Early last year, Rob Ford successfully declared the TTC an essential service permanently interfering with the collective bartering process. In claiming that workers rights paled in comparison to the vital importance that the TTC has on our city and itʼs citizens, TTC workers rights were trampled.
Minister of Labour Charles Sousa commented on the legislation stating that it “recognizes the vital importance of the TTC to the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the transit system to go to work, school, medical appointments, and shop. This act takes into account the health and safety of the millions of riders who use the TTC as well as the unique impact that transit service has on the city's economic well-being."
Firefighters, nurses, and doctors are also designated as essential services. All citizens are guaranteed access to these services without fares. Every time a citizen wishes to seek the advise of a nurse or request help from a firefighter there isn’t an inspector collecting fares and checking for proof of payment. These are essential services that are afforded to all regardless of class, employment and other sources of privilege.
For an adult earning minimum wage, they must work an additional half hour per shift to budget two tokens. If that adult purchases a metropass, they must work an additional twelve hours per month or three hours per week to continue balancing their budget.
This is simply impossible for a large portion of the population. Anyone who’s working more than one job simply does not have additional time to spare, anyone who’s underemployed is working all they can, many seniors are living on pensions or fixed incomes and cannot work. For all these people and many others an extra twelve hours of work isn’t an option.
Minister of Labour Charles Sousa correctly recognizes the vital importance of the TTC to all citizens and yet only a very select subset of the population has access to this essential service.
The only way to ensure that all citizens have access to this vital service is to remove the fare box and make the TTC a fare-free service.
The No Fare is Fair Coalition is currently campaigning to do just that. Jordy Cummings described their campaign objective as "incremental demands, such as fare freezes, increased accessibility, transit rider unions, free fares on weather emergency days and the like, along with other organizations. But we never waver towards our core goal of free and accessible transit.”
No Fare is Fair, a subcommittee of the Greater Toronto Workers Assembly is a part of the Fair Fare Coalition along with DAMN 2025 and Sistering. They have organized several events including a day of action where five people in a streetcar costume roamed about the intersection of Dundas and Yonge St. while others collected signatures demanding free transit on extreme weather days. Streetcars were boarded without paying to engage the public further.
No Fare is Fair regularly boards various TTC routes and performs guerilla theatre. Generally members of the campaign begin by speaking loudly about particularly insulting and infuriating aspects of austerity and government priorities followed by examples of better options. This pairing of emotions consistently attracts the action of most riders. In engaging the public, No Fare is Fair gets their message across and provides a stage for TTC riders input about specific issues they face.
The response from people on the street and the drivers and passengers on the TTC have been overwhelmingly positive. Almost all support the idea. Though Megan Kinch questioned whether free transit was a priority for transit riders stating, “free public transit would be great but when I lived in Scarborough we had to wait twenty minutes for a bus just to take us to the LRT to take us to the subway to take us to another bus. What working class people in under serviced areas like Scarborough and north North York need is good public transit.”
The natural question to ask when discussing free public transit is, “Who will pay?” Considering the recent decisions of the Provincial and Federal Government it is clear that the money is there, it is simply the will that is lacking. The one billion dollars spent on the G20 could have easily funded the TTC for a year. Recent tax cuts to corporations and money dedicated to new prisons and fighter jets are each in the billions and the government doesn't seem to care what the total bill will be.
The entire budget of the TTC is currently one billion dollars. Though the cost of instituting a fare free system is not known since the TTC does not know how much it spends to collect the fares. Collecting, counting and depositing fares will also no longer be required. The costly Presto and the open payment systems currently being considered would no longer be required, allowing money to be saved from the purchasing, installing and repairs of said machines.
With effective and proactive planning the TTC could be more efficient and service the entire city, if the transit was a priority and funded properly by all levels of government.