Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Letter to the editor: GRT fare hike

Letter to the editor time.

Changing the farebox recovery ratio with a drastic, up-to-9%-per-year fare hike doesn't fit with the plan to boost transit ridership. Fare increases could (and maybe should) be used to help fund transit improvement, but the Region is pushing the gas pedal to the floor (have you ever noticed how many metaphors are automobile-centric?) without any public rationale beyond comparing GRT to transit systems that are either already mature (Toronto, Ottawa), or woefully inadequate (pretty much all of the rest).

In fact, when Waterloo last had a farebox recovery rate above 50% (back in 2000), we also had not one but two disjoint, disconnected transit system designed for social-service mobility and carrying less than half of today's ridership.

Why are we looking to our past selves and to provincial transit underachievers as role models? And what will we get in return for such a sharp increase? Beyond alienating our U-Pass students, that is.

Hike Questionable

Re: Higher bus fares are entirely fair — Jan. 27

The Record calls the proposed Grand River Transit fare increase both necessary and fair. The first point is debatable, the second is irrelevant. Such a drastic fare increase is at odds with the region’s own stated goals.

The Region of Waterloo has a master plan that calls for an extremely ambitious target of 15 per cent trips by transit by the year 2031. That seemingly modest number still represents a tripling of the current transit share from today; the generation of millions of new trips per year. And yet, Grand River Transit ridership growth now faces a stiff headwind.

In conversations with regional staff back in October, no one could provide me with a reason why the region, entirely out of left field, decided that 50 per cent cost recovery from the fare box was a good number. Instead, justifications were given by pointing at other municipalities, many of which are transit laggards or in the throes of fiscal meltdown.

Worse than that, presented with different fare hike alternatives, the region has opted for the most aggressive, seeking to reach this arbitrary number in advance of light rail transit or the completion of the planned express bus network. This is like putting the cart before the horse and then wondering why nobody wants to ride it.
Inflating fares for an incomplete network is hardly a good way to find thousands of willing new riders. Instead of showing leadership and building momentum for transit success, our region chooses to seek company in mediocrity.

This regional government should reread its own plan.
Chris Klein

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