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TORONTO TRANSIT SYSTEM OFFICIALS MOVING TOWARD FARE INCREASE

Toronto's public transit system, which has been fighting a combination of subsidy cuts and rising costs, is likely to increase fare prices next year even at the risk of losing riders, according to a spokesman for the Toronto Transit Commission.

Toronto's transit system, the TTC, said the price of a single adult ticket could rise by 6.5 cents (U.S.) next year, bringing the cost of a one-way ride on the system to about $1.10, according to transit spokesman Lynn Hilborn.

If such a fare increase is approved, it would be the fifth fare hike in the past nine years.

While TTC officials say no fare increase has been set, rising costs for U.S.-made bus, streetcar and subway parts -- and the likelihood the transit system's unionized workers will demand higher wages -- make a fare increase almost assured.

"Do I think there will be a fare increase? Yeah, I think there will be a fare increase. The odds are in favor if it," said TTC chief general manager David Gunn.

Gunn said running the TTC's fleet of vehicles will cost $4.3 million more than last year due to expanded services in some areas.

When the union makes its wage demands known later this year, that could also push up costs, he added, noting a 1 percent jump in union wages will cost the system about $3.6 million.

Hilborn said the system recorded 388 million paid rides this year, up from 381 million in 1997. But if the system raises the fare by 13 cents, income from ticket prices will rise by about $10 million while ridership will drop by an estimated 5 million trips.

Hilborn said the city and provincial government will give the TTC about $97 million in operating subsidies this year, but that is far less than the $160 million in government subsidies it received in 1992.

To cope with the funding drop, Hilborn said the TTC has cut 800 jobs, reduced absenteeism from 8 percent to 4 percent, and cut 15 percent of its bus fleet that served areas of low ridership.

Hilborn said the TTC has the lowest public subsidy costs of the top five transit systems in North America, noting that Toronto subsidizes its system by 26 cents per ride, compared to 51 cents in Montreal, 68 cents in New York City, $1.15 in Vancouver and $1.63 in Philadelphia.

Among the top five systems, only Montreal has a lower single fare rate, he added.

While the price of a single fare when tickets or token are bought in bundles of five or more will rise, it is unlikely the cash fare will rise, Hilborn said. That price is currently $2 (Canadian).

While visitors make up less than 5 percent of the TTC's ridership, the system does offer a one-day, unlimited travel pass for about $4.20. That price pays for one person on weekdays and Saturdays, but the same pass is good for a family of up to six people on Sundays and holidays.

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