It's transit fare increase season again in Hamilton.
A proposal by the Public Works Department to raise HSR transit fares is coming back to councillors in an upcoming Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting concerning the 2009 budget.
That the General Manager of Public Works be authorized and directed to implement a Transit fare increase effective January 1, 2009, as described in Table 1 of this report and inclusive of increases across all fare types, such that an increase of 5% in the average HSR fare, or $0.10 per trip across major fare types, is achieved
Thanks to fare increases in mid-2007 and the start of 2008, HSR ridership grew by just one percent in 2008, compared to far higher increases in other Canadian cities.
Public Works has a legitimate need for more HSR funding; but it seems that in Hamilton, the only politically palatable source of additional funding is by increasing fares. Raising the transit levy or (quels horreurs) eliminating Hamilton's regressive area rating system falls outside the pale of acceptable thought.
The real problem is that a majority of councillors still seems to regard transit funding as a subsidy for the transit-using poor rather than an investment in an essential public good.
Until that changes, the HSR will remain squeezed between rising costs and miserly funding, with council approving or nixing proposed fare increases based on the level of public outrage.
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