Dear Mayor Eisenberger, City Councillors,
I am dismayed by news that city staff are recommending fare hikes for the HSR and DARTS. City staff estimate this will cost the HSR 550,000 rides annually, but will net $1 million in revenue, an increase they deem necessary to ensure "the sustainability of Transit programs in Hamilton for the foreseeable future".
It makes no sense to me that city staff would make any recommendation for transit that will result in reduced ridership.
From a business perspective, it is common to choose a price point for a product that maximizes revenue depending on the target market: will my business sell a few $100 bottles of wine to lawyers, or many $10 bottles of wine to students? Will my business sell a few $60,000 luxury sedans to the rich, or many $12,000 grocery-getters for everyone else?
Public transit should not be subjected to this type of business analysis. First, it is not a luxury good but an essential service. Second, cheaper alternatives to public transit do not exist for the many people who must travel long distances or cannot walk or cycle to their destinations. Third, public transit is essential to the economic and social health of the city.
I could almost understand this recommendation if city staff honestly believed that these 550,000 rides per year are unnecessary joyrides around the city, taken just for the pleasure of riding a bus.
But they acknowledge that a fare increase "will make it even more difficult for low income individuals in Hamilton to access employment and educational opportunities" and "health/medical services". What motivates anyone to recommend anything that makes it harder for poor people to access medical care?
A public transit fare increase wouldn't just take money from many people who can least afford it. It also sends a clear and discouraging signal to all of the people who care enough about the environment to take public transit.
Remember, not all costs are monetary. Is the environmental benefit of public transit and the environmental harm of car travel factored into this $1 million?
If the logic of cost analysis based on fewer riders who pay more money is taken to its logical conclusion, the city should abandon its buses altogether and replace them with a fleet of limousines. At $500 per ride, the HSR could be a money-maker with just a few thousand rides per year.
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