In combination with the fare increase that already took effect this past summer, the additional fare increase passed quickly by Monday night's 2008 budget committee of the whole raises HSR fares by around 15 percent over the beginning of 2007. By contrast, the increase in transit tax is being limited to three percent.
For years, tax funding for the HSR has grown far more slowly than funding for other city services, including roads and traffic, police/fire services and waste management.
Using the provincial gas tax transfer to cover budgetary shortfalls instead of improving service since 2005 has masked just how little the city has invested in transit service improvements in recent years.
Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) has released a preliminary analysis of the fare increase as compared to the city's other option of funding the increase out of taxes:
For a $200,000 home in Hamilton, the difference would be $12 a year [as opposed to $96 a year for a regular HSR user].
The cost to suburban residents would have been about $3 in Ancaster, and $4 in each of Dundas, Stoney Creek and Glanbrook.
Each former municipality pays a unique transit tax rate based on how many miles of HSR service occurs there. Thus an average home in Hamilton this year pays $174 for HSR, while urban residents of Ancaster in the same value home pay $36. The comparable rate in Dundas is $41 and $53 in Stoney Creek.
The CATCH study also looks at the increase in the context of HSR funding trends over the past two decades:
HSR fare prices have risen faster than inflation since the mid-1980s. In 1985, riders paid 90 cents a ride. Inflation would push that to $1.58 in 2007. Most of the increases took place before 1998 - the point at which cash fares hit $2.00 a ride.
The HSR has not been a priority for this city for a very long time. Coupling service improvements with fare increases sends a contradictory message: that the burden or paying should fall almost entirely on riders, when the benefits of a truly progressive transit policy would accrue to the city as a whole.
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