Kids to ride free on TTC and not everyone's happy

Not everyone's excited about kids riding free on the TTC. But here's why we should be thankful.

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The new mayor of Toronto, John Tory, [insert Rob Ford tribute video] just announced a huge increase in public transit spending and service that includes every-10-minutes-or-better service, 50 new buses, four new express lines, 11 new 24-hour lines (!) and free TTC rides for kids 12 and under. And, oh yeah, the price of fares is going up by 10 cents like it does every so often anyway.

How awesome is that? People were going to be stoked. I just knew it. I could hardly wait to jump onto Twitter and see all the buzz.

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Good point, I guess providing services to your citizens is pandering. I never thought of it that way before.

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Me too! WAIT A SECOND… do I sense a touch of sarcasm there? Good thing we force them to go to school most of the time or goodness knows where kids might turn up.

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Lemme do my best this guy impression: Are you giving CHILDREN free rides on the SUBWAY?! That’s it, I’m out of here. Cannot deal.

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Well, that’s just mean.

Another guy insisted that his four children don’t have to ride for free and everybody else shouldn’t have to be subsidizing them. Well, good for you. I’m glad you can fork over the kiddie fare for the one time a year you take the subway to the Santa Claus Parade. I know single moms who take the TTC halfway across the city every single day to bring their children to daycare that say otherwise.

Finally, one guy just wanted to know where he could get a fake ID that says he’s 12. Now THAT is the spirit.

But, really, do people not know that it’s public transportation? Their overarching concern is that there will be an unjust increase in the number of children riding the TTC? It’s the bus, dude. It’s basically your bottom line last resort, let’s be honest. You don’t get to complain about who is riding on the bus with you. And kids should be the least of your concerns when you’re wedged between Mr. B.O. and Ms. Tuberculosis anyway. Good thing you don’t have a seven-year-old boy reading a comic book next to you.

And since I obviously need to make a serious defense of the policy, let’s remember that the people who are overwhelmingly going to benefit from having kids ride free are the people who need it most. As I’ve written before, nobody wants to take their kids on the TTC during rush hour. Nobody, never, nowhere, no-how. So the people who are travelling back and forth on public transit with children in tow everyday are doing it because they don’t have a choice. Most of these people are parents bringing their children to and from daycare or school so they can go to work. Many of them are single mothers.

The vast majority of parents, however, don’t travel with their kids on the TTC everyday. They either drive their kids where they need to go, walk them there or put them on school buses (that you are paying for with your tax dollars, suckers!) Families like this—families like mine—do have a choice. And you know what we often choose? We choose to drive—even when we really don’t want to. The TTC runs under capacity during off-peak hours and it would be a pleasant enough trip to visit the ROM, the AGO, Chinatown, Kensington Market, the Eaton Centre, “dad at work,” the ferry docks, the CNE and on and on and on. But then we calculate the return fare times five and realize we may as well just drive and pay through the nose for parking. It’s no more expensive.

But not anymore! This is a game changer. Now that the kids ride free, it makes sense for us to buy a transferable Metropass every month so Ed can use it to commute to work and either of us can use it during evenings or weekends with or without the kids. Which means, when we take a family outing downtown, it will only cost us one return fare to take transit, not five. That’s one more fare than the TTC was making off of us before.

It’s a reasonable, humane policy for a large, metropolitan city which is probably why cities like London and New York also offer kids a free pass. It will also help foster a culture of public transit and, boy, do we need that, if we ever want traffic to move in this city again.

I don’t pretend that my weekend TTC trips with the fam are going to make up for the lost revenue from regular child riders. But I do know that is only one small part of what the 10 cent increase is paying for. It’s also paying for new express routes (that probably won’t benefit me) and more frequent service (that I luckily don’t need) and 11 new all-night bus lines that I would have killed for back in the day, but I can pretty much guarantee won’t have many children riding on them.

The TTC is radically underfunded by the federal and provincial governments and it has been for a long time. I wish we didn’t have to increase fares to make the system better for everyone, but I am definitely not going to apologize for the break that poor families across the city are getting in return.

This blog post was originally published on Playground Confidential with the headline, “Not everyone’s excited about kids riding free on the TTC. Here’s why we should be.”

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