This week, a transit cut at York University kicks in, making things a little worse and more expensive for thousands of York U students, faculty and staff.
It took over 10 years for the subway extension to reach York U. But instead of integrating the subway with existing buses — one trip, one fare — the York Region buses that used to travel to the centre of the York University campus are now diverting to the Pioneer Village subway stop.
This change leaves commuters with a new, unfair choice: pay another full fare to ride just one subway stop into the centre of campus, or walk 1.5 km to the university.
In other words, pay double, or walk.
Greater Toronto Area riders already pay some of the highest fares in Canada, and this change will cost York U riders as much as $1,000 year.
The problem will get worse. On Saturday, Metrolinx was to being diverting all GO buses from the centre of campus to the Hwy 407 subway stop, which is 3.8 kilometres from York University. Brampton buses will be leaving campus in 2019.
For everyone, this means the daily commute will take longer and cost more. For those on a tight budget, the blow is a serious one. And for those with mobility challenges, the daily demand to pay double or walk is a cruel one.
Listening to the powers-that-be justify this callous decision was bizarre, blaming it on territorial agreements made years ago under the assumption that fare integration between agencies would be in place by now.
Well, it’s not. The Liberals had 15 years to get it done, and they let us down. And now the Ford Tories are making things worse by plowing ahead with this patchwork scheme.
For the record, the NDP and I support fare integration. That means making fares more affordable for riders who use two or more transit systems in one trip by charging one affordable fare. We believe transit should be run like a public service — its job is to get you where you need to go (comfortably, with dignity, quickly) for the most affordable price at which we can make that happen.
Doug Ford wants to run transit like a business, which means making as much money off you as possible.
That’s why the Ford government and Metrolinx have been mulling over introducing premium fares on the subway, or even fare-by-distance, which will be a double penalty for people who have been priced out of living in Toronto.
Thankfully, the problem at York U isn’t complicated or expensive to solve. Put the buses back and have the provincial government properly fund operations.
Beyond fixing the problem for the York U community, this is a cautionary tale. With Ford threatening to take over Toronto’s subways, it’s time for us to fight for the transit future we want. Because York U students deserve better — and so do we all.
Jessica Bell is the provincial NDP Transit critic and MPP for University-Rosedale.