TTC Approves Draft 2023 Budget
Commuter Students May Be Impacted as Draft TTC Budget Invokes Specter of Service Slowdowns and Fare Increases.
By: Zyad Osman, Staff Writer
On January 9th, the TTC released its draft budget for 2023, announcing – among other things – a 10¢ increase to all adult and youth fares. This proposal excluded fares for senior citizens. Additionally, the draft suggested bringing subway service hours down to 91% of pre-pandemic levels, even after 2022 saw a return to 100% capacity. Critics have been quick to point out that such service adjustments will translate to noticeable and consistent increases in wait times. However, whether this will actually be the case – especially at high-volume and exchange stations like St. George, Spadina, or Bloor-Yonge – is uncertain.
While exact figures regarding the percentage of UofT students who commute are scant, The Varsity estimated in 2018 that just over 75% of all UofT students are regular commuters, and with in-person attendance having almost completely recovered since the
end of pandemic restrictions, 2023 may see a return to large commuting numbers. Some of these students have questioned how these changes may affect them over the next year.
Zamann Hamada, a commuter student from Oakville studying Human Geography and Political Science, spoke to the Trinity Times in an interview. Hamada acknowledged that the fare increase, while small on its own, can stack up over time for financially disadvantaged students. He does not, however, disagree with it in principle as long as it results in improved service across the network and better connectivity with Toronto’s suburban communities. Long-distance commuters from suburbs like Markham, Oakville, and others often have to make cumbersome transfers through adjacent and unharmonized transit networks such as MiWay, York Region Transit, or GO Transit.
The TTC’s smaller network size compared to cities of a similar population and area has long been a contentious topic for Toronto residents and long-distance commuters alike. The Toronto subway system, originally designed in the 1950s, has lagged behind similar North American systems such as those in Chicago, Boston, or Washington D.C, each sporting 145, 144, and 98 stations respectively compared to the TTC’s 75, despite Greater Toronto being larger in population than the latter two. Similar arguments have also been made in favor of a larger TTC network, considering the millions of commuters that enter the city on a daily basis from sprawling suburban and bedroom communities on its periphery, whose residents seek employment and education in the bustling downtown core.
The fare increases have coincided with the city-wide decision to raise property taxes by 5.5% as a part of the new Toronto budget, the largest single increase since 1998. The budget presentation cited rising inflation, interest rates, and the continuing financial aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic as the primary reasons for the tax hikes. The Bank of Canada announced, in early December, that interest and borrowing rates would continue to increase to compensate for the high (albeit slowing) inflation levels. Municipal governments and city-level authorities such as the TTC, which already operate on massive deficits under normal circumstances, have struggled to reconcile their spending with this reality.
What is clear is that students who live off campus will be hit the hardest as they may now have to contend with an increasing cost of rent and transit for the foreseeable future at the very least.