Liberal Leadership Hopeful Wants Free TTC But Is Cheaper Best Route?

ttc nightly closures

If Liberal MPP Michael Coteau wins the leadership of his provincial party, you  may someday be riding the TTC for free.

Yes free. The leadership hopeful for Don Valley East wants TTC fares to be eliminated completely.

“Climate change is an urgent, existential threat,” said Coteau. “We need to act in ways that empower Ontarians to reduce their carbon footprint and save their hard-earned money.”

Coteau believes that eliminating TTC fares would encourage people to switch to public transit.

READ: TTC Subway Closures: 6 Stations On Line 1 Affected (Nov. 11-14)

“I believe, as a principle, that like other public services in Ontario, public transit should be free at the point of access. This initiative will involve all local, regional and provincial transit entities in all parts of Ontario and entail all modes of public transit.”

Would it work? Or should cheaper fares come before fare-free?

Coteau admits that a cost/benefit analysis would need to done in order to know whether a fare-free transit strategy could be an effective way of achieving environmental, economic and social goals.

Matt Elliott pointed out in his Toronto Star column cheaper public transit “transforms” lives and gets more people that need transit to make their lives work to ride more often.

“The results are in. Toronto City Hall has discovered a ridiculously effective program that helps people get access to employment, education and health care,” writes Elliott. “The program didn’t require hiring hundreds of bureaucrats or the creation of some pricey new government department. It’s actually kind of absurd how simple it is.

“Are you ready? Here’s what the city did: they made transit cheaper.

“In April 2018, Toronto introduced a Fair Pass program that gives people with low incomes access to discounts on TTC fares. The first phase of the program was available to anyone receiving payments from Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program,” says Elliott.

So far, five candidates have entered the Liberal leadership race.

In addition to Coteau, former MPP Steven Del Duca, former Liberal candidate Kate Graham, former Education Minister Mitzie Hunter and former Liberal candidate and political staffer Alvin Tedjo hope to lead the party back to power after losing decisively to Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in 2018.

READ: Ex-Toronto Mayor Calls Out TTC Underfunding After Massive Disruption

The results of the leadership contest will be announced March 8 at the party’s convention in Toronto.

Luxembourg is poised to become the first country in the world to make all its public transport free starting March 1, 2020. Germany is pondering a fare-free public transit system fare-free due to  EU threats to fine them for their air pollution levels.[3]

Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia with more than 420,000 inhabitants, plus several mid-size European cities and many smaller towns around the world have switched to fare-free public transit.

The city of Hasselt in Belgium abolished fares in 1997 and claimed that ridership was as much as “13 times higher” by 2006.[4]

Coteau admits that his plan would have to be rolled out in stages, starting with encouraging the incremental adoption of free transit programs “by local, regional and provincial transit entities all across the province to facilitate the migration of their business models to a fare-free transit ecosystem.”

READ: TTC Workers Push For Free Transit And Strikes To ‘Take Down Doug Ford’

In his Star column, Elliott refers to Coteau’s fare-free plan but advocates first for “cheap” transit.

“To that end, there’s merit in looking an ideas that go further than the Fair Pass program,” writes Elliott. “Provincial Liberal leadership candidate Michael Coteau says he wants to eliminate transit fares entirely within a decade, which he argues would pay environmental, economic and social benefits. It’s worth considering.

“But before free transit, let’s start with cheap transit. This Thursday, Tory’s executive committee will consider a report on the city’s anti-poverty strategy that includes a recommendation to continue with implementation of the Fair Pass program. The committee should accelerate it. And while they’re at it, take the opportunity to consider a larger lesson from this experience — in a city where so many struggle to get by, don’t discount the value of making it cheaper to get around.”

 

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