Riders get seniors tax credit, no immediate service improvements

The 2017 Ontario budget will mean no service improvements to transit riders this year, but relief could be in sight, says transit advocacy organization, TTCriders.

The Ontario government will increase the gas tax revenue to public transit starting in 2019.  Once the program is fully rolled out in 2021, Toronto will see its share of the gas tax revenue increase from $171 million to about $342 million a year. 

We need more, we need it now, but this increase in funding could absolutely bring about vital immediate improve service improvements, provided the city directs the money to the TTC. 

We want the Ontario government to provide at least $660 million a year in funding for the TTC, starting in 2017.  This funding would pay for significant service improvements on all routes and the introduction of rider friendly fares like two hour fare transfers and a fair discount for low income riders.

This budget also introduces the new Ontario Seniors’ Public Transit Tax Credit Program which will provide seniors with a 15% tax credit off public transit costs.  The government estimates seniors will receive an average tax return of about $130 a year.  The program will cost about $8.5 million a year.

This small tax discount for seniors is helpful, but lowering fares for low income riders is a fairer first step.

Toronto just approved a low income pass program that will provide discounts for social assistance recipients and riders earning less than $23,000 a year.  The currently unfunded program will cost $5 million in 2018 when the discount is made available to social assistance recipients. When it is fully rolled out in 2021 the program will cost $48 million.

There are 700,000 riders in Toronto who will be eligible for this low income pass and who are struggling to pay for skyrocketing TTC fares. This budget should provide fare relief for low income riders first,” she said.

The TTC receives the smallest government support per ride of all major North American transit systems. The transit agency receives just $1 a ride, far less than the North American average of $2.60 a ride. 

The Provincial Government used to match the city’s contribution to the TTC but stopped doing so in the 1990s. 

The Ontario government did not announce any new money for infrastructure in this year’s budget but is planning on spending upwards of $52 billion over the next 10 years on transit.  TTCriders supports the Ontario government’s significant investments in public transit infrastructure, including increasing service and electrifying GO lines, and building the Finch West LRT and Eglinton Crosstown LRT.  

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