Free Transit Toronto started as the Free and Accessible Transit Campaign of the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly (GTWA) in 2010. It was built around the idea that public transit should be considered a public service and, like the libraries and Medicare, should be funded by progressive tax revenues, not by fares.
“Free” transit was taken up as a demand that would build towards a different kind of society: getting rid of fares would create a real right to mobility for all working people; all people could use transit to shop, take care of their families, enjoy recreation, get to and from work and become part of their larger communities; it would be a key step in challenging our reliance on fossil fuels and private cars, addressing the demands of the environment; it would require massive investment in public infrastructure to provide decent access to public transit in communities and neighbourhoods across Canada’s cities, and therefore require changes to investment and taxation policies that would challenge austerity and reliance on private investment; it would contribute to reshaping how we live, where we live and where we work.
The Free and Accessible Transit Campaign published educational materials, went into neighbourhoods and boarded buses and subways to bring our message to transit users. We participated in national and international networks of others engaged in fighting for free and accessible public transit, and held an international conference on free transit in 2014.
The Campaign also helped to build and continues to work in and with TTCriders, a large movement of transit users, working to lower fares, fund and expand public transit, and involve working class people in fighting to influence and shape transit policy and investment. The movement is gaining speed in the face of business-inspired approaches that involve privatization, P3’s, and refusals to properly fund the operations of public transit, leading to fare raises, deteriorating service and lack of transit in many working class communities across Toronto.
With the end of the GTWA in 2015, the Free and Accessible Transit Campaign was renamed Free Transit Toronto.