Dear Councillor Giambrone,

I am writing today on behalf of the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (CCNCTO), an organization of Chinese Canadians in the City of Toronto that promotes equity, social justice, inclusive civic participation, and respect for diversity.

We are disappointed to learn about the upcoming Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) fare hikes and how this will impact low income communities who are dependent on public transit. We are most concerned about the senior citizens of our community who will be unable to pay for their transit rides. While we understand the economic reality of funding an expanded TTC, we would like to propose a small change that CCNCTO feels will make a significant difference to the lives of our seniors who are among Toronto’s most vulnerable residents. Specifically, our recommendation is to include seniors on the Family Day pass.

In 2008 we conducted a research project with our partners in the South Asian, Hispanic and African communities, funded by the Wellesley Institute. This research looked at income security among immigrant seniors and the results were published in a report, Citizenship Matters : Re-examining Income (In)Security of Immigrant Seniors. The issues of high transit fares and access to transportation were identified as a significant impediment to seniors’ quality of life.

Currently the Family Day Pass only refers to adults and children/youth under the age of 19. Yet, grandparents are an important part of many families, particularly in new immigrant and low income households where multiple generations often live together. Grandparents play an important role in raising and caring for grandchildren. Therefore, it makes sense to include seniors in the TTC’s definition of family for the purposes of this pass.

In addition, many seniors have fewer transportation options as they age. As driving, cycling and walking become more difficult, accessible and affordable public transit becomes an important service for maintaining their independence and mobility and quality of life. Social isolation that can lead to physical and mental health problems is a serious issue for seniors. Many seniors are hard-pressed, financially, and rising TTC fares means that seniors with limited income will be forced to stay home. Already, we have heard stories from Chinese seniors who save their TTC tickets for special occasions such as doctors’ appointments. These seniors from low income families have to choose between spending their money on TTC fares or buying food for their family.

With our proposed change to include seniors in the Family Day Pass, grandparents will feel welcome to join the family on weekend outings. Allowing up to 6 seniors to use a Family pass would mean that a group of seniors could travel together on a weekend; do their shopping together, visit a park or attend a social event. This small gesture of inclusion will make a big difference in the lives of many Toronto seniors. It will help seniors cope during these tough economic times while allowing them to become even more active participants in our communities. We are appealing to you to make a much-needed affordable public transit option for senior citizens.

On behalf of CCNC Toronto Chapter, I thank you for your time in considering this recommendation. Please do not hesitate to contact me at 416-596-0833 ext 3 if you have any questions regarding this matter.

Sincerely, Karen Sun