Commuters to be negatively impacted by new Ford transit cuts, students say

Many Ryerson students said that the Ford government’s decision to cut financial assistance for a program that previously allowed commuters to save $1.50 each time they transferred from or onto Toronto’s subway will greatly impact their commutes. 

Many commuter students from Ryerson University said that they will be negatively affected by the Ford government’s recent decision to not renew funding for the Discounted Double Fair (DDF) program which will officially end on March 31, 2020.

History of the Discounted Double Fair program

The program, introduced by the Liberal government in 2018, previously allowed PRESTO card users to save $1.50 each time they transferred between the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and UP Express or between the TTC and GO Transit. Last week, Metrolinx announced that the Ford government will not renew the program’s three-year agreement, as reported by CP24. 

Matt Llewellyn, the senior media relations and issues advisor for Metrolinx, said that the funding for the program exceeded its budget each year. As a result, Metrolinx has spent approximately $9.3 million covering the program’s additional costs over the past three years. 

Ryerson students react to changes 

Despite the program’s challenges, many Ryerson students felt that they heavily relied on the discount in order to subsidize their already expensive commuter fees. 

Yungha Lee, a first-year student who pays for the bus, train and subway to get to and from Ryerson, said that this change will greatly affect her monthly transportation expenses.

“It’s really frustrating because, while it’s only $1.50, it adds up quickly,” said Lee. “I set a strict budget for myself so I don’t end up with a lot of debt after I finish university, so all these cuts are really affecting my personal budgeting.”

Jessica Bell, the official Opposition’s transit critic, shared similar opinions to Lee, as she has been openly critical of the Ford government’s transit funding cuts. 

“Students that commute will now face a round-trip increase of $3. For full-time students, their transit costs could increase as much as $60 a month – a large amount for many students who are on a budget, and are already feeling squeezed due to the Ford government’s OSAP cuts,” said Bell. “Students need to be able to get to their college and university classes each day, and high transit costs will only make it harder for young people who are pursuing post-secondary education.”

Adrianna Aguirre, a first-year student who commutes to Ryerson from Mississauga five days a week, said she is looking for more financially responsible ways of getting to school.

“I try to walk from school to Union [Station] or vice versa whenever I can,” said Aguirre. “Later on, when they do make these changes, I will probably stay away from the subway as much as I can.”

However, avoiding the subway is not as easy for other students. This can make it difficult for some students to save money, as the TTC fare is an additional charge to their overall transit fees.  

“I would try to walk to school, but I just always want to get to where I need to be right away in order to study and maximize my time, so I always take the subway,” said Gwyneth Rosales, a first-year Ryerson student who also commutes five days a week. 

Future discounts for commuters?

While commuter students adjust to more expensive fees, Metrolinx said that they will be looking into collaborating with their municipal partners to create new discounts and programs. However, nothing is officially confirmed yet. 

Nonetheless, Ryerson students remain hopeful that they will receive new discounts to replace the DDF ‒ whether those are funded by Metrolinx, the provincial government or Ryerson itself.

“We already pay so much in tuition and extra fees that I don’t think that it’s very reasonable that Ryerson does not offer us, as students, additional discounts for transportation,” said Lee. “The cost of going to school shouldn’t be something that stops people from actually going.” 

Photo by PRyanPaulsen/Pixabay.