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Service cuts, longer wait times and higher fares? TTC's proposed 2023 budget draws criticism


Longer wait times, service cuts, and more crowding could be on track for Toronto transit users in 2023 despite a plan to increase fares for riders.

On Wednesday, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) released its proposed 2023 operating budget following the news of a possible $53 million subsidy increase for the commission in this year’s municipal budget.

The increased investment, announced by Mayor John Tory, is intended to “keep both riders and hardworking frontline TTC employees safe."

If the budget passes, the transit agency will receive a total of approximately $958 million for conventional service costs in 2023. The funding will be used to increase safety, security, and cleanliness on the service, expand the ‘Fair Pass’ discount program to 50,000 more users, and complete service improvements on routes serving Neighbourhood Improvement Areas.

Alongside the proposed upgrades, the TTC also plans to implement a 10-cent fare increase for single adult and youth fares, extend maximum wait times, reduce some service, and increase its crowding standards.

When reached for comment, TTC spokesperson Stuart Green says the budget is a reflection of customer priorities.

“The TTC is responding to what our customers have told us about prioritizing public safety and cleanliness,” Green said. “It’s a balanced approach that ensures we are there for those who need us, albeit with adjusted service.”

While the TTC says the proposed changes will protect service in all existing corridors as well as help keep the system safe and clean, some riders are vexed at the idea of paying higher fares in exchange for the possibility of longer wait times, crowded vehicles, and reduced service.


Green says that the transit system is currently only seeing approximately 70 per cent of ridership compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Citing a dragging return to post-pandemic ridership, the TTC has proposed to reduce its pre-COVID-19 service hours by spring 2023 – from the present 96 per cent to 91 per cent.

“The realigned service focuses on continuing to uphold the TTC’s core service principles: protect transit access across the city, deliver a reliable service, and match capacity with demand,” the proposal says.

The maximum amount of time spent waiting for rapid transit service could also increase from the current six minutes to 10 minutes, according to the proposal.

Green said a 10-minute wait time would be “an exception” and would only occur during off-peak periods.

“Most periods will see [four to six] minute service,” he said.

The budget also signalled an intention on the TTC’s behalf to resume the crowding standards in place prior to the pandemic, which previously allowed for social distancing.

If approved, during peak periods, standards will be maintained at 50 customers per bus, 130 customers per streetcar, and 1,000 to 1,100 customers per train on average during the busiest hours.

In off-peak-periods, the standard will be set at 45 riders on a bus, 90 riders on a streetcar, and up to 650 riders on a train, representing an increase from post-pandemic levels.

To counter this, and account for “capacity requirements of customers travelling with bags, buggies, or strollers,” the TTC says it will increase service on weekend afternoons on key shopping corridor routes, including Dufferin Street, Finch Avenue East, Lawrence Avenue East, Wilson Avenue, and The Queensway.


The proposed changes, when paired with the plan to hike fares, has some riders and residents questioning the budget.

Member of Provincial Parliament for Toronto Centre, Kristyn Wong-Tam, took to social media Wednesday to express her disapproval.

“Reducing service levels and increasing long wait times are not going to bring riders back to the TTC,” Wong-Tam wrote.


Toronto councillor Josh Matlow said in a Tweet Wednesday that “now is not the time to increase the cost of taking the TTC.”

“I strongly believe that a high quality, expansive, accessible and affordable transit system is what Toronto needs to decrease traffic gridlock, combat the climate crisis and contribute to our quality of life,” he continued.

TTCRiders, an advocacy organization representing Toronto transit users, issued a statement Thursday saying cuts and increases will only drive more riders away, reduce safety, and make climate goals more difficult to reach.

“Mayor Tory has proposed deep budget cuts that will leave transit users waiting longer for their bus, streetcar, and subway. And when their TTC vehicle arrives, it will be more crowded,” the statement said.

Instead, the group is urging Tory to draw money from elsewhere.

“The mayor could raise hundreds of millions to rebuild TTC ridership with more service and lower fares, with a parking levy on big malls and commercial landlords,” they said.

When asked about the possibility of longer wait times and reduced services at a news conference Thursday, Mayor John Tory said he couldn’t comment on specific numbers from the TTC’s proposed budget, as he hadn’t had a chance to review them.

“I can only say we’ve had many discussions with [CEO Rick] Leary and with TTC management,” he said. "I'll be trying with my colleagues to encourage Mr. Leary to make sure that any impacts on service are not due to budgetary reasons, but rather .. that they're minimized down to the point where they don't become something that becomes a discussion as an outcome of the budget.”

Overall, Tory says the near $1-billion investment into the city’s transit system should put the commission in a position to [enact] the safety measures announced Wednesday, cover the cost of hiring additional special constables and Streets to Homes workers, and address some service improvements.

A more comprehensive breakdown of the 2023 TTC operating budget is expected on Jan. 10. Top Stories

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