Who Pays, and How Much? (Updated)

Updated March 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm:

To no great surprise, the TTC Board today endorsed the staff proposal to do away with Post-Secondary Student Passes for part time students.  This was done after a few hours of well presented, cogent deputations from a variety of speakers who, for their troubles, were greeted with a Blackberry wielding board who spent little of their time paying attention.  In one case, a presenter was finishes, but Chair Karen Stintz was so busy with her email that she didn’t notice for some time.

The common thread through the deps was that the concept of “part time student” is not consistently defined either between institutions or even programs within the same university or college.  About 20% of students today are “part timers” mainly for economic reasons (they cannot afford to pay the fees for a full time program in one go) or because the program they are in is defined as “part time” (regardless of its actual course load).  This cohort of students is growing, and they are also penalized by being ineligible for various loans and grants offered to “full time” students.

Yet another group not covered by the policy are those who are in “certificate” programs which may have just as heavy a course load, but don’t lead to a degree.

As one speaker put it, “students are students”, but the convoluted definitions and practices lead to artificial distinctions between them.

At the end of the deputations, Commissioner Palacio put forward a motion in the best tradition of appearing to be supportive while doing precisely nothing.  He wanted the Commission to reiterate that part time students have access to the “VIP Pass” discount program, and wanted the staff to write to university and college administrators urging that they extend their current VIP Pass program for staff to the part time students.

This proposal, which passed, of course, insulted the speakers who know perfectly well that a VIP Pass (which costs about $10 more than a student pass) was available, provided that their institution actually was part of the VIP program.  The problem is that this is not universal, and depends on an institution (or a group like a student union) setting itself up as a VIP Pass vendor.

Finally, Chair Stintz thanked everyone for “making their voices heard”.  “Heard” is not the word I would use, as “listen” was certainly not what much of the Commission was doing most of the time.  If she had really “heard”, she would have acknowledged that there is a problem with definitions, not to mention the larger issue of other groups who make claims for discounted fares, and sent the whole issue off for a detailed report.  This change won’t have much effect until fall 2011, and there was no need for a definitive decision today.

But no, that’s not what happened.  Mayor Ford’s minions were in and out of the meeting to ensure that the vote went the right way, and the students didn’t have a chance.

[The original article from February 28 follows the break below.]

The ongoing debate over fare policy will take another spin at the TTC Board meeting on March 1, 2011, with a proposal to discontinue Student Metropass availability for part time post-secondary students.

The linked report contains a history of the student pass issue.  There are various classes of students involved:

  • Students at degree or diploma granting institutions (typically universities and community colleges)
  • Students at private career colleges
  • Full time students (defined as those with 3.0 credits or 20 hours/week of instruction)
  • Part time students

Originally, in July 2010, students from private career colleges were not included.  When this was changed in December 2010, eligibility was extended to the private colleges, but only for full time students.  Also in December, the Commission asked for a report on part time students, and the current proposal is the result.

TTC staff estimate that the post-secondary passes are costing the system $7.7-million per year for a ridership gain of roughly 500k.  Of this, $1.4m and 100k rides are due to the part time students.  Nearly 85% of students at this level are TTC users, and of these, almost 2/3 were already Metropass users before the new pass was introduced.

The report contains no estimate of the number of trips actually taken by each group, only the difference induced by the availability of a cheaper pass.  Therefore, it is impossible to know how much subsidy per trip the post-secondary pass confers.

However, we do know that a post-secondary pass is $22 cheaper than a Metropass.  Presuming that students are frequent TTC riders averaging at least 60 rides per month, then the added subsidy per ride is below $0.40.  How does this compare with subsidies to other classes of rider?  Nobody knows because we never have a wide-ranging debate about fare policy.

The proposed removal of subsidy for part time students is expected to provoke a string of deputations at the meeting, and much hand-wringing.  I am not particularly sympathetic to this cause, however, because like so much fare policy, the post-secondary pass decision takes place in a vacuum.

There are two issues here.

First, there are other deserving people who can make a claim for cheaper transit fares, notably various low-income groups dependent on public subsidy programs.  They are not as well organized as the students.  They do not fill Council Chamber to establish a presence at meetings, and probably could not afford to be there either due to work commitments or the cost of a round trip to attend a meeting where they are ignored.

Second, recent budget debates included passionate calls for the retention of off-hours service, and the general argument that preservation of service is more vital than fares.  Any decision to retain, expand, or reduce the post-secondary pass eligibility will be directly link to discussions about service.

It’s no secret that 2012 will be a brutal year for the budget at the City and its agencies, including the TTC.  We will hear a lot about service quality and fares, but if 2011 is any indication, these will be hostage to two entirely political arguments:

  • the “no new taxes” crowd will call for yet another fare freeze in the hope that this will force “efficiencies” on the TTC, and
  • service will be ruthlessly evaluated to find “poor performing routes” where service, sadly, must be cut “for the greater good”.

Will we discuss what TTC fares should be, including subsidies and eligibility?  Will we discuss the effect of service standards, and what changing them will do to the transit network?  Unlikely in both cases.  Politicians hate complex technical papers, especially when at the end of the day they must choose among unpalatable alternatives.  Better that the staff cook up a recommendation, flawed though it might be.

As we move into an era of fare integration with GTA systems and new farecard technologies, we must face more complex problems such as the relevance of fare by distance or by time, and the true integration of fares (not just service) among GTA systems.  Will we preserve big subsidies to long distance commuters, a comparatively affluent class, while denying subsidies to those less able to pay?  What, indeed, do we mean by “less able”?

I have some sympathy for the part-time students who won access to the post-secondary pass only to see it snatched away less than a year later.  However, we must have this debate in the larger context of TTC funding generally and fare policies for low-income groups.

The rush to approve a 2011 budget at Council was based, we are told, on a desire to have as much time as possible to work on 2012.  Rather than more ad hoc tinkering with the fare structure, now is the time to review and debate fare and service options in general.  Toronto does not need another round of last-minute announcements, nor the shrill “we must do it now” tenor of what passed for “debate” only weeks ago.

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34 Responses to Who Pays, and How Much? (Updated)

  1. Nick L. says:

    Steve said: “Toronto does not need another round of last-minute announcements, nor the shrill “we must do it now” tenor of what passed for “debate” only weeks ago.”

    If the news of our mayor’s “Oliver Twist” letter today is any indication, I’ve got a bad feeling that’s exactly what’s going to happen next year.

    Steve: For those who don’t know the reference, there are two Star articles explaining how Rob Ford, the man who campaigned on the slogan that the City’s financial problems could be fixed if only we spent less, wrote to Queen’s Park asking for a handout. In very short order, the Premier told him that deficit fighting for Ontario is more important than bailing out Toronto.

    Now we can watch to see whether would-be Premier Tim Hudak feels like spending more provincial money on that bunch of wastrels at City Hall.

    Odd, isn’t it that Rob Ford, who just gave up $64m in annual revenue by cancelling the vehicle registration tax, $24m from a TTC fare increase and about $100m from a 3% property tax increase, now wants more money from the Pink Palace.

  2. DavidC says:

    Steve: You are right that it is not good practice to look at everything as though it had no connections or consequences and I agree with you that removing part-time student passes could wait for a few months so that the Commission could actually look at fares and “fare policy” in a holistic way.
    There are a number of questions they might consider:
    * What is a reasonable multiple for tokens/tickets to the cash fare?
    * What is the reasonable multiple for regular passes to the cash fare?
    * What is the rationale for reduced fares for ANY groups? Which groups?
    * Should the over 65 fares only apply outside rush hours (as is the cases in many cities elsewhere)? (as pension ages increase should the age increase at same time?)
    * Should student passes only apply on “school days”?

    I do not have ‘answers” to these questions (and there are more) but it would surely be better to take a few months and get a set of PRINCIPLES that could then be applied to raise the amount of revenue that is necessary.

    The TTC is far too apt to go for ad hoc decisions without looking at everything involved.

    While on fares, I suggest the TTC should also look at time-based-transfers. They were tried (are still being tried?) on St Clair; if they were clear they would surely reduce “friction’ between riders and drivers.

  3. Richard says:

    I oppose taking the post-secondary metropass away from part-time students but the Commission’s mind has been made. It doesn’t matter what people say in their deputations, they will be ignored and at the end of the day part-timers will no longer have access to this discount. This is my perception based on my attendance at the marathon TTC budget meeting in early February.

    Steve says:

    “Will we preserve big subsidies to long distance commuters, a comparatively affluent class, while denying subsidies to those less able to pay?”

    Long distance commuters are far from affluent. The average income in Scarborough and Etobicoke for example are not what we would call affluent. Long distance commuters live in the inner-suburbs because rents and house prices are cheaper than they are downtown and in North York. On top of that they endure horrible service (waiting 20 to 45 minutes for a bus and traveling 1.5 to 2 hours one-way to their destination). You cannot ask long distance commuters to pay more for less reliable service without a commitment to improving service in these areas.

    Steve: The “comparatively affluent class” to which I refer is the GO Transit rider who in many cases has a highly subsidized ride to the GO Station, and a better subsidy, considering the distance travelled, than a long-haul TTC rider. Sorry I didn’t make this clear. It was in the context of regional fare integration.

  4. Mike says:

    I think a study should be done on how many riders the TTC potentially loses in the long term by not offering a deal to students.

    Students are tomorrows transit riders. If they are turned off of transit in university, you can bet they won’t be riding transit once they have a job.

    We have to start young, and that means some deep discounts to students.

    The adults are a lost cause in most cases. If they are driving, they are driving. But if we build a transit culture with the youth. Than we have something to build on.

    In my view, fares should be reduced across the board, as the TTC is much too expensive. It actually is cheaper to drive than take the TTC. Even the TTC commuter calculator told me that. :) If you do not have pay for parking (which most don’t), and you already have a car (most TTC riders do) then the fare is actually higher than driving.

  5. Joey Connick says:

    The fare structure of the TTC is, from my perspective as a long-time former Vancouver resident, utterly insane. What I think is most egregious is the way the TTC treats passholders (whether they be full-cost or post-secondary) (and, to a lesser extent, token users) as somehow “costing” them money. Maybe it’s exactly because there aren’t time-based transfers for the TTC (as there have been in Vancouver for decades) but it always floors me that regular transit users in Toronto are seen and treated as, essentially, thieves who are stealing money from the system.

    Yes, people using tokens or passes are not generating as much revenue per trip as those paying cash fares but in Vancouver, those people are treated as the backbone of the transit system, not as freeloaders. They are the people from whom the transit system gets regular, dependable income… and in Vancouver, at least, you get the feeling that’s exactly why they get a discount on their transit usage. The idea being, if you commit to transit by pre-paying, we’ll reward you because we get your set amount of money no matter how many trips you take or don’t take. And with time-based transfers and the fact that most people don’t have the luxury of riding transit all day, there’s a pretty low limit to how many trips a Vancouver transit user can “rack up” each day.

    It’s also sad that the media here never seems to call the TTC on this ridiculous and insulting attitude — they just go along with it. Given how critical the media can be about the TTC in general, you’d think they’d jump at the chance. It just goes to show you how limited any “analysis” of transit is in the popular press.

    As for the possible elimination of the reduced fare for part-time post-secondary students, I’m totally against it. I see your point regarding how a bigger conversation has to happen about fares in general but if there’s a reduced fare for full-time students, part-time students definitely deserve the same reduction. Unlike how the TTC seems to want to portray it (that part-time students are working lucrative jobs when not at school or that they have magically saved up so much money that going back to school is not an incredible hardship), part-time students are possibly more in need of the break than full-time students because these days, you often go to school part-time because you simply cannot afford to go to school full-time. Another lovely gift from Mike Harris and his fellow neoliberal-minded ilk.

  6. Jonathon says:

    I think the U-Pass debate is very interesting — in Ottawa, student unions are absolutely up in arms over an OC Transpo suggestion that the U-Pass might increase in price from $290 per year to $350 per year in order to cover its own costs. When I tell people that in Toronto, students have to pay $100 each and every month, they tend to appreciate it a bit more. In a city like Toronto, one has to question the utility of the pass to the TTC and the city, because there is already a very high incentive to use public transit, such as traffic, parking costs and such.

  7. Nick B says:

    Mike said:

    “I think a study should be done on how many riders the TTC potentially loses in the long term by not offering a deal to students.

    Students are tomorrows transit riders. If they are turned off of transit in university, you can bet they won’t be riding transit once they have a job.”

    I was in such a position some 35 years ago, commuting from North York to U of T. Even then the subway was overcrowded and after enduring 4 years of it, vowed to never get a job anywhere near downtown Toronto. And no, driving, to me, is a worse option still.

    So now, I live and work 15 minutes apart by car, in the 905.

    A discount means nothing if the ride is miserable. Ask any student (or anyone else) if they actually LIKE riding transit during rush hour. I’m sure most accept it only as a necessity due to home/work requirements, not because they like it. Then they grudgingly pay for the “privilege” to boot.

    Unrelated Comment on Fares:

    Should TTC be involved in social programs (ie giving discounts to certain groups?) . I feel that such programs should be handled by existing social services who should be better at identifying and administering to those in need, than a Transit System that should be operating transit services, not social services.

    “Frequent Traveler” discounts should be encouraged (Metropass or Presto) as similar programs are in many other unrelated retail businesses.

  8. Pat T says:

    Can you build a ‘like widget’ into your blog? I think Joey Connick’s comment on TTC attitude toward passholders deserves big thumbs up.

  9. nfitz says:

    I’m amused that a Vancouver resident thinks that the Toronto fare structure is utterly insane.

    I normally rent a car in Vancouver, but the last trip I ended up using transit a lot. I ran into 3 issues that I felt made their fare structure insane.

    1) Although discounted books of 10 tickets are available, they are not sold in Skytrain stations. You have to leave the station and find a drugstore or something that has them.

    2) The fare zone boundaries are frustrating. If I get off one stop later my fare doubles? What if I decide on-route to go a little farther? I was trying to get to a location on Boundary Road (aptly named), and because it was also the Zone 1/Zone 2 boundary, there was a lack of stops actually on this major road … so I had to spend time figuring out which stop I needed to get off, before I got to the boundary. Bizarre …

    3) The timed transfers are annoying. I spent a long time standing on Broadway waiting for my bus to come, watching the minutes tick away on my 90-minute timed transfer, wondering if it would finally come. It did barely arrive before my transfer expired … but it seems silly that the value of the transfer is a function of whether the transit service is on time or not (to be fair it was a quick return trip, it hadn’t taken me 90 minutes to cross town … but I’d imagine there are transit trips that take more than 90 minutes). On another trip I had hoped to stop at a store en-route …, but by the time I had spend 15-minutes in the store, I realised my transfer was now just over 90-minutes old, so I ended up walking, rather than paying another fare to go a kilometre.

    At least the fare structure within the City of Toronto is simple.

  10. Kevin Love says:

    I certainly agree that the subsidy policy is chaotic and makes no sense.

    Why should GO transit passengers receive a substantially higher subsidy than the TTC?

    Why should the TTC be the only major system in North American that gets zero subsidy from higher orders of government?

    Why should Toronto’s new BIXI bike-share system be the only public transit system that gets zero subsidy?

    There are no good answers to any of these questions. Things just grew without logic or planning. Maybe that should change.

  11. Joey Connick says:

    I think the U-Pass debate is very interesting — in Ottawa, student unions are absolutely up in arms over an OC Transpo suggestion that the U-Pass might increase in price from $290 per year to $350 per year in order to cover its own costs. When I tell people that in Toronto, students have to pay $100 each and every month, they tend to appreciate it a bit more. In a city like Toronto, one has to question the utility of the pass to the TTC and the city, because there is already a very high incentive to use public transit, such as traffic, parking costs and such.

    That can be argued in the opposite direction, though: in Vancouver, at UBC, you pay about $300/year for your U-Pass, so people can (and should) counter “you have it so much better than people in Toronto” with “yeah, but you want us to pay more than they do in Vancouver.” It still blows my mind that a city with three or four major universities and who knows how many colleges has such ridiculously-priced transit for students.

  12. Joey Connick says:

    1) Although discounted books of 10 tickets are available, they are not sold in Skytrain stations. You have to leave the station and find a drugstore or something that has them.

    As a monthly Farecard or U-Pass holder, I’d never really considered that. You’re right: it is weird and definitely problematic for visitors/tourists. Of course, with timed transfers, one can argue the full-price cash fare has more value because it gives you 90 minutes of unlimited transit use rather than simply a one-way trip.

    Vancouver does have a weak spot with transit fares in that there is a daypass and a monthly pass but no weekly pass (or, as in San Francisco, a 3-day tourist-oriented pass).

    2) The fare zone boundaries are frustrating. If I get off one stop later my fare doubles? What if I decide on-route to go a little farther? I was trying to get to a location on Boundary Road (aptly named), and because it was also the Zone 1/Zone 2 boundary, there was a lack of stops actually on this major road … so I had to spend time figuring out which stop I needed to get off, before I got to the boundary. Bizarre …

    Well it’s not perfect but it makes a lot more sense to me than a single zone where someone like me, who makes short, 2-station subway trips and is generally only in the downtown core is charged the same as someone coming from way farther away. Knowing the historical reasons for the elimination of zones in Toronto (suburbanites who didn’t want to have to pay more to travel farther), I can’t say I’m very sympathetic to a system without some kind of concept of “longer trips cost more.”

    It has definitely always been an issue for people who live near zone boundaries, though. I like how they handle it in the UK, where stations/stops near boundaries are “multi-zone” so if you are one or two stations/stops from a boundary you only have to pay the one-zone fare. BART in San Francisco charges by distance station-by-station… seems a little excessive to me but still more palatable than someone paying the same to go from eastern Scarborough to Missisauga as they would to go from St. Clair West to Spadina.

    If you decide en-route, you can either not worry about it on buses because there are very rarely farechecks or you can pay an AddFare at any Skytrain station or any bus farebox. Also, going one stop farther would not make your fare double: going from a one-zone fare to a three-zone fare is where you get the doubling happening and that never happens in the course of going one stop farther.

    3) The timed transfers are annoying. I spent a long time standing on Broadway waiting for my bus to come, watching the minutes tick away on my 90-minute timed transfer, wondering if it would finally come. It did barely arrive before my transfer expired … but it seems silly that the value of the transfer is a function of whether the transit service is on time or not (to be fair it was a quick return trip, it hadn’t taken me 90 minutes to cross town … but I’d imagine there are transit trips that take more than 90 minutes). On another trip I had hoped to stop at a store en-route …, but by the time I had spend 15-minutes in the store, I realised my transfer was now just over 90-minutes old, so I ended up walking, rather than paying another fare to go a kilometre.

    Often TransLink operators will be quite flexible in dealing with people whose transfers have just expired–everyone understands that some Lower Mainland trips take longer than 90 minutes and that traffic conditions make things crazy at times.

    But contrast the situation you describe with the situation in Toronto: to make a stop en-route in Toronto, you are GUARANTEED to be hit with a doubling of your fare. In Vancouver, unless you are making a very long trip with a planned stop towards the end, you are saving 50% of the Toronto cost. There is no question that timed transfers are FAR SUPERIOR to single, unidirectional fares in terms of value and flexibility for transit users. Whether they are desirable to the particular transit authority is another matter altogether.

    At least the fare structure within the City of Toronto is simple.

    Two comments on this:

    1) Simple is not necessarily better. I’m totally willing to deal with some complexity (although obviously there’s a diminishing returns effect that eventually kicks in) to save money and have increased transit use flexibility.

    2) You think Vancouver’s system is complicated now? :) You should have been around for when we had midday weekday off-peak periods where the entire system became one zone from about 9/9:30am to 3/:30pm before returning to zoned fares that then ended at 6:30pm. It’s a lot simpler now: zoned fares apply weekdays until 6:30pm. A lot more expensive for seniors pay cash fares, though. There are seniors’ passes, though, that are good for travel through all 3 zones for a pretty low cost, if I recall correctly.

  13. 1weasel says:

    Perhaps some pics should be taken of our hard working representatives tweeting & emailing during public deputations.

  14. TTC Passenger says:

    Will this change OSAP for part time students since they’ll have to pay the known cost of adult Metropasses when the change takes effect? I guess anybody who’s ineligible for OSAP is stuck paying the cost difference up front.

    As for the behaviour of the Commission at the meeting, it sounds like the last meeting they had where the deputations continued late into the night and got brushed off at the end. There’s an article that was published on the Toronto Star’s website about the part-time post-secondary passes being discontinued and one of the students that was interviewed mentioned that this kind of lack listening’s part of why students don’t vote. That might be overplayed but commissioners paying more attention to their smartphones than the people addressing them does send the wrong message.

    To be fair to Karen Stintz, from the perspective of someone who lives in Lawrence Park where houses routinely sell for > $1 million, and every driveway hosts at least two luxury cars, and all the lawns are meticulously manicured, and the idea of using the 61 bus to get to Pusateri’s to do the shopping is ludicrous, the cost issues facing post-secondary students who aren’t being financed by the Bank of Mom & Dad is probably pretty far down the list. For all we know, to Rob Ford & Company, students looking for discounted Metropasses might be perceived to nothing more than a crowd of late teen/20 somethings looking for free gravy and we know how well that idea goes over with the powers that be.

  15. I find the discussion about Vancouver’s fare system interesting. I am a big fan of time-based transfers (and feel this should be part of a GTHA-wide fare integration program), but I have to admit that with two trips in the past year or so to Vancouver, my experience with time-based transfers that have a 2-hour duration has spoiled me into finding that the 90-minute Translink expiry definitely seems short! At home, YRT has two hours (and one usually gets a bit more on a YRT bus – and VIVA-station purchased and cancelled tickets must now be traded for a transfer on a YRT bus) as does many other cities. My favourite is Melbourne where the 2 hours begins at the top of the hour, so one can get 2:59 if your trip begins just after the hour!

    I do believe that people who pay more up front (multiple tickets or passes) should be treated as the premier customer, and not as a thief. I know this is shocking to some, but some transit agencies (YRT included) has no concession cash fares: everyone pays the same cash fare. If you want a discount, buy a book of tickets or a pass.

  16. Gabe says:

    Re: Zone barriers and timed transfers, if you’re looking for an example of these fare policies closer to home, York Region Transit is a fantastic example; I always enjoy making a there-and-back trip on one 2-hour ticket.
    They also made the smart move of having a “soft” zone barrier – you only need to pay the extra $1 if your trip crosses through the Oak Ridges Moraine completely. Indeed, there are two Viva blue stops inside the zone barrier, and even an entire YRT route! Solves the whole one-stop-costs-me-money problem.

  17. Stefan M says:

    Read this and weep for Toronto:

    Vienna Rail System Overview

    Pricing Info for Travellers for Vienna

    The integrated system 2010 POP fare for Vienna, direction-limited, is 1.80 euro at vending machine (2.30 cash on bus). There are various passes. The most important one, the monthly one, is 49.50 euro!! At today’s exchange, these fares are in Canadian $2.42, 3.10 and 66.44. The annual pass is 449.50 euro. Comparing our token to the Vienna machine ticket, Vienna has a monthly pass multiple of 27.5 rides. There are large discounts for seniors, students, children and dogs. To stay on topic: a student SEMESTER pass is 50.50 euro.

    So Vienna has a much better and bigger system, expanding by several stations per year, with fares less than in Toronto, with a the monthly pass at about half the cost of Toronto’s and a much more favourable ride multiple. To go beyond Vienna itself, you just buy the additional tickets from the amazing vending machines at the main stations, and the fare system is integrated with ALL OF AUSTRIA, including local buses, streetcars, subway (U-Bahn), urban rail (S-Bahn) and intercity rail (OBB). The multi-lingual vending machines use touch screens, are very compact, take all sorts of credit, debit and PRESTO-like cards, spew out nicely printed but simple tickets, and are very reliable (in my experience). And when I purchased tickets at the office for other European destinations, I got a euro or two credit using my monthly pass to the boundary of Vienna!

    In eight months, I bought eight monthly passes, and used all modes, and rode all sorts of vehicles, old and new. Very rarely was there any delay … a hurricane shut the system down for a day (it knocked out half the main intercity station for a week or two), and this in a period of furious construction before the Euro 2008 soccer extravaganza.

    The latest farebox ratio I could find for Vienna is 50%, which is not low. Anyway, if there is a transit system we should emulate, then surely it is Vienna’s. My favourite transit ride of all time is the S-45, with the new Siemens trains, which are low-floor, but I would not call them LRT. Perhaps they are the light European stock which are not permissible on North American main lines.

  18. Richard says:

    Steve says:

    “Finally, Chair Stintz thanked everyone for “making their voices heard”. “Heard” is not the word I would use, as “listen” was certainly not what much of the Commission was doing most of the time. If she had really “heard”, she would have acknowledged that there is a problem with definitions, not to mention the larger issue of other groups who make claims for discounted fares, and sent the whole issue off for a detailed report.

    But no, that’s not what happened. Mayor Ford’s minions were in and out of the meeting to ensure that the vote went the right way, and the students didn’t have a chance.”

    This is pretty much what I thought would happen. Thanks again Steve for another informative update and insights into the inner workings of the TTC.

  19. OgtheDim says:

    On a day when the focus of the media is on the TCHC debacle (a reminder that there are worse customer service situations then the TTC), this decision was never going to go any other way.

    The blackberry more important then the speaker thing would get some play in the media….if they wern’t doing it too….all the time.

    It would take a youtube viral moment for that to come to people’s attention.

  20. David Arthur says:

    nfitz: Zone 1 is the City of Vancouver. By that measure, Toronto has fare zones that are just as arbitrary — they’re called York Region Transit and Mississauga Transit. The difference is that in Greater Vancouver, the services in the different cities are integrated, so that you can ride straight through instead of having to pay a whole new fare to a different agency before you can continue. It would indeed be nice if the zones overlapped like in London and York Region, but it’s still better organised than Toronto.

  21. nfitz says:

    David Arthur says: Zone 1 is the City of Vancouver. By that measure, Toronto has fare zones that are just as arbitrary — they’re called York Region Transit and Mississauga Transit.

    The City of Vancouver is less than 600,000 people in 115 km². The City of Toronto (one fare zone) is over 2.5 million people in over 600 km². The City of Vancouver is more of an equivalent to pre-amalgamation City of Toronto … i.e. the old Toronto Zone 1 which we eliminated almost 40 years ago.

  22. Ernie says:

    As a college student, I find this ruckus regarding eligibility for the Post secondary metropass (PSMP) to be a mess in its own making. Whoever is managing this issue should be fired.

    1) The price of the PSMP and the Student is the same. Why are we printing a new type of pass when we could just use the student one? This is just making busywork and making it hard for collectors to deal with the lineups near the end of the month.

    2) If you want to solve the problem of which institutions count as eligible ones, just have the institution prove that they print out T2202A forms.

    2) To get the PSMP, students have to fill out a form from their student council and take a picture to get the student ID and pay $7 (Need proof of admission from registrar). This is usually done in September. Let the student councils decide if part time students are eligible, or raise the price of the photo ID to offset some of the costs of the PSMP.

    In my personal view, having part time students be eligible for the discount metropass makes a lot of sense. More people using the metropass means more people using transit to get to places (work, volunteer, social services). Not having access to transit represents a major barrier for people to participate in Canadian society. I think that mobility has more intrinsic, economic value, more than the 7.7 million every year this saves (which is approximately $3 extra per person in Toronto every year). Transit is a service, not a for profit entity (though it would be nice if it made money).

  23. Tony says:

    Steve, has it ever been proposed that Ontario levy something like the Employer Health Tax, but on big businesses in Toronto? So everyone is clear, this is not a proposal to hit small business with another fee, but rather to have our beloved firms on Bay St. pay their fair share. They place enormous strain on the system at peak hours and they are in the best position to pay. Between all of them, it seems to me that they would hardly notice the $1.4M.

    Steve: No there hasn’t. Indeed, I could argue that the employers who are spread out all over the GTA represent a greater burden on the transportation network, but that’s the city-region we’ve built and we’re stuck with its costs.

  24. I think there is a lot more room to reduce subsidies for ‘special’, non-core trips rather than hitting the passengers who can least afford the cost of their trips.

    In Mississauga, for example, fares will be going up by 10c per ticket this spring – but the cost of a trip to/from a GO station (with GO ticket) is only 60c.

    I’m sorry, but why not ask the people who are already paying the GO fare and 60c to pay 75c instead – 3 quarters vs. 2 quarters and a dime – it’s not a terrible increase.

    I know Mississauga will need more revenue than that, but hitting the regular riders for 1.oo more per strip of 10 tickets does a lot more damage than hitting the GO user for another 10-15c per trip.

    Steve, your description of this meeting suggests that the new commission (and likely the new council) is ready to take back opportunities and advantages for those who need them the most and can least afford to be kicked down.

    But the rest of it…was it really a lot worse than any typical commission meeting, whereby most of the commissioners show up 5 minutes late and spend the rest of the time intimately engaged with their blackberries unless there is something to argue about?

    Regards, Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

    Steve: My comparison in style of Commission meetings was based on the fact that the new Commission talks a good line about “customer service”, almost as if there is nothing else worth discussing, but when it comes to actual treatment of the public, the attitude is at best condescending. Many people, including me, complained about the Blackberry obsession of former chair Giambrone, but the new crew has taken things to previously unseen heights.

    The TTC entertains deputations, and “thanks” people in a way that implies they had something valuable to say. Then, they turn around and allege that the speakers are self-centred and trying to take resources from other riders (or taxpayers) for their own benefit. This was a common tactic both for the fare debate and for the service cuts at the previous meeting. It is clear the Commission really didn’t care what was said. This is underscored by the failure to split the arguments into those where there is a valid issue (e.g. the definition of “part time” students, or the “standard” for route elimination), as opposed to a special pleading for a specific group.

    Where the Giambrone Commission may have pandered to groups like students, the Stintz Commission treats any group as a special interest not worthy of consideration.

  25. Let’s all e-mail Karen Stintz councillor_stintz@toronto.ca and Mayor Rob Ford: mayor_ford@toronto.ca

    What she did was so not customer service. We should ask her for a written apology.

  26. City Boy at Heart says:

    Steve, This may be something you may want to open a separate thread or have here. Go to the site for the city of Pittsburgh. For what is regarded as the 20th or 21st largest transit system in America, there are some strange things going on.

    Think of all the arguments and disagreements between Queen’s Park and our mayor’s office and then read that not because of lack of use of the system … no, it is due to financial shortfall in funding from the state government, that service is being cut. Due to this shortfall, Pittsburgh on March 27,2011 is cutting their transit system across the board by 15%. Almost 30 routes are being discontinued, while some 40 others are having major restructuring. One division (essentially one garage) is being closed and about 180 are being laid off!!

    Take a look, Steve. It was different for me to see. Good Work!!!!

    Steve: I presume the last comment is related to this site, or to the pushback in Toronto on service cuts.

  27. Laurie says:

    Instead of seniors and students passes, which have social goals, perhaps the TTC should have non-rush hour passes, to serve it’s own goals – i.e. encourage people to travel off-peak. Students and seniors might have more flexibility to more their travel off-peak, but that wouldn’t be the main point. The main point would be giving people a financial incentive to move their trips off-peak so that the TTC doesn’t have to pay as much to extend total system capacity – often a very expensive proposition.

    Steve: This is not as easy as it looks. For someone making a long trip, they would not have the flexibility of someone who lives, say, 20 minutes from their destination. Someone coming from Malvern to downtown, for example, faces a 90-minute trip, but could not even get on the bus until, say, after 9 am, and then would have to deal with wider headways. Similar problems would affect a return trip — either they would have to wait until after the PM peak to leave, and arrive back home mid-evening (with the joys of evening bus service), or they would have to leave really early and hope that they were not checked for a valid fare before they got off their bus.

    Many riders do not have the luxury of planning when they will travel, and setting up yet another barrier that would disproportionately affect long-haul riders is not, I feel, the way to go.

  28. Ashley says:

    Thanks for describing the events and outcome of the meeting. It’s a shame that the TTC post-secondary pass was revoked, but I can see why. Also, I don’t think the TTC should be held accountable for financial issues encountered by students, as obviously the costs of school create, or are at least part of the social issues that mean so many students really need a discount.

    Obviously more research and time was needed to see if these numbers were actually correct. Getting rid of the pass seems hasty and misguided.

    Steve: The odd thing is that this won’t really hit until the fall anyhow because the ID cards for students re valid for a year. Only those who are becoming part-time students now won’t get the cheaper pass. This means there was lots of time to research the whole thing as part of a larger review of concession fares, but the agenda was to “do something now” even though the effect will be mainly in 2012 according to the TTC’s own report.

  29. Robert Wightman says:

    Let’s take a look at subsidy levels:

    GO transit covers almost 80% of its operating costs from the fare box and the TTC covers nearly 70%. These are among, or are, the highest in North America. Single ride and cash fares compare favourably on the TTC and GO with similar systems in North America. Where the similarity in comparison breaks down is in the area of pass users. TTC and GO have about the highest costs.

    The subsidy question for a system like the TTC over a million riders per day is a lot different than in most other cities. Most of the US cities that I have been in, except Chicago, run abysmal service levels. Cleveland is operating two 75 foot cars on a 10 minute rush hour headway and calling it heavy rapid transit. The cost for the region to give low costs passes there is small because they have so few riders. In Toronto it is a HUGE cost. The question should also be who should be paying this extra subsidy and now who should be getting this subsidy. Why should the ratepayers of Toronto subsidize the cost of riding for a large number of people who are only living here while attending school? Education is a provincial matter and not a municipal one.

    If the city is worried about the $7 million dollar cost for the student passes perhaps they should go after the reported $22 million lost per year in fare evasion. Doing a first order approximation that Saturday and Sunday have a combined ridership of one weekday then the daily loss is about $73,000. Perhaps if the TTC had a more modern fare system where everyone needed to carry some proof of payment then it would be easier to catch fare evaders.

    Steve: For the record, I was recently checked for a valid fare on the Queen car for the first time in many, many years. The TTC spends its time and money defending the “Special Constables” whose work duplicates, at greater expense, that of the Toronto Police force, but won’t pay for enough staff to perform fare enforcement. Then they beat on the poor operators who are “using their discretion” either trying to enforce fare rules, or letting the needy ride at low cost.

  30. Richard says:

    Robert Wightman says:

    “Why should the ratepayers of Toronto subsidize the cost of riding for a large number of people who are only living here while attending school?”

    Actually, the three Toronto Universities have studies the indicate a large percentage of their student bodies have been living in the GTA for a long period of time before they started attending to University. Most people are now studying closer to home because the combined cost of high tuition, residence fees and meal plan costs make going out of town for school unaffordable for most.

    The high costs and student debt associated with post-secondary education, the chronic budget shortfall at City Hall and the TTC always being broke are symptoms of a larger problem: a dearth of provincial funding for much needed services.

  31. Michael Greason says:

    I am not sure that all “Fare evasion” is actually a revenue loss. It is not at all uncommon for the King Car – especially in afternoon rush hour – to be so hopelessly overcrowded that the operator opens the rear doors to allow the last free space at the back to be accessed. Many of those riders, including me on occasion, have Metropasses.

    There is no revenue loss in these circumstances, though I see that the TTC cites back door entry on streetcars as a major part of their shortfall. Counterfeit tokens and the like are definitely fraudulent theft of transportation. Back door entry and expired transfers for that matter, may have more to do with the TTC’s inadequate service.

    Steve: In a related vein, the fact that over half of all adult fares are collected via passes, it’s hard to believe that the proportion of lost revenue due to transfer abuse is credible. The TTC has a long history of overstating things like this to suit their own purposes.

  32. Robert Wightman says:

    The TTC’s numbers bother me. If one uses an average cost for an evaded fare at $2.50 then there are about 23 000 fare evaders for each weekday. This seems a little high but it works out to about about 12 per day per surface vehicle running..

    Steve: If we assume that the average vehicle is in service for 10 hours (some peak only, some all day), then that’s only slightly more than 1/hour, although one would assume that fare evasion is more likely when vehicles are busy and operators can’t catch the cheats as easily. Note also that “fare evasion” will include boarding a POP route without a valid fare (rarely caught because rarely inspected), and taking transfers during a trip from a subway station vending machine (impossible to detect as cheating on a connecting vehicle).

    I don’t know how the TTC comes up with that estimate when it is possible to use fare paid areas of the subway to transfer legally between surface routes and subways and ride all day without passing by an area where you need to pay another fare. Since they do not have any requirement, except on Queen, for you to have a proof of payment, then how do they know who has and who hasn’t paid a fare?, or do they extrapolate from their findings on Queen St?

    I too have seen operators open the rear doors at busy transfer points to get more people on the vehicle and provide more service. The odds are that most of these people have a transfer or a pass and for the few that don’t it is probably a good trade off as the lines run faster and need fewer vehicles to cope with those times of severe loading. The alternative is either lost riders or the cost of running more service. I’ll bet that this practice is the most cost effective with the current fare system.

    Steve: The TTC has for years harped on the “loss” that various discounts including passes represent rather than looking at the larger picture of the benefit of getting more riders on transit through a combination of good, attractive service and efficient operations.

    At least Canada doesn’t still have $1 and $2 bills. The fare boxes in the states that read the bills and the magnetic encoded fare cards are horrible when it comes to slowing down service as most bills need to be fed in a number of times before they will be read. In New Orleans the operators ask any one with a magnetic card to hold it up and then keep moving into the car. This defeats the ability of the fare box to count the passengers but it keeps the loading time down to slightly ridiculous instead off horrendously ridiculous.

    The TTC needs to do a study, or read someone else’s as I am sure there are a number of them out there, to see how much time would be saved at stops at major transfers points if they used POP and all door loading.

    Steve: Robert probably remembers that many years ago, Streetcars for Toronto was examining the cause of delay to streetcars on St. Clair. The largest source of “delay” was passenger service time. This is an integral part of transit operations and cannot be avoided, although as many have commented, there are a few places where TTC stops are rather close together.

  33. Ed says:

    Steve comments, “The largest source of “delay” was passenger service time. This is an integral part of transit operations and cannot be avoided, although as many have commented, there are a few places where TTC stops are rather close together.”

    I wonder if any studies have been done on service time as have been done on congestion and delays on the highway. In the case of roads, there’s a fairly abrupt boundary where the highway goes from heavily-travelled but moving well, to a slow crawl. Throughput is actually reduced by the slowdown, so it perpetuates itself.

    Similarly, passengers can load and unload fairly quickly under most conditions, even when there are many getting on/off. Everyone realizes that taking one’s time slows everything down.

    However, there comes a point, somewhere in the peak load — crush load zone, where it suddenly takes a whole lot longer for passengers to board or alight. At which point, service times jump greatly. Which means the streetcar/bus/subway slows down, gets more crowded, and has to deal with ever larger numbers of boarding/alighting. I wonder just how sharp that discontinuity can be.

    (Trivia note: There’s a pole at Humber loop with a stop that’s labelled “ALIGHTING”. It’s never used for anything.)

    Steve: There is quite a long manual about transit design put out by the US government which, I believe, has a section talking about the dynamics of stop service and related design issues. I will have to track it down the URL for you.

  34. Mark Dowling says:

    It would be interesting to see how TTC managed mixed subsurface and surface operations. On the subway, guards often signal the doors shut while people are trying to get past idiots standing in the doorway. If VIA Rail had that policy, an elderly gentleman would not have gotten off in London yesterday and I would have been left on the platform – but the train would not have been a few minutes late.

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