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MiWay raises fares for 2nd time in under a year, reaction mixed

MiWay is raising its transit fares for the second time in under a year. Transit advocates and experts are mixed on what that means for the transit system and for commuters. (MiWayHelps/Twitter - image credit)
MiWay is raising its transit fares for the second time in under a year. Transit advocates and experts are mixed on what that means for the transit system and for commuters. (MiWayHelps/Twitter - image credit)

Mississauga residents are getting hit with a second MiWay fare increase within the last year, which the city says is required to help improve overall transit service.

And while a transit advocate and expert say they understand the rationale for the hike, they argue it could potentially hurt residents and the transit system in the long run.

Cameron MacLeod, the executive director of GTA and Hamilton transit advocacy group CodeRedTO, said fare increases bring in new revenue but also push away some riders who can't afford the service as a result.

MacLeod says tax dollars have gone toward public transit over the years, the funding hasn't been nearly at the same rate as funding for car infrastructure. As a result, operators may have been "forced" to raise fares disproportionately, leaving some residents feeling they're unfairly bearing too much of the operating costs, he adds.

"Public transit is part of our cities' blood system, delivering residents to schools and jobs and daycares and shopping. We want it frequent and reliable," MacLeod said in an email to CBC Toronto.

"But Mississauga transit riders may not feel they're seeing a reasonable return on that increased cost."

Starting April 1, adults and youth will need to pay 20 cents more for a MiWay bus ride, bringing the fares to $3.40 and $2.65 respectively. The adult monthly pass is also being raised from $131 to $141, while the non-PRESTO cash fare is being raised by 25 cents to $4.25.

The fare changes were first recommended by staff last fall. In a September report, staff said MiWay ridership has recovered and even exceeded pre-pandemic levels by August 2023, and that it was experiencing "greater pressure" to improve and expand service as ridership continues to grow.

Fare increases will help improve service: city

The adult fare increase is expected to generate an additional $2.7 million in 2024, while the youth and cash fares increases are expected to bring in a cumulative $0.9 million, according to the report.

And that new revenue will help the city enhance "the overall quality of transit service delivery," according to a news release from the city earlier this week.

The city plans on adding 57,000 more service hours on MiWay routes. At the same time, it's planning for nearly $2 billion in capital work over the next decade to build more bus stops and shelters, maintain the transit system and expand infrastructure, listing projects in the Lakeview, Port Credit and Clarkson neighbourhoods and the Dundas Bus Rapid Transit.

MiWay bus
MiWay bus

MiWay fares are set to increase by 20 cents for adult and youth fares, and by $10 dollars for the adult monthly fare. (City of Mississauga)

The April fare increase comes just months after the first spike last May, where adult and youth PRESTO fares increased by 10 cents. That increase was the first bump since the COVID-19 pandemic, and came at the same time that the city introduced a one-year pilot program, allowing kids ages six to 12 to ride MiWay for free with a PRESTO card, and a $1 all-day fare for seniors 65 and older.

Back-to-back increases 'surprising': professor

Tara Vinodrai, an associate geography and planning professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, said it's "surprising" the increases were introduced so closely together.

While it could help offset the costs of the recently-introduced one-fare transit integration program in the GTA, not everyone will be able to participate, she said.

"The two fares back-to-back might be a problem, particularly for some some individuals in lower income brackets," she said.

However, she said Mississauga, along with other cities outside of Toronto, are rebounding in ridership levels after the COVID-19 pandemic — and building a strong system after the fact is an important priority.

"I think there's a recognition that costs are going up and what I would hope is that it won't push too many users away. There's a lot of people who rely on transit and I don't think that's fundamentally going to change," she said.