Suburban transit riders won’t be taking the usual new year blow to the wallet in 2010.

As they continue to battle ridership lost to unemployment, two of the region’s biggest bus systems, in Mississauga and York Region, are looking at freezing fares to stem ridership and revenue losses.

Unlike the TTC, which is considering a 15 per cent increase in the cost of a monthly pass in January, Mississauga Transit figures it has more to lose than gain by hiking prices. “If we increase fares we are likely to drive off ridership, so we actually won’t get any more money,” Mississauga Transit director Geoff Marinoff told his city’s budget committee yesterday.

After two years of growth, Mississauga is forecasting total ridership this year at only the 2006 level — 29.1 million riders, down from 31.4 million last year. In reality, that’s about three million lost rides: Two million are riders who left the system, and another million in expected additional rides didn’t materialize, Marinoff said.

Although ridership seems to have stabilized since September, revenue projections are bleak.

Mississauga managed to take in half of its operating costs at the fare box this year, but expects to recover only 48 per cent in each of the next two years.

Transit costs Mississauga $4.14 per ride on average, compared with an average of just $1.83 per ride collected in fares. In part that’s because Mississauga riders, like TTC patrons, are migrating to economical passes that lower the per-ride revenue.