Transportation

Another Fare Increase On the Way?

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 24, 2008

Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) are sounding the alarm about another potential HSR fare increase to be included in the 2009 municipal budget.

Council recently approved a schedule for budget decisionmaking, which will include a "fare increase report" from public works staff. Council will undertake "deliberations and final approval" on November 14.

It sounds like staff plan to recommend a fare hike that would take effect on January 1, 2009, defending it on the basis of "significant pressures" on this year's transit budget as a result of high fuel prices and rising pension costs.

Hamilton already increased fares in mid-2007 and again on January 1, 2008.

The report a year ago that recommended the 2008 fare increase did not include an estimate on how the increase would affect ridership, though public works staff suggested that lost ridership would be offset by new services.

There is a strong, well-established inverse correlation between fare prices and ridership. Fare increases correspond with drops in ridership, and fare cuts correspond with increases in ridership.

As it turns out, ridership grew only marginally during a year when other cities saw significant increases and overall transit ridership grew by five percent.

The city launched a pilot project this year to subsidize transit passes for low income riders who qualify. One of the agenda items for the 2009 budget is to assess this project and decide whether to continue and/or expand it.

As helpful as this may be for low income transit users, it is unlikely to help shore up lost ridership, since the people who stop using public transit as fares go up are generally those people who have other options.

A big part of the problem is that council generally regards transit levies as a "budgetary pressure", not as an investment. It is politically more expedient to dump increased transit expenditures on HSR riders than to increase transit taxes.

Complicating matters further in Hamilton is the grandfathered system of "area rating", under which different areas of the city pay different rates toward transit, an arrangement that goes back to the forced amalgamation of the city with its surrounding towns.

For example, taxpayers in the old city of Hamilton pay nearly five times as much toward transit as residents in Ancaster.

Council has so far refused to address area rating, though they did agree earlier this year that they need to do something about it before the end of their term in 2010.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted October 26, 2008 at 00:23:24

So the many, who are the working poor, those who do not get wage raises, those who struggle on minimum wage, those on fixed incomes, will forego food, rent to pay for transportation or will have to walk.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2008 at 21:09:04

Grassroots, some people would probably be better off with less food. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise.

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By lurkalicious (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2008 at 21:31:47

You know A Smith, I'm starting to really think you're just a sociopath.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted October 27, 2008 at 07:44:20

A Smith: You are one sick person. But then you are what is wrong with the world, people like you, who have no empathy, who only see the world from your perspective and not the perspective of others. Please tell us, do you work for the government? Are you one of those who has union contract, yet deny others that right to fight for justice in the workplace? Please fill us in as to what makes you think you are so "superior" to other people.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 27, 2008 at 09:40:40

A Smith is Alan Greenspan!

www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/10/26/18615/754/931/640790

You read it here first!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2008 at 09:45:28

"In those essays, Greenspan rails against the "statists" and their desire to blame failures leading to the Great Depression on greed and unsafe lending practices."

Yet by the 1980s, Greenspan's own conversion into a "statist" was largely complete.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2008 at 16:37:32

Grassroots, there is a difference between helping someone and making someone dependent on handouts.

Most people in Hamilton today fall into the latter category and you are doing nothing to curtail this process.

When I look around today, I don't see people who are lacking in food, I see the complete opposite. All one has to do is listen to the stories of childhood obesity and the truth becomes clearer.

You also that mention that people may have to walk, rather than sit on the subsidized HSR. Guess what, that's what people have had to do for most of our existence. It's only in the past fifty years or so that physical labour has become a horrible poison to be avoided at any cost.

Pain is a part of life, so the question becomes, not how to avoid it, but how to use it to propel us forward. Nothing good in life comes without some pain and to deny this fact only makes it harder on people in the long run.

Keep in mind I am not advocating allowing people to starve to death, but I am advocating allowing people to feel some genuine physical pain. Pain and work breeds strength, so by taking this away from people, you also take away their ticket to greater success.

You mention that I don't have empathy for people, but this is not true. It's just that I believe the best way to help people in the long run, is to ask more from them, not less. The people in my life that have done this have made me stronger, so I know it works.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 27, 2008 at 16:39:47

Grassroots, there is a difference between helping someone and making someone dependent on handouts.

Most people in Hamilton today fall into the latter category and you are doing nothing to curtail this process.

When I look around today, I don't see people who are lacking in food, I see the complete opposite. All one has to do is listen to the stories of childhood obesity and the truth becomes clearer.

You also that mention that people may have to walk, rather than sit on the subsidized HSR. Guess what, that's what people have had to do for most of our existence. It's only in the past fifty years or so that physical labour has become a horrible poison to be avoided at any cost.

Pain is a part of life, so the question becomes, not how to avoid it, but how to use it to propel us forward. Nothing good in life comes without some pain and to deny this fact only makes it harder on people in the long run.

Keep in mind I am not advocating allowing people to starve to death, but I am advocating allowing people to feel some genuine physical pain. Pain and work breeds strength, so by taking this away from people, you also take away their ticket to greater success.

You mention that I don't have empathy for people, but this is not true. It's just that I believe the best way to help people in the long run, is to ask more from them, not less. The people in my life that have done this have made me stronger, so I know it works.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted October 27, 2008 at 20:24:22

A Smith: What you do not get, it the current system is at fault but "YOU" fail to see that.

First, you want to talk about people's weight. Well, for those that struggle,those who go to the foodbanks, do not get fresh fruit and vegetables. The food given out for high in sugar, salt, carbohydrates, starching, not very nutricious, it fills the stomach but that's about it. I have advocated and worked on community gardens, I advocate for changes in policy around foodbanks and the lack of scrutiny from public health. I think it is a very good idea for local farmers and low income people to meet and join voices, as many farmers struggle as well.

Anyways, to me it makes more sense to give people liveable amounts of assistance, as it would do anyway with alot of the bureaucracy of the poverty industry. People could buy what they want, puts more money in the local economy.

You blame people yet I bet you would applaud all those PR groups/businesses, who on daily basis, sending bad messages. Ever read the book, "Toxic Sludge is Good for You"? Look at the crap, the food, the food system, the pesticides, the poisons, the GMOs, processed food, all I see you doing is standing up for the "bad" guys.

Actually, I believe in a grassroots remedy, empower the people, to become self sufficient. That also means to stand up and fight for the workers rights, to stand up for living wages, benefits, health and safety, to demand to legislated labour law is enforced, especially for those trapped in the temp industry.

Think about this: this was a post on the globe and mail, last week. A person, who has worked for twenty years, who has some sort of skill or trade, was laid off last March. He looks and has looked for work, even for work that would be classed as under employed. This person EI runs out in about a month. Since EI is only 55% of wages, this person has had to use whatever savings. After EI benefits run out and if this person still does not find work, the only other option is Ontario Works, which this person would be entitled to $650.00 per month. This person's rent is $950.00, less rent he will be (390.00). This person will be evicted due to non payment of rent, could lose all possessions in a couple of months. Forced into the streets and lose the $560.00 per month, until they got a spot in a shelter, in which they would be entitled to a PNA, which is considerably less the $560.00. Try finding a place to rent for $560.00. Do you think this person should suffer? Do you think it is their fault for losing their job?

Anyways if you give people the tools, they reach out. The system does not really help people, it is very difficult to get into training programs, the system pushes people into precarious work situations.

I asked one young person about the landscaping program they were in. What did they think about it? This was a person who admitted that school was boring, this person was very enthusiastic about the program, the physical work. Not every person is meant to go on to higher education.

Maybe if they could have more activities at the schools, like intermural, fun stuff. Maybe we need more places were the poor can go to get exercise. Some people do have difficulty walking and getting around.

You are thinking about the working poor. Why is those at Mac get reduced fares, those who are mostly covered by union contract, who earn living wages, who do not need the break as much as someone earning minimum wage? Does not your tax dollar pay for that?

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By Zombie Adam Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2008 at 12:09:49

A Smith (clearly an Imposter of the Vilest Order) wrote, "there is a difference between helping someone and making someone dependent on handouts."

As I wrote in my Modest work An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations, "The *necessaries* of life occasion the great expense of the poor. They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. The *luxuries and vanities* of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess. A tax ... therefore, would in general fall heaviest upon the rich; and in this sort of inequality there would not, perhaps, be anything very unreasonable. It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion."

Perhaps the Imposter A Smith ought to reacquaint himself with the principles and tenets with which he submits pretence to hold himself fast; and in so doing to recognize that the burdens and viccissitudes of life fall unevenly upon the public and must be redressed through the judicial redistribution of a small proportion of the total wealth of the nation through the means of a progressive tax upon that wealth, and particularly upon the luxuries of the very wealthy.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2008 at 22:07:21

Zombie, my handle is not a reference to Adam Smith, but Al Smith, his younger, less well known cousin.

Through researching many rare historical documents, I have become fascinated with his take on the human condition. He agreed with many of the ideas his cousin Adam wrote about, but for his own unique reasons.

Al Smith believed the world was inherently balanced. He also believed that compassion, while extremely important to the human condition, could produce negative side effects.

Just like in the story of the Garden of Eden, knowledge of good and evil can lead to negative consequences. Al believed that God made all human emotions good and that each one had an important use to drive mankind forward.

He believed that placing too much emphasis on things like compassion, actually caused more problems then it solved. What a successful life required was both pain pain and pleasure, work and reward.

Moreover, since he believed the world was always in balance, any attempts to give to others was offset by a cost to the recipient. Since this cost may not directly accrue to the giver, man had a way of believing that it did not exist. Man believed that you could actually get something for free.

Al Smith knew that free lunches did not, nor could not exist in a balanced universe. This led him to believe that the best way to create wealth for people, was to first ask them to give up something in return.

In today's world, compassion is highly esteemed, but greed is looked at as some sort of character flaw. Here is an example that highlights the flaw in this way of thinking...

Imagine two friends, one with a house to sell and the other in need of a house to buy. The person who wants to sell the house sets the price below market value, in order to help his friend.

The friend who is looking to buy, counters with an above market price, since he also wants to give his friend a good deal. This back and forth goes on until each one tries to outdo the other in being a good, caring person.

In the end, the buyer ends up selling the house to a stranger, at full market price. The buyer ends up having to look for another house and all because they were both unwilling to be selfish.

Since balance is an automatic function of the universe, whether you help someone or not, the universe will make sure that each person will pay a price for everything they get in life. Therefore, the next time you help someone, keep in mind you are probably just helping yourself.

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By working middle class (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2008 at 22:21:47

Grassroots, I've got to take issue with you defining "The Many" as the working poor - reliant on subsidized transit to get around town.

Surely those dependent on taking the HSR are in fact the few. Transit ridership is marginal. The vast majority own, maintain and operate cars either due to personal choice or necessity. They also pay to subsidize transit for others and pay to build and maintain roads for both cars and mass transit vehicles.

If transit is the best option for society, why is it not self sustaining? Why do those who are paying for it choose not to use it? We're pumping billions into this system and despite it all, the vast majority are not interested in ever getting on board.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted October 29, 2008 at 07:55:29

By working middle class: Without seeing the actual financial statements, I guess it is hard to know where the money goes and how it is delegated.

You bring up a good question though, why do those who are paying for it choose not to use it? Maybe it is dependence on the vehicle. Maybe we have to look at the whole tax structure, to analysis where all this money goes? But in reality, the information is not open to the public, so we do not really know, do we.

But one reality is that those who are the working poor, those who must rely on transit, cannot afford another hike in the price. It is just causing then to struggle more. Can those in our community, who are the middle class afford more tax hikes?

The answer lies in the community coming together to air their views to come with a feasible resolutions. What is missing in the solution is the voices of the people at the table.

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