Got a boo idea or a way to make public transit more affordable?
Steven Del Duca is promising $1 fares on all Ontario transit lines if his Liberals defeat Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives on June 2.
This would mean a significant saving for commuters.
On the TTC, fares are $3.25, while on GO Transit it can cost up to $21.15 for a one-way trip from Niagara Falls to Union Station.
“One dollar for a ride, province wide,” Del Duca said Monday against the backdrop of train lines at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
“Contrary to Doug Ford’s broken promise of ‘buck-a-beer,’ we will be offering ‘buck-a-ride’ to all transit riders,” he said, referring to the Ford’s 2018 campaign pledge to cut beer prices.
The Liberal leader, who was transport minister in Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government, said fares would be temporarily reduced until January 2024 to help offset soaring inflation and encourage dwindling ridership in due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This plan is expected to cost about $710 million in 2022-23 and about $1.1 billion in 2023-24, although subsidies would be higher if ridership increases.
Del Duca hinted to reporters that the reduced fares could continue beyond 2024.
To help transit systems, which need revenue from fare boxes to run their systems, a Liberal government would add $375 million to annual funding for transit operations.
Del Duca, whose announcement came as Ford was with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Windsor to announce investments in Chrysler plants there and in Brampton, said his reprieve would help at a time when inflation is by 6.7%.
“Ontario is in the midst of an affordability crisis and families expect their government to act. Our plan will provide families with immediate relief in the first 100 days after the election by reducing the price of public transit to one dollar,” he said.
“Under our plan, someone who hops the GO train from Oakville to a Blue Jays game will save nearly $20 on their round trip,” the Grit leader said.
“And a commuter taking the GO from Whitby to Toronto would save over $300 a month,” he said, noting that his party opposes Highway 413, the proposed 60-kilometre highway from Milton to Vaughan that could cost $10 billion.
“With the Ford Tories, Ontario is losing billions on a highway that won’t be completed for a decade and won’t make a difference to travel times,” he said.
“With our Ontario Liberal plan, people will get immediate relief on their commute and in their pocketbooks.”
Commuters using all municipal, GO and Ontario Northland transit services would qualify for the $1 fares.
Monthly passes, which cost $156 on the TTC, would be cut to $40 and the Liberals estimate the move could take 400,000 cars off the road every day, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Attacking Ford’s ‘buck-a-beer’ spiel of four years ago, the Liberals noted that the cheapest foam now costs $1.65 a bottle.
New Democrats and Conservatives lambasted Del Duca.
“There’s no doubt people are struggling to make ends meet, but let’s face it, Steven Del Duca was transport minister for years in the Wynne government,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told reporters. in Mississauga.
“They haven’t done what they need to do to help municipalities provide better transit services and more affordable transit services,” she said.
The Conservatives, for their part, pointed out that public transit fares increased in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 when the Liberals were in power.
But Greens leader Mike Schreiner, who has advocated “drastically reducing public transport fares”, said he was “glad to see other parties following our lead”.
“I look forward to working across parties to make public transit more affordable,” Schreiner said.
With the campaign officially kicking off on Wednesday, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk released a pre-election report on Ford’s $198.6 billion budget — with a $19.9 billion deficit — which was tabled last Thursday.
Lysyk found that the Conservatives “had underestimated estimates of provincial revenue from corporate taxes” for the next three years, which would contribute to larger deficits.
“In addition, the contingency funds recorded in ‘other program expenses’ appear to be overly conservative,” the auditor said.
“While conservative assumptions are needed, the amounts budgeted for contingencies appear to be overly conservative.”
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