Toronto is already one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, but for thousands of vulnerable residents, help is on the way in the form of discounted transit passes. The first phase of the city's Fair Fare Pass program is now in effect, offering discounted transit to recipients of Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works payments.
“It is transit which connects people to opportunity and this initiative will help more Torontonians with opportunity and affordability in our city,” Mayor John Tory said.
Transit users will get $1 off the price of an adult fare and $30.75 off a monthly adult Metropass. An estimated 150,000 residents are eligible for the discount, but the city estimates only 36,000 residents will take up the offer, costing the city $4.6 million. The discount will only be available on PRESTO cards.
TTC fares have rose by 33 percent since 2009 and though the program will help citizens afford to get around the city, $115.50 per month is still unreachable for many people on social assistance. Other cities are ahead of the curb, such as Calgary which uses a sliding scale ranging between $5.15 and $51.50 per month, and Montreal is proposing a reduction in low-income riders' fares by 40 percent.
In the coming year, the discount will be extended to residents receiving housing support and child care support and then, in 2020, people in the lowest income tax bracket plus 15 percent will become eligible. Students, seniors and children already receive discounted TTC rides, and this marks a departure from previous aid programs because it is based on how much people can pay rather than their age.
The program was originally approved in 2016, and is being paid for by the employment and social services division of the city. When introducing the new program, Tory said he appreciates that advocates want steeper discounts, but pointed out that his administration is the first to follow through on an initiative like this.
The second and third phases of the plan have yet to be approved and funded by city council, and the city estimates that in 2021, when the program is fully functional, 193,000 people will take advantage of it and it will cost the city $48.2 million.