TTC riders plan to strike against fare increase

On Friday November 13, TTC riders will be striking against planned fare increases. Nicole Winchester, the strike’s organizer urges riders across Toronto to find a better way to get to work, home or school, showing the Toronto Transit Commission what affect the increase will have on ridership.”If a ten-cent increase makes the system lose an average of 2 million rides,” says Winchester,  “what will twenty-five cents and a full seventeen dollars to a Metropass do to the system. Other options must be considered.”

For many riders, the concern is about the lack of promised improvements in the past and, as Winchester points out, we “now are asked to bear the burden of the shortfall, and to do so without expecting anything in return.”

To date, the Facebook event page has almost 4000 people showing their support. If you can’t walk, bike, drive, or cab it where you need to go, there is a ride share program set up on It has been suggested that if you cannot avoid taking the transit system on Friday, then make your voice heard by calling the TTC directly.

Winchester is hoping the strike will lead to a transit riders’ union or a user group that can advocate on behalf of the city’s ridership. “At the very least,” she hopes, “Transit riders with grievances will know they’re not alone.”

Photo by Ben Lawson


  1. Calling the TTC directly won’t accomplish anything. The decisions will be made by the councilors on the commission and, more importantly, city council itself.

    The main reason for the fare increase it the reduction of the subsidy from the city. The only choices the commission has is to cut service or raise fares. Raising fares will reduce ridership the least because for most people in Toronto the choice is between the TTC and driving and driving is so much more expensive, fare increase don’t make much of an impact, but service reduction could making driving convenient enough to be worth the extra cost.

    So, if you don’t want to pay higher fares, you should ask city council to not cut the subsidy, but be sure to tell them whether you want higher property taxes or lose other services, because those are the only other choices.

    The TTC could cut some services. The TTC policy of all day half-hour service on all routes made sense when the city was willing to pay for it. If they are no longer willing, I don’t think the riders should be asked to pay for it. Many of those routes where formally rush hour only. If all day ridership hasn’t developed in the last year to justify all day service, the service should be cut back during those times of low ridership. Keep in mind, this won’t save much money, but if it can shave 50 cents off the monthly pass increase it would be worth it.

  2. Maybe it would be more useful if they organized a campaign to shame the province + feds into properly funding the TTC… just a thought.

  3. I look forward to riding a less busy subway and streetcar this Friday. Thanks guys.

    If I’m not mistaken the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority gets 1% of the state tax to help fund their operation. I don’t think the TTC gets anything that good from the Province, but I may be wrong. Maybe a greater subsidy from the Province is needed. Come on Dalton.

  4. MERBOY, that has been tried, many times, never worked.

    Darwin, you are right about the choices. I’d say, more property tax. Yes I will be on the hook myself. I’d say 10% property tax increase should be very reasonable for 416’er (just compare it with 905). And please, please cut tax on commercial properties now (again compare it with 905)

  5. The City of Toronto needs to increase its subsidy, which is already too low and levels of government need to give the TTC a stable funding deal. I’m tired of paying so much for a system with mediocre maintenance. One can only tolerate the dirty stations and screech of subway trains for so long.

  6. John, if I felt like being as much of a smart@$$ I’d say, “It’s way more EFFECTIVE to boycott something for a day then to try and affect real change in government.” This is symbolic only, but I am joining.

    The fact is that cities have too little power under the constitution, compared to almost all other cities of any size in the world: to tax, to fund or to legislate. Toronto is robbed, and the feds and QP won’t change what suits them, will they? Nor, for the same reasons, will we ever get proportional representation.

    Toronto transportation, and its density, is more similar to LA than anything else, and it makes it a pretty non-urbane city: most of it differs little from the suburbs, outside of the core and stung along our few subway lines. Again, this is the fault of federal and provincial bodies like the OMB or Port Authority, who can over-ride the city’s own planning codes, or can be bought (oops… do you think developers contributions to political campaigns come for free?).

    I do not know what it would take to make Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa-Carleton and Vancouver independent provinces, but that has to be done to give the cities the powers not to fall apart further. Either that or the constitution has to be renovated. I expect neither, so expect the status-quo to worsen. I am not buying any property because of that expectation.

  7. If you’ll excuse the double post, here is the info on fares in other cities that I added to the comments last Thursday. Boycotting the TTC itself is silly, although perhaps a useful way to grab mainstream media attention. The fault lies with the federal and provincial governments for how they (fail to) fund transit. All you can really do is point out that Toronto is already the most expensive system on the continent, therefore there is no reasonably justification for charging riders even more. The well is dry. Protest to your MPs and MPPs until they get the guts to make changes.

    Fare data: I’m only comparing adult cash fares (F), adult monthly passes (P) and student/senior monthly passes (S). Of course many systems have discounts for card holders, multiple tickets, etc. that reduce the per ride cost but the cash fare and monthly passes tend to represent the extremes. Note that student/senior definitions can vary slightly by age. For systems with zones, I’ve picked the inner and middle zones that are roughly equivalent to most of the 416. Fares are for subway and/or bus but not commuter rail unless noted. I’ve ignored transfers since where they incur cost this tends to be cancelled out by other discounts.

    All US cities are listed in US dollars, which, compared to local purchasing power, can be more or less considered equal to Cdn dollars in this survey.


    City / F / P / S

    TTC (2009 $2.75 $109 $91.25
    TTC (2010) $3.00 $126 $104
    NYC $2.25 $89 $44.50
    Boston $2.00 $59 $29.50
    Phila $2.00 $78 Free for seniors!*
    Chicago $2.25 $86 Free for seniors!
    Atlanta $2.00 $60 $46
    DC $2.75 $105 $53^
    SF (Muni) $2.00 $55 $15*
    LA $1.25 $62 $14-36
    Dallas $1.75 $65 $32
    Portland+ $2.00 $75 $26
    Vancouver+ $3.75 $99 $42
    Ottawa $3.00 $85 $65
    Montreal $2.75 $69 $37
    Calgary $2.50 $83 $53

    *Includes commuter rail
    +Zones 1 and 2
    ^Typical trip is around $2.75; short trips off-peak are only $1.35 while long distances at peak may cost $4.50. There are no monthly passes but a 7-day pass in the core area costs $26.50. Seniors are half price, but students get no discount.


    Take a moment to soak in those numbers. In most US cities, occasional riders pay less, monthly commuters pay significantly less, and seniors/students pay far less than poor Torontonians. Only DC and Vancouver can really challenge TTC riders for the Most Fleeced award, but DC’s transit system is simply superb and Vancouver’s is not so expensive if you stay within the city (Zone 1). If the fare increase goes through, you could buy two monthly passes in some cities for the cost of one in Toronto. This is simply an exceptional fact that deserves much more attention in the press.

    I’m all for funding the TTC better, but something is wrong here. Come up with a payroll tax, take from the gas tax, increase direct senior government funding — whatever works elsewhere. Just stop milking the abused riders.

  8. I’m with everybody that doesn’t exactly see how a one-day boycott will do anything — however if it leads to a little more galvanization of riders’ togetherness, maybe it can spin into a more substantial movement that puts pressure in the right places.

    Sometimes movements need a watershed event to rally around, even if that isn’t where the battle is fought. Or some analogy like that.

  9. Jamesmallon, your comment that much of Toronto is a “non-urbane” city is a point I’ve tried to make repeatedly on this site. It is one thing to have a goal of turning TO into an urban space — but planning towards this would be a hell of a lot more effective if one recognized the starting point was a city that was essentially suburban. Look at the top of this webpage and you’ll see SpacingToronto’s tagline as “understanding the urban landscape” — no reference of course to the ‘suburban landscape’ which in fact forms the greater part of not just TO but the surrounding GTA.

    With the report that just came out on what congestion is costing the GTA, this post should probably be under another entry. But it’s here because it’s the low density character of much of the GTA which has made effective transit/transportation systems virtually impossible.

    As to who’s to blame for the low density mess, I put the blame squarely on the province. But whereas many on this site seem to think the problem is the province’s meddling (through OMB and other mechanisms) in municipal decisions, my feeling is that the province doesn’t do ENOUGH meddling given the powers it has over land use. Specifically, the province should have played a much stronger role in setting more stingent (ie HIGHER) density targets/plans for municipalities during the years of sprawling developlent that resulted in the mess we have now. I see 3 key reasons for why the province should have been exercising a stronger role:
    1. Left to their own devices, most municipalities are too easily swayed by developer interest OR local communities capable of grabbing headlines. (This is not an argument against NIMBYism or against pushing to make concerns public, but rather to underline that this shouldn’t be the only or major determinant in land-planning outcomes).
    2. Land use decisions by one municipality often have significant ramifications for neighboring municipalities. Yes, municipalities are politically distinct entities but we are way past the point in which they can be said to be discrete communities. 3. Left to themselves, each municipality might be acting in what it perceives to be in its own best interests, while making things worse overall for residents across the GTA. (Think of all the low-density, exclusive developments that many municipalities saw as a strategy for keeping out what they considered riff-raff). Avoiding this “prisoner’s dilemma” requires strong regional planning from the province.

  10. smag wrote:
    “Look at the top of this webpage and you’ll see SpacingToronto’s tagline as “understanding the urban landscape” — no reference of course to the ’suburban landscape’ which in fact forms the greater part of not just TO but the surrounding GTA.”

    smag: please! Here is my answer to that ridiculous slag:

  11. samg — at the Leona Drive panel discussion two weeks ago the many residents who attended and participated expressed fatigue with the distinction between urban and suburban, them up there, we down here, that sort of thing. Sometimes we use suburbs and etc as a short hand to describe geographic areas, but as the residents were firm about, they live largely urban lives despite being a little more spread out and etc. I think many of our articles in the suburbs issue expressed that.

  12. I’m not expecting a “Montgomery Bus Boycott” level of participation, with public apathy being what it is these days.

  13. Parliament Hill subsides TTC operations to the tune of zero. European countries subsides their local transit, same with the U.S.. Not Canada. And Toronto gets the most out of its fare box than any other city in North America.

  14. “Parliament Hill subsides TTC operations to the tune of zero. ”

    In the latter case, the TTC gains because riders are incentivised to purchase metropasses. In my case, I went from spending about $90/month to $100 on the MDP, of which I get back 15. However being on the MDP means that the TTC gains on months like December and February when there are fewer working days, or when I am on vacation, and when therefore I would not have bought tokens.

  15. I agree that TTC needs more provincial funding but it is not in the picture in this economic climate. Increasing property taxes 10% in hard times is what is called economic suicide.
    I have an idea that is simple and easy, saves money and creats more jobs and better facilities. Tell Giambrone to open up public tenders for construction and maintenance to all qualified contractors and workers under the conditions of the Fair Wage Policy. Right now the TTC voluntarily discriminates against any contractor who does not sign up with his allies in the building trades. There is a shortage both of workers and contractors because of infrastructure spending and the TTC is losing a minimum of 30% just so it can discriminate against qualified citizens that do not share our leaderships NDP bias. The TTC will be spending $500 million a year for the next 5 years on the Spadina line extension alone and throw away over $100 Million a year on Miller and Giambrone’s political ideology. It is that simple. Just think, no one is laid off, no laws need to be changed, 30% more escalator repairs, 30% more handicapped elevators, 30% more station upgrades and you end ideological discrimination at the same time.

  16. Mathew,
    I never said that SpacingToronto didn’t look into things suburban… what I said was there was only a reference to “urban” but not “suburban” in your tagline. The fact that one or more of your issues focuses on “suburban” matters does not change the fact that the word is not in your tagline that appears at the top of each page. What I said wasn’t intended as a slag… it was stating the obvious. I think you’ve mis-read what I said (once again).

    The residents that attended the panel you spoke about may be tired with the “urban/suburban” distinction. But that doesn’t mean it’s a distinction without value. In my mind, the distinction is not primarily about geography but is characterized by dependence on the automobile. Obviously, to some extent, this dependence is a matter of personal choice. Also obviously, there are likely to be some areas of what we usually consider suburbia that are densely populated to the point of having an urban feel (and vice versa). But in my view, if people are not within short walking distance of a convenience store and virtually NEED a car for basic things (eg. dry cleaning, groceries, getting the kids to the nearest school), then I don’t think they can be said to be living “urban lives” no matter how tired they are with the term “suburban”. For me, the key issue is not geography but density — and what density makes possible.

  17. “Increasing property taxes 10% in hard times is what is called economic suicide”

    This is probably a response to my post. Well, on average 10% increase is probably $400 per household per year, not sure how suicidal that is, especially considering how much our neighbours to the north/east/west are paying for their property tax. Please also note I also called for a cut in property tax for commercial properties. I believe that is key to revitalize the city’s economy at hard time.

    That said, Dave, I am also all for cost reduction, public tendering and breaking up union’s monopoly. These can go hand in hand with property tax raise to create a much better financial picture for the city.

  18. “whether you want higher property taxes or lose other services, because those are the only other choices”…. um, no. That’s what the powers that be claim. How about:
    Reduce salaries, find cheaper parts/services suppliers, find efficiencies in cutting staff, appeal to federal and provincial government for aid, have a lottery to benefit ttc, bake sales, garage sales.. ok getting silly now, but they do that for school boards.
    I do not believe the entrenched TTC has considered all options.

  19. my clever spouse just asked me: is the toronto cyclists union going to organise a “ride to work” and “take the whole lane” campaign on the same day as the ttc boycott? good question, i say.

  20. In order to inform those who still use the TTC on strike day (either because they haven’t heard, don’t care, or have no other choice) of the motive and goals of the action, it would be fantastic to have people handing out informational pamphlets outside subway station entrances.

  21. samg: I think you raise some really compelling points. Blaming the province for low density is, I suggest, a bit of a historical argument. That the early years of the Metro government (with Gardiner as Chair) insisted that the ‘solution’ of the ‘housing problem’ was to ever-expand the city, and then in the 1990’s with the immense impact of amalgamating a federation, what remains in the realm of possibility today is rather limited. Nonetheless, I also believe that both the provincial and federal governments need to start helping the TTC with its operating budget. And there is still the rather unsexy problem with the funding structures for regional and local water and sewage services that assist suburban development. So, regarding your point that the province should have ‘meddled’ more, I’d counter that the province, historically, has actually meddled more than it seems, all in the favour of expanding suburban development at the expense of increasing density. I base this on what I read in Lawrence Solomon’s book ‘Toronto Sprawls.’

    Each of your 1,2,3 points assumes that Toronto is not the GTA – that municipalities are governing entities. If you mean the municipalities within the GTA, then that is not accurate. In fact, I’d suggest that your 1,2,3 problems/solutions are what amalgamation claimed to address.

    Finally, don’t be quoting that ‘prisoner’s dilemma’! That shit is just a scare-tactic to subscribe to science when thinking of society! Ha!

  22. Samg wrote:
    “never said that SpacingToronto didn’t look into things suburban… what I said was there was only a reference to “urban” but not “suburban” in your tagline. The fact that one or more of your issues focuses on “suburban” matters does not change the fact that the word is not in your tagline that appears at the top of each page. What I said wasn’t intended as a slag… it was stating the obvious.”

    That makes no sense Sam. Polar bears aren’t our tagline either. That’s obvious too.

    You originally wrote: “no reference of course to the ’suburban landscape’ which in fact forms the greater part of not just TO but the surrounding GTA.”

    Then I’m totally unclear on what you mean, cuz you certainly seems to infer that we DON’T concern ourselves with suburban matters.

    We think of “urban” as a built up parts of land. Besides our current issue, we’ve consistently included a fair amount of space to the suburbs and suburban concerns of the city in each and every issue.

  23. As someone who grew up with YRT/Viva with annual fare increases, piss-poor service (20 minute frequency during rush hour on major routes), and no media coverage feeling sorry for us, all I can say to these strikers is shut up and be thankful that you haven’t had to deal with a fare increase in 3 years!!!

  24. Mark, I’m not just saying the province should have meddled more — I’m saying it should have meddled in a specific way (by setting more stringent and higher density targets). Some may see this as a historical (revisionist) argument. I don’t think it is. The low-density sprawl that has much of southern Ontario in a strangle-hold didn’t just happen overnight. The process took place over decades. It’s also important to recognize the process took place despite many people trying to sound concerns (about the vast tracts of agricultural land and natural habitats being lost, ever lengthening commute times, etc.). My view is that the province chose to ignore these concerns until they became as plain as day to everyone.

    Mathew, in your comment above at 11:13pm that you think of urban as “built up parts of land”. Does that mean you basically see suburban development as urban development? Does that mean you don’t see a distinction between urban and suburban developments? I’m not saying the distinction is precise or that it is the only distinction worth talking about in these matters. But I also think most commentators (here and elsewhere) use these terms to imply different types of development (and often corresponding values). An obvious example is Hume in the Star who champions all things “urban” as frequently as he sound the death knell for the “suburban. Of course, if you don’t want to acknowledge any distinction in how the terms “urban” and “suburban” are used, that’s your choice. (Though I don’t think you actually think there is no destinction — at least in how the terms are used.) As for “polar bears”, if I felt their exclusion from your tagline reflected an ommision or a possible bias from the range of issues you cover, I would point that out. Once again, I’m not saying you don’t focus on the “suburban”… only that it’s not referenced in your tagline. Peace… and please know if I wouldn’t bother visiting your site if I didn’t think it was interesting.

  25. Yu,

    A 10% increase in Toronto’s residential property tax would average out to $237 per household.


    The province should have meddled even more wrt to some policies. According to Mr. Solomon…….

    “Instead of welcoming the inherent efficiency with which valuable downtown properties are used, cities punish them by taxing them on the basis of their high property values, rather than the actual costs of providing properties with municipal services. The tax on valued property encourages the use of low-value property further and further away, not just away from downtown but also in suburbs and beyond……..

    And worse. Businesses pay especially punitive property taxes, encouraging them to relocate outside the city boundary, and then commute into town to provide services to their city customers. After they leave, their staff and suppliers tend to follow them over time, contributing to the well-known hollowing out effect that cities experience. The hollowing out worsens because, when these taxpayers leave the city, the tax load must fall on the city’s remaining taxpayers, increasing their tax burden and encouraging further departures”

  26. I know it is difficult but honestly, I would do everything I can to cut the wages of TTC employees across the board to pay for the increase. My friend, who worked for the TTC, was part of an audit on TTC staff wages (in 2004) and found that they were paid about 11% above the average of metropolitan transit employees in North America and about 19% higher than the average income for comparable jobs in the industry. In addition, they were something like 2nd (I can’t remember exactly) in terms of having the most employees per ridership per year. In other words, the TTC employs way more employees per ride than many other transit authorities in North America. That’s huge in my eyes and the service we are provided is not justified.

    Instead of just asking the government for funding, I believe the TTC needs a complete revamp from top to bottom.

  27. Few political issues in the GTA are as frustrating as TTC funding. Yes, we certainly need a greater operating subsidy from higher orders of government. No question.

    As for reducing TTC labour costs, I think there are many reasons why that would be extraordinarily difficult. As it is, the TTC has trouble attracting workers. Lowering salaries to levels below those of other transit agencies in the area certainly won’t help. It’s a problem, but it has no obvious solution.

  28. Bizarre – the last couple lines of the comment I submitted above weren’t published.. I was trying to show some camaraderie with samg. I found it strange that Blackett and Micallef came down like a ton of bricks on him.

    Anyway, I’ve just been thinking lately that it might be better to look at what can be done today ‘in the realm of possibility’ rather than agonize over what the province and/or municipalities should or should not have done in the past as regards sprawl.

  29. Mark, I agree with you absolutely that we should be focusing on what we can do today to fix the problem. But I see looking at how we got here as an essential part of coming up with good solutions (which in my view involves the province setting higher density targets for GTA municipalities). Also, looking at what went wrong highlights where things are still going wrong… such as all the land the province recently approved for development in the further reaches of the GTA — a move that will only exacerbate the congestion that the very same province says is a problem.

    Thanks for your show of camaraderie. I will say that I thought Shawn brought up an interesting point — that some people will see themselves as living “urban” lives even if others might not think they are. As for Mathew’s remarks, I’m sure he works very hard to provide what many of us see as a valuable service. So I’ll give him some leeway if he feels what he’s done is being slagged — and hope that he shows the same respect to others.

  30. JT said: “In addition, they were something like 2nd (I can’t remember exactly) in terms of having the most employees per ridership per year. In other words, the TTC employs way more employees per ride than many other transit authorities in North America.”

    What exactly does this mean? Without any context, a statistic like this meaningless … what employees, front-line service employees, does it include the administration staff, maintenance staff? Is it because other systems may use part-time employees who might not count as a full “one”?

    If having safety crews employed to check the subway tracks on a daily basis, or mechanics keeping vehicles from catching fire or having brake failures means a higher statistic, I’ll go with the higher number.

  31. RE: TTC employees wages.. I’d like some info on this. Like, how much of the operating budget goes to salaries, how this percentage compares to other cities (MTL, Van, etc.).
    I have a suspicion that all the savings from cutting staff and/or salaries isn’t that much. A bit like finding a penny in the couch when you need a hundred bucks. Anyway, if someone has a link they can post where this information is fairly accessible, I’d really appreciate it.

    samg – I totally agree. I think my comment above comes more from the boredom setting in as I continue to research 1950s and 60s Toronto!

  32. I like it when a reader makes a silly remark (samg) and the magazine editor defends the mag and rightly calls out the reader, and the reader starts to back-pedal! Wasn’t a slag? C’mon, be honest as the rest of us can see it for what it is — bravery from behind the keyboard.

    And then the reader says ” I’ll give him some leeway if he feels what he’s done is being slagged — and hope that he shows the same respect to others.”

    Priceless! the reader picks a fight and then plays the victim card.

    Maybe this is why I like Spacing so much — they use logic when the fight, unlike so many of our politicians and the odd mouthy reader.

    All that said, I agree with the reader (samg) that the GTA is much more sprawl than urban, but I also consider suburban to be a form or “urban” — a “sub” form” — cuz it certainly isn’t rural. Got a sidewalk, got a a house 3 meters away… you’re urban.

  33. In a campaign a couple years ago, the TTC unions told Torontonians that each of their members were worth $1 million to the running of the transit system. To make up a shortfall in operational budget, the TTC and its unions should take a hit for all passengers and reduce staffing numbers by an amount commensurate with the projected shortfall. For instance, reducing staff by laying off 100 would save $100 million. When the transit system is healthy again and all other options — excluding another fare hike — have been implemented, the TTC could resume hiring again. I am so sick of getting hit with TTC fare increases and just because the TTC and its union keep squeezing all of us for more. It’s not as if the service is getting any better.

  34. Maloney’s comment: “I like it when a reader makes a silly remark (samg) and the magazine editor defends the mag and rightly calls out the reader, and the reader starts to back-pedal! Wasn’t a slag? C’mon, be honest as the rest of us can see it for what it is — bravery from behind the keyboard.”

    Maloney, I stand by my original comment and the followup comments. My point is that there is an urban/suburban (or “sprawl” if that’s what you want to call it) distinction … and that understanding Toronto and the GTA involves understanding both… and in that sense, the Spacing tagline might not capture the range of issues being discussed. To say it as bluntly as I can, my view is that “understanding the urban landscape” (or what most people tend to think of as the “urban”) is not enough to understand Toronto or the GTA. I think that’s a fair comment. You are entitled to your opinion that it is a silly comment but my remarks aren’t intended as a slag… Also, I’m not seeing any backpedalling on my part… or playing the victim.

  35. The only way for the strike to have real effect on TTC ridership is for private companies to be involved and support this as well. We should request
    private companies to declare a one day “no work ” day for the purpose of showing TTC that we are against fare increases.

    TTC should cost down its costs….and not increase the revenue. If they have a budget deficit, then they must find ways to initiate savings where they can.

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