With a fare hike possible as early as the New Year, the TTC is being accused of blaming its best customers for its poor financial picture.

Transit officials are already looking at potential increases that could go into effect as soon as Jan. 1, according to Peter Milczyn, one of 11 councillors serving on the Toronto Transit Commission.

Although no decision has been made, he suggested the TTC could wring more revenue out of its popular Metropass.

A TTC report before the commission today says that most of a $17.4 million shortfall in the TTC’s operating revenue is due to the popularity of the all-you-can-ride monthly pass. As a result, the TTC is collecting an average of only $1.77 per ride, compared with a projected $1.80.

Even though ridership has hit record levels, the revenue this year has fallen short of projections.

Transit blogger and streetcar crusader Steve Munro complains that the Metropass has become “the TTC’s perennial whipping boy.”

The real problems, he says, are overspending, inaccurate revenue projections and faulty ridership estimates. Because the TTC’s operating costs always exceed revenues, it loses money on all paid fares and therefore requires a subsidy from council to balance the books.

The TTC is also reporting declines in advertising and increased costs, including cleanup after a flood in one of its buildings, as part of this year’s shortfall.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross rejected Munro’s suggestion that the TTC is in spin mode or blaming customers.

“This isn’t a scapegoating exercise; it’s full disclosure on current finances,” he said, calling Metropasses a double-edged sword. “We want ridership. That’s what we build the system for, that’s why we have the service improvements we do, but the average fare is down,” Ross said.

Mississauga Transit also is reporting that passes and discounted fares are eroding its revenues.