Fare Free Transit – How to Make It Work

We don’t pay a fare to use the sidewalks. And we don’t hand over cash to ride an elevator. I believe it’s time to end mandatory fares for riding the TTC. So how do we make it happen?

First, we need to recognize as a city that transit is a huge asset to everyone who lives here, whether they ride the bus are not. Simply put, transit removes the number of cars on the road, which means cleaner air, lower energy use, lower road maintenance costs and safer streets. More people on transit also means fewer cars taking up parking spots or road space for those who need to drive to get around Toronto.

Every time a person chooses to take transit instead of driving, they help this city. That’s why I believe we shouldn’t be deterring them from making that choice.

The big question is, how do we pay for it? Certainly dropping the requirement for fares means some revenue may be lost. But the question of how we pay for TTC goes far beyond fares to begin with. TTC is already facing many funding issues, so this question of how to pay for transit goes far beyond the fare box.

I am interested in pursuing a variety of options of how to sustainably fund the TTC for the short, medium and long term. Options I’d like to explore with council, staff and residents include voluntary fares, donations that allow residents to claim property tax reductions, and partnerships with universities, employers and the tourism industry for whom fare free transit would be a boon. I’m also interested in direct democracy such as city wide referendum on property taxes or parking increases to pay for transit – this connects with my platform to enable widespread participatory budgeting in this city.

It’s important to note that some cost savings will result from dropping mandatory fares, including costs due to enforcement, fare box line-ups, and assaults on operators, which are often caused by fare conflicts.

Cities around the world are experimenting with fare-free routes, with Boston as the most recent example.

Mandatory transit fares are a barrier to employment, equity, and accessibility that our city, already struggling with these issues, does not need. I believe it’s time for Toronto to take a leadership role in developing a public transit system that will be welcoming and fair to all its residents, and an inspiration to cities everywhere.

You can watch my 45 second video on the issue here.