Funding subsidy for discounted GTA transit fares to end

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A provincial subsidy that provides discounted fares for riders using both GO Transit and Toronto’s transit system in the same trip is soon ending, leaving the two agencies to come up with a way to keep the popular program running.

Regional transit agency Metrolinx — which runs GO trains and buses through the Greater Toronto and Hamilton region — said it hopes to work with the Toronto Transit Commission to sustain the program when the provincial funds run out next year.

The so-called Discounted Double Fare was created by the previous Liberal government in 2017 and offers riders using both systems, as well as the Union-Pearson Express to Toronto’s airport, a $1.50 discount for a single trip when using a Presto fare card.

The province paid $18.5 million a year to offset the cost of the discount for both transit agencies, but the current Progressive Conservatives say the funding was designed to be temporary. A three-year agreement on the subsidy is set to expire in March 2020.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation said Metrolinx’s proposed strategy — where it and the TTC share the cost of providing the discount — would allow both agencies to “mutually benefit from the revenue generated through increased ridership.”

The popularity of the program meant that it exceeded the provincial subsidy in 2018-2019 by $2.5 million and is on track to exceed it again, this time by $10 million by year’s end.

TTC spokesman Stuart Green said Tuesday that nothing had been finalized but noted that Metrolinx had advised the agency of “potential changes to this popular program.”

Meanwhile, NDP transit critic Jessica Bell said it would be unfair to now force commuters to come up with an extra $1.50 per round-trip.

Don’t be surprised if more riders ditch public transit and get into their own cars. -CINEWS

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