By Ryan McGreal
Published November 16, 2007
A planned Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on November 26 will be dedicated to the 2008 transit budget. It looks like city staff may recommend transit fare increases for 2008 coupled with service improvements.
When he addressed the Transit Steering Committee meeting on November 8, HSR director Don Hull said it was "probably not appropriate" to go into detail about the staff proposal before presenting it to the councillors, but added (transcript courtesy Citizens at City Hall):
[Y]ou felt that service enhancements going into the future should as well be funded, if in fact council does, has considered fare increases, that a portion of the fare increase would go towards funding for service enhancements. So if we understood you correctly, so we have put together what were calling a bundled budget for consideration of committee of the whole on November 26. It's a unique approach that hasn't been done before which essentially bundles a budget for the transit program that meets council's 3 percent mandate, that includes what we will consider a reasonable fare increase that will be consistent with those things being considered at the next COW meeting, and includes specific service enhancements requests for 2008 and priorities for 2009. [emphasis added]
It is astonishing, in light of the very strong inverse correlation between fares and ridership, that city staff continues to recommend fare increases (and to call this "reasonable") when the city is supposed to be committed to the goal of increasing ridership.
Quite simply, higher fares means fewer riders. It means more driving, more smog, more greenhouse gas emissions, and fewer transportation choices for low-income residents, who make up a fifth of Hamilton's population.
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