Across-the-board fare increase, service cuts possible if student fee opt-out option includes transit: LTC

The LTC says passengers must enter through the rear door between March 20 and April 5. Marty Thompson / 980 CFPL

The London Transit Commission (LTC) is looking for answers from the province after the Ford government said it’d let post-secondary students opt out of ancillary fees.

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As of the end of January, LTC general manager Kelly Paleczny said it’s unclear whether those additional fees would include transit.

“We’ve already built that guaranteed revenue stream into our 2019 budget so again, we haven’t got final answers from the province with respect to whether or not transit is intended to be one of the things that students are allowed to opt out of.”

Under the current system, more than 50,000 students in London pay roughly $240 as part of tuition payments for their annual bus pass but the LTC knows that not all students even use it.

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“[Those who don’t use it] are cross-subsidizing the students who use it a lot,” Paleczny said.

“Allowing the opt out, obviously the students who have no intention of using transit will no longer pay for it which means that the fee that we’re charging is no longer going to cover the levels of service that we’ve put in place.”

The cross-subsidization allows for a $240 annual pass but a monthly pass for post-secondary students runs $70 or $840 per year.

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While it’s still not clear if transit passes will even be impacted by the changes, Paleczny notes that if it goes forward and enough people opt-out, the LTC will have to make some difficult decisions. The LTC could potentially adjust the price of the annual pass to cover the lost revenue from students who opt-out. Or it could even cancel the tuition pass program altogether and have students buy monthly passes instead.

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“If a significant number of students don’t participate in either of those options and our revenue drops, then obviously we have to look at service cuts or alternative options for funding which could be a fare increase for everyone else or adjustments.”

Before the LTC introduced smart cards, students had to pick up a paper pass, and Paleczny says at that time over 90 per cent of passes were picked up.

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