Transit advocates say they support the long-awaited expansion of the Fair Pass Transit Discount Program, announced by the city March 31, but it comes too late and is not broad enough.
“It’s a shame that the program was not expanded this year to all low-income Toronto residents,” TTCriders director Shelagh Pizey-Allen said..
The city says the program has a wide reach, providing discounted transit for eligible candidates, including members of Ontario Works, the Ontario Disability Services Program, and those receiving a childcare subsidy.
After this expansion, residents who receive a Rent-Geared-to-Income subsidy can also apply to the program.
Rent for those receiving the subsidy is typically 30 per cent of a household’s monthly Adjusted Family Net Income.
The city says there are about 190 subsidized housing listings in Toronto’s east end, including East York, Don Valley East, and Scarborough.
“The reach of this program extension is significant and housing providers will play a key role in promoting the program to their tenants,” said Marcela Mayo of Toronto media relations.
Pizey-Allen argued the program should have been extended to all low-income Toronto residents.
“This would include precarious and minimum wage workers, who depend on transit the most,” she said.
Pizey-Allen notes that even if the scope of the expansion was wider, the cost of transit is still too high.
“The discount needs to be deeper, starting with free transit for people receiving social assistance,” she said. “Many people struggle to pay even the discounted Fair Pass fares, or skip meals to pay for transit, because all income goes towards paying rent.”
This latest expansion of the Fair Pass concludes what the city calls the “second phase” of the program.
According to the city, the next phase will also be the last.
The third and final phase of the Fair Pass program will extend to all low-income residents age 20 to 64, according to a city press release.
“It will no longer depend on participation in specific income assistance and other subsidy programs,” the statement said.
The city says this will reach significantly more Toronto residents, especially low-wage workers.
Additional fare policies are also being developed as part of a Five-Year Fare Policy.
This includes working with Metrolinx on an integrated fare program that proposes to cut costs for those using multiple agencies in the GTA.
The TTC Board will vote in May on the five-year fare plan.
The expansion of the Fair Pass is effective now. Those eligible can apply on the City of Toronto website.