated, and coincidental in its timing –  was unfortunate, but somehow symbolized the problem with the whole situation.)

The TTC’s decree resulted in people running to subway stations around the city, to buy as many tokens as they could get their hands on. But not before the commission clamped down – first by limiting the number of tokens per person to five, for the princely sum of $11.25 …

And then by ceasing token sales outright … announcing they would only be selling temporary tickets from now into January. (When fares go up, those tickets will have to be supplemented by a quarter to make up the full fare.)

I think there are a few places where they’ve got the five token rule back – for now. But what a mess, indeed. And it’s not just tokens being affected.

Patrons like myself, who use the subway system more than 10 times a week, have to brace for an 11 per cent fare hike …

From the $109 we pay now for monthly passes, to a whopping $121.

And as I read a couple of days ago in one of the commuter dailies’ transit columns, forget about investing in the yearly subscription plan at 2009 prices. They’ll be sold in January at the new prices … which, after taxes, probably puts the total monetary amount somewhere in the mid-$1500 range.

Excuse the crude visual, but talk about bending over and grabbing your ankles.

To be fair, I don’t think the fare hikes are to help pay workers’ wages. Believe what you want, but I don’t think so. It’s a bigger issue of subsidizing – or in our case, a lack thereof. The TTC isn’t exactly at the top of the list when it comes to well-subsidized transit authorities.

In the meantime, the only thing commuters such as myself can feel, is an increasing sense of frustration.

Will things on the transit lines EVER get better, even with the promise of Transit City, some 10 years away from completion?

And will THAT mean we should just prepare for more fare increases to come?

Personally speaking, I also don’t think this latest announcement is going to help encourage people to use transit as an environmentally-friendlier alternative to commuting around Toronto.

If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if it drove (or kept) them out of the seats of subways and streetcars, and right back into the seats of sedans and SUVs.

Or maybe it won’t change a thing.

Only time will tell, come January 2010.

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