What did we get in the 2017 federal budget? A kick in the teeth, and some bold promises.
No more metropass tax credit
First the kick in the teeth. This budget scraps the public-transit tax credit that allows riders to claim a 15 per cent tax credit on their transit passes. This move will force the TTC’s most loyal riders to pay up to $263.25 more each year.
This is going to hurt some of our hard working low income members who have to buy metropasses. We have one member in Scarborough who shares two metropasses with her family of five. They juggle the two metropasses between them as they crisscross across the city to get to their various places of work and schools. Starting in July they’ll be paying up to $570 a year more to take public transit.
This fare hike comes at a time when TTC ridership is dropping. According to the TTC CEO’s March report, there were 3.3 million fewer riders so far this year compared to the same period in 2016. Ridership has fallen below target for 22 of the last 23 months, in sharp contrast to the nearly decade-long increase in ridership the TTC previously enjoyed.
You have to ask yourself, what good is increasing funding for transit infrastructure projects if the TTC can’t even keep the riders it’s got? We can’t afford to ignore today’s transit riders and just build transit projects for tomorrow. We need a balance.
We believe the federal government should do everything it can to lower fares to increase ridership. This means keeping this tax credit for loyal TTC users and introducing additional rider-friendly fares that we have been calling for, like the two hour fare transfer and discounts for low income riders.
The federal government is arguing the credit wasn’t really working. We say show us the evidence. And if it’s the case then the federal government shouldn’t take that money away from transit riders and the cash-strapped TTC; they should reinvest the money back into fair fare discounts that do work.
Do you use the metropass tax credit? Please send a message to your MP explaining why you think it’s important to keep the tax credit, and properly fund Toronto’s transit system so we can have great transit today, lower fares for all, especially low income riders, and enough funding to build sensible transit lines for the future. Make sure to cc-us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will share your stories. You can also take to facebook and twitter.
Read Matt Elliott’s take in Metro News.
Here’s our response in Metro News.
More funding for public transit
Now let’s get to the bold funding promises. The federal government said they’d spend up to $25 billion in public transit across Canada over the next 11 years.
This funding is in addition to the $860 million the federal government committed to Toronto’s public transit system in last year’s budget. The TTC and the City sensibly choose to direct this first chunk of money to the TTC’s capital budget so the TTC can maintain the current system, buy new buses, and more.
Sounds good, right? It is. But is this total amount of funding enough to help Toronto riders today and build the transit projects for the future? No. It’s about a third of what we need.
Let’s break it down. This latest $25 billion funding commitment begins to look a lot smaller when you spread it out over Canada and extend it by 11 years. The funding each city and province actually receives will be determined later but it will be roughly based on ridership and population. We estimate that Toronto will receive a paltry $60 million this year, about $250 million a year for the next four years, and a healthier $500 million or so a year after that. That’s a long time to wait.
We don’t yet know what transit projects the federal government will fund because they are planning on setting one-on-one funding agreements with each province. This does mean that the federal government will have some leverage over what transit projects Toronto builds and in what order. So next time you have that meeting with your local MP make sure to tell them to fund sensible transit projects based on evidence and facts.
How much funding do we need?
What we are asking for is for a $1.4 billion a year contribution from the federal government. When we get this kind of money we can increase service now, bring in rider friendly fares, and invest in smart sensible transit projects like the LRT network, GO electrification, and the Downtown Relief Line.