Proposed changes to the Grand River Transit (or GRT) fares would see cash fares rise, but under these proposals, accessibility services would also increase. Commissioner for Transportation Services Mathieu Goetzke presented the proposals to Regional Council during a budget consultation meeting on Wednesday November 1.
This budget consultation meeting, one of several in the run-up to the final budget day on December 13, focused on determining the budgets for the Region’s equitable services and opportunities. Items of discussion included improving community safety and well-being, automated speed enforcement, youth-focused initiatives, paramedic services, transportation, and proposed transit fare changes to the GRT.
These proposed fare changes include increasing the electronic cash fare by two cents from $2.98 to $3.00, increasing monthly passes from $92 to $96; and increasing cash fares from $3.75 to $4 per single ride.
GRT fares last increased this past July, by 25 cents, from $3.50 to $3.75, which means that, with this proposed increase, fare hikes of will have increased by 50 cents or 12.5% in two years. Despite this, ridership has never been higher. In September, the GRT set a new ridership record with 150,000 boardings per day.
Commisioner Goetzke explained why this cash fare price increase is needed, but several councillors expressed concern. Councillor Natasha Salonen wondered if the cash fare increase wouldn’t hurt the most marginalised.
Another proposed increase is the fare window, which is how long one bus ticket is good for. Currently the GRT offers a 90-minute window and is proposing a 120-minute, or two-hour, window. Councillor Rob Deutschmann suggested increasing the fare window to three hours, arguing the size of the region justified increasing the transfer window. Councillor Jim Erb agreed and noted that Waterloo Region riders often switch between the bus and ION train systems, which takes more time.
Commisioner Goetzke listed the proposed measures to increase accessibility, including removing $5 minimum load on easy go card, developing a mobile payment app, increasing the discount on needs-based fares, and introducing a new group pass for $12, which would allow unlimited travel for up to five people regardless if they are a family or not.
These proposed changes were presented as a preview of what will be discussed in more detail at a later council meeting. The intention of this review was to bring forward a budget-day motion to adopt a new user fee and charge bylaw.
Councillors have until December 4 to make a motion to amend the budget before the final budget day on December 13.
At the next Strategic Planning and Budget Committee, on November 8, Council will be examining the draft 2024 budgets focusing on the theme homes for all.
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