Did you get yours?
You might if you’re a councillor on transit commission
By Kris Scheuer
Every year thousands of Metropasses are handed out in Toronto — including free one-year passes for city councillors and lifetime passes for former councillors who have sat on the commission overseeing the TTC.
However, at least one local councillor thinks the TTC needs all the paying customers it can get and says the free-ride policy should be changed.
Don Valley West Councillor Jane Pitfield is eligible for a free yearly TTC pass, but she declined the offer this year and plans to do so next year. She said she finds it’s easier to drive when she has a half dozen (or more) meetings each day.
“We receive an $84,000 salary a year. We are in the position to pay (to ride) TTC and we should support the TTC,” said Pitfield. “The TTC needs more operating money.”
She said every time someone with a free pass uses transit, that is $2.50 less in the fare box.A one-year pass is worth over $1,000 at current monthly rates.
In addition to the yearly free passes, some councillors are eligible for a lifetime Metropass after they retire.
She said every time someone with a free pass uses transit, that is $2.50 less in the fare box.
|The TTC’s policy is to offer a lifetime Metropass to all former TTC chairs and commissioners when they retire from city politics to thank them for their service, said Vince Rodo, general secretary for the transit commission.
Eglinton-Lawrence Councillor Howard Moscoe will receive a lifetime pass. The 65-year-old has sat on the TTC as a commissioner for 13 years and is currently the chair.
Moscoe joked that many retiring politicians won’t live long enough to really enjoy this perk. “Every member of the commission is given a pass for life when they retire from politics and before we need WheelTrans (for the disabled) and then we die.”
Of the 24 former TTC commissioners who have been offered this perk, 11 have accepted the lifetime Metropass, said Rodo, who refused to release the names.
“Eleven people (get free lifetime passes) over the 80 years the TTC has been around. I don’t see it as any big issue,” he said.
Those known to have been offered the lifetime pass include former Toronto District School Board supervisor Paul Christie, current MPP Mike Colle and former city councillor Betty Disero, all of whom chaired the TTC.
Disero confirmed she accepted the lifetime pass. “Yes, I do get a Metropass because I was a former chair. Yes, I took that option and, yes, I use it all the time,” said Disero.
Scarborough Councillor Brian Ashton, who has sat on the TTC’s board for seven years and was once chairman, said the lifetime pass is recognition of service.
Outspoken Etobicoke North Councillor Rob Ford said it’s not just 11 former TTC commissioners who get a lifetime passes. “The TTC gives out 20,000 free Metropasses each year to councillors, former mayors, all TTC employees, retired TTC employees, all war veterans and disabled people. That’s $20 million a year we are losing in revenue.”
The TTC’s Rodo said former mayors don’t get passes and only some war vets, not all, are eligible for the pass.
Here is the breakdown of those who receive yearly TTC passes:
• 11,100 TTC employees.
• 3,767 TTC pensioners.
• 44 councillors and mayor.
• 21 war amputee veterans.
• Almost 3,800 blind people received it through the CNIB.
• 11 former TTC commissioners (lifetime passes).
• 16 people from the disabled community, who sit on a TTC advisory committee.
Rodo doesn’t see it as lost revenue and certainly not $20 million a year. He said it costs at most 50 cents to print off a pass.
But would some of these people have been paying customers?
“We want our employees to be using the (TTC) system and be a (rider). It is pretty standard around the world with transit for all employees and retirees to get a pass,” he said. “We are happy for (city councillors) to use transit. It is better for them as councillors, who are voting on policy issues that they vote as knowledgeable riders.”
St. Paul’s Councillor and TTC commissioner Joe Mihevc agreed it’s good public policy for decision makers to know what state the TTC is in.
Councillor Pitfield says it’s time this policy was re-examined. “I think the policy (free passes) should be scrutinized. I think the policy should be changed. When you are finished your term and are no longer at city council there should not be any more perks.”
(Originally published September 15/05 at http://www.mytowncrier.ca)
Please see a follow-up article I wrote about this issue, also in 2005. I posted it July 6/09 on this site entitled No free TTC ride at https://kscheuer.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/no-free-ttc-ride.
The story features two women who lived in a shelter who said they could use those free transit passes the TTC was handing out. They did not qualify, but two Town Crier readers at the time were generous enough to donate $100 each to buy a monthly pass for each of the women, which I handed to them personally as shelters don’t allow cash donations to specific individuals.
thanks for your comment.
I originally wrote this article in 2005 but posted here just recently. My interpretation from the people I interviewed was more focused on the fact polticians got a free yearly transit pass. And so comments from interviewees in the article were more about whether politicians should pay for their own passes. I did not get any comments from the people I interviewed that others, such as yourself, should stop receiving a free Metropass.
As a follow-up to this article, I also wrote a story on two women living in a shelter who were upset politicians got free passes, when they didn’t.
As a one of those visually impaired patrons of the TTC that receives a monthly pass, I’m thankful for it. I use the TTC quite frequently to get to and from work, and many other places in Toronto. While this is helpful the majority of the time – there are many times when I wish I was able to drive. I think sighted people take their vision for granted at times, when you’ve had the luxury to drive anywhere at a whim since you were 16 years old, you take it for granted.
If the free pass was taken away, I’d pay for it out of necessity, but I do prefer the yearly complimentary pass by far.
Since I wrote this article in ’05, a few things have changed. Jane Pitfield ran unsuccessful for mayor of Toronto in 2006 against incumbent David Miller. She is no longer in politics. And the price of a monthly Metropass is now $109, so this yearly perk for retired politicians and TTC commissioners is worth $1,099.