Monday, March 29, 2004

TTC fares and inflation

The 50th anniversary of the opening of the Yonge Street subway being tomorrow, the local print media have been reflecting on what the subway, and the TTC, have meant to Toronto over the past half-century. The Toronto Star devoted their Greater Toronto section on Saturday to subway coverage, for example. Eye features a discussion between Mayor Miller and local transit advocates Gord Perks and Steve Munro on where the TTC should be going, and at the end there's a table showing how the price of a cash fare and a Metropass have increased over the past 25 years. Shock of shocks, in 1979 a cash fare cost all of 60 cents; in 1985, five years after the Metropass was introduced, it cost $38.50. Oh, to return to those glory years. Transit fares are out of control — we need a fare freeze to restore some sanity.

Enter a nifty little tool I've discovered lately: the Bank of Canada's inflation calculator. You enter in a dollar value of a good or service in a certain year, and it'll tell you what the equivalent dollar value would be today (or, for that matter, in any other year going back to 1914). Turns out that 60-cent 1979 fare is worth $2.04 today. The best days for the cash fare were 1985 to 1992, when it hovered between $1.50 and $1.60 in 2004 dollars — then the jump to $2 resulted in an equivalent 2004 fare of nearly $2.50. The Metropass has been increasing since 1985 (the first year listed in the eye table), but when you switch to constant 2004 dollars, the increase isn't quite so frightening — from $65.18 in 1985 to a high of $99.99 in 2001, as opposed to the actual listed prices of $38.50 to $98.75.

(The calculator also would have come in handy when musing about gas prices. Andrew Spicer gently reminded me in his blog that I had grossly underestimated the effects of inflation (or, perhaps it just didn't strike me how long ago 1997 actually is!). The inflation calculator would have been a help there. I got my driver's licence in 1994, and I seem to recall 50 cents a litre or so being pretty much the lowest price you'd see. Punching those numbers into the inflation calculator, I get a 2004 price of 60.6 cents per litre, which is a few cents lower than I remember seeing for quite a while, but it's not too far off.)

Those calculations don't make it any easier for Metropass users to shell out $100 a month (or for token users to get only a dollar back from their twenty), but they do add a bit of perspective.

(By the way, if you haven't already, I suggest you download the TTC Subway Song (614k MP3 file), composed and recorded during construction. Very cool, in an ultra-cheesy sort of way...)

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