Paycheque to paycheque – that’s how most Torontonians are living. And most aren’t even homeowners. To ease some of the inflated costs of living in Toronto, the TTC is expanding the eligibility of its Fair Pass Discount Program.

The Fair Pass Discount Program, which is programmed onto a Presto card, is usually just available for people on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program. So far, 150,000 residents have benefitted from the program: youth, post-secondary students, and seniors, while children ride free. The discount saves riders a dollar a trip off the usual fee (so instead of $3.10, it costs $2.05). A monthly pass runs for $31.75 cheaper.

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Mayor John Tory, who has been vocal about the current housing crisis in the GTA, launched phase two of the Fair Pass Discount Program, which expands eligibility to low-income residents who are receiving a child care subsidy.

The announcement was made alongside Councillor Anthony Perruzza, city council’s poverty reduction advocate.  Tory explained: “The City of Toronto and its residents know that an affordable and reliable transit system is key to everyday life because it connects people to jobs, to services and just to life in the city. If they can’t afford transit they may not, for example, be able to take a specific job or go to a necessary medical appointment and these are things that are going to help lift people out of poverty,” Tory said. “That is why we introduced the fare pass discount program, that is why we introduced the kids ride free program and that is one of the reasons we introduced the two-hour transfer.”

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A recent study by the University of Toronto revealed that nearly one million urban Canadians suffer from what is known as “transport poverty”. The discount programs were initially created as part of the city’s poverty reduction strategy, and Tory says that the $25 million annual price tag for all of TTC’s various discount programs is worth it.

“This investment is going to earn a substantial return in terms of people that will now have access to this program that I think will help them not only have their life be more affordable but also be more mobile in the city,” he said.

More than 150,000 Torontonians have been eligible for the program since April, 2018, though only 62,000 have signed up so far.

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The Mayor says that eventually he would like to expand the program to include all low-income residents of Toronto, but that it can be difficult to identify who is and isn’t low income.

“It is frustrating that you can’t just get the information readily but the fact is that it is complex and I know that our officials are working very hard to try to address these issues, so that we can extend it to the entire group,” he said, noting that income information will have to be provided by Revenue Canada. “It will be extended as soon as we get these issues resolved but it is taking some time to do that.”

So get the word out to parents who receive child care fee subsidies. It’s a little bit of relief in an otherwise overwhelmingly expensive city.

Personal Finance