Metrolinx Meeting Wrapup — December 2012

The Metrolinx Board met on December 5, 2012.  Most of its business was conducted in private, an unfortunate habit of this provincial agency, but some items emerged on the public agenda.

I have already reported on the “Next Wave” of transit projects and the amendments proposed for The Big Move regional plan.  In other news …

Proposed Fare Increase Effective February 1, 2013

A fare increase is an integral part of planning for system enhancements:

“Sufficient funding is required to maintain the high levels of reliability and customer service that have been accomplished over the last number of years.

“Without the fare increase, GO Transit will not be able to move forward with the planned service improvements.

“The fare increase assumes that the Provincial subsidy will remain at its current level of support.”

Among the improvements GO hopes to implement are 30-minute off-peak service on the Lakeshore corridor, midday service on the Barrie corridor to Aurora and additional 12-car trains.

The increase has several components:

  • The base adult fares will be increased by
    • 35¢ if they now lie between $4.50 and $5.80,
    • 45¢ if they now lie between $5.81 and $7.35, and
    • 55¢ if they are greater than $7.35.
  • The Presto discount will be increased from 7.5% to 8.75% for the first 35 rides each month.
  • The Presto discount will be increased from 87.5% to 87.75% for rides 36-40 in each month.

Metrolinx estimates that overall the increase will be about 31¢ per ride.  If we examine this in more detail, we can see how the change affects different type of riders.  [The figures in the following table are taken partly from the Metrolinx report, partly from the GO Transit online fare calculator, and partly by application of the new rules to existing fares.]

2013.2012 Fare Comparison

The table begins with the existing tariff for single adult fares, monthly passes (to be discontinued in 2013) and Presto.  The Presto 40-trip value shows how there is already a price advantage built into that card to encourage migration from passes.

The 2013 figures show the combined effect of the single fare increase and the higher Presto discounts.

The ratios between 2013 and 2012 figures illustrate the side effects of Metrolinx’ methodology for applying fare increases.

Because the uplift is based on a fixed amount applied to a tier of fares, the percentage change is greater for fares near the bottom of a tier than near the top.  The upper tier is open ended, and this means that the percentage change for very long trips is quite small.  A very short trip within the 416 will see the single fare rise by over 6%, while long trips such as Kitchener or Niagara Falls go up by less than 4%.

The single fare increase is partly offset by the higher Presto discount so that a 40-trip Presto user will have roughly a 1.5% lower increase than the bump in the single fare.  The carrot-and-stick approach for pass holders continues because someone who converts from a monthly pass to a Presto card now will see the combined effect of all discounts.

Most passholders will see a fare increase of under 2% if they are 40-trip riders.  A 35-trip passholder does even better on the conversion because they no longer pay for trips they don’t use, and their monthly cost will go down, or rise only marginally in 2013.  This is a one-time gift to GO Transit riders that we will not likely see when Presto comes to the TTC where savings, if any, from the conversion will be directed to paying off the cost of implementation.

During the post-meeting press scrum, Tess Kalinowski from The Star asked about the provision of free parking and the fact that riders who do not drive to a GO station are paying for something they don’t use.  CEO Bruce McCuaig replies that free parking has always been part of GO’s business model, and he implied that those who ride in by transit enjoy an equivalent benefit with the lower cofare arrangements with local transit operators.  Whether Metrolinx will decide to mine parking as a future revenue source remains to be seen.

Comparing the situation at GO and TTC proves interesting.  Both systems are starved for operating funding by their parent governments.  In GO’s case, there is a clear desire to provide some new service, especially by getting more out of existing assets, and a recognition that the brand will be hurt if it cannot accommodate strong growth in demand.  In the TTC’s case, decisions about fares are taken in a political context where any increase is considered to be outside the political orthodoxy of holding the line on costs in a public agency.  I will return to the TTC’s budget problems in a separate article.

Improvements in any system that depend on fare revenue are limited to those that can be implemented at low marginal cost relative to the new fares they generate.  Policies that would require service to be expanded on a “loss leader” basis simply are not affordable.  This is a fundamental contradiction of the goal of making transit a viable choice for many trips and for travel demands that don’t coincide with the heavily-used peak corridors and times.  Metrolinx and Queen’s Park have yet to engage this vital part of system planning, and prefer to concentrate on big ticket capital programs without operating funding to support a more extensive menu of services.

GO Transit Report

GO continues to experience strong ridership growth with a 6% increase for the year ended September 2012 over the previous period.  Growth is strongest on the bus system, although in absolute numbers it carries far less people than the trains.  Bus demand is up 16% on weekends.

The train service guarantee (no more than 15 minutes late or it’s free) started on November 14, and to date riders on 62 trains have been refunded about $50k.  The problems occur mainly on the outer ends of lines according to Gary McNeil, GO President, and so the number of refunds does not reflect the total ridership on the late trains.

This begs a question about GO’s on time performance stats which achieve an impressive 94%.  Like the TTC, GO has leeway in the definition of what is “on time”, and the measure does not necessarily reflect the experience of riders on problem sections of routes.  If there is a problem with reliability on the outer ends of lines (or specific hours of service), the exceptions should be broken out rather than being hidden under overwhelmingly positive averages.  If nothing else, this would maintain credibility with what riders actually see rather than presenting a rose-tinted view for the Board members.

McNeil was asked about his biggest concern for GO, and replied that it is the risk of keeping up with growth.  Indeed, GO is unable to meet its passenger comfort targets because of overcrowding on trains, and this is unlikely to change soon.

Presto Update

Use of the Presto smart card continues to grow although the rate is partly masked by the low initial volume, the force-feeding brought on by withdrawing older fare media, and soon by the uptake of Presto on its first major local transit system, Ottawa.  As with ontime stats, the numbers would be more meaningful if broken out by system and if expressed as a percentage of market share, not simply a raw count of cards issued.  Similarly, the dollar value of fares paid is meaningless without either a timeframe or the total value of fare revenue as a comparator.

Presto has a bad habit of trying to make its numbers look as good as possible.  One wonders why the private sector representatives on the Metrolinx Board don’t ask questions about getting more meaningful data.

Metrolinx claims that the technical problems with the Ottawa rollout have been solved and a solution is being implemented.  The proof will come with the deployment beginning in 2013.

The report includes customer feedback comments talking about the wonders of Presto, and including two unkind remarks about how behind the times the TTC is.  Toronto’s problems lie in the lack of support for implementation costs, and the dubious viability of the technology while Queen’s Park blackmailed the TTC into adopting the provincial system with threats of cutting off all subsidies.  For Metrolinx to publish comments slagging the TTC is, putting it mildly, in very poor taste, but it probably plays to their masters at the Pink Palace.

Presto’s rollout plan now includes a move toward the sort of “smart card” support the product badly lacked.  Some of these are requirements to meet TTC specifications, but more generally Presto’s credibility would be under fire in a few years without greater flexibility.

What’s in the pipeline?

  • Acceptance of bank cards for fare payment (depends on rollout of NFC (Near Field Communication) capability in credit and debit cards.
  • New types of fare “products” (required to support TTC implementation and fare structure).
  • Support for NFC-capable mobile devices.
  • A Presto mobile app.

What is not yet clear is whether we will see a model where the actual Presto “card” is substantially replaced.  Bank cards and mobile devices would be linked to central customer accounts, and a proprietary card would not required to get the fare schemes and discounts now available only through Presto itself.

Union Pearson Express

Construction in the Kitchener corridor and on the airport spur continues, and the recently rebranded Air Rail Link now has spiffy renderings of its various stations.

At Union, the UP will operate from the west end of Track 1 outside of the existing train shed with access via the PATH link west from the main station.

Bloor Station will see renovations to give more than a bare-bones GO platform for airport travellers.  What it won’t have is a direct connection to Dundas West Station, and a rather long open air walking transfer along Bloor Street will be required.  This is another problem where Metrolinx staff slagged off the TTC for a failure of provincial funding.  The Dundas West connection is not a priority for Toronto and why the city would divert scarce capital dollars to serve a Metrolinx project is a mystery.

The station at Terminal One will have a direct connection with the people mover to Terminal Three.  What it will not have is a good distribution system for people who work in the airport neighbourhood, not right at the terminals.

UP President, Kathy Haley, mentioned that Metrolinx is talking to airlines about providing transportation for crews staying in downtown hotels.  Leaving aside the question of what proportion of crews this represents, it also implies that some sort of discount structure might be provided for high volume corporate customers.  Is Metrolinx beating the bushes for riders other than the business class travellers?

Metrolinx loves to point to many cities around the world with rapid transit links to their airports.  What they neglect is that these lines are commonly part of a local system, not a purpose built, full cost recovery facility that only serves a fraction of the airport market.

Bruce McCuaig made a strange comment that UP has a “strategic value beyond rider counts”.  Are we preparing the ground for lower-than-expected demand?

Conclusion

Once again, we had a public Metrolinx Board meeting overwhelmingly concerned with pumping the great accomplishments of Metrolinx and its divisions.  The more difficult questions of policy, one hopes, get discussed at the much longer and more frequent private sessions, but there is little indication that the Board actually contributes much or if hard questions about funding and service growth are on their agenda.

Metrolinx could do the GTAH a world of good by bringing such debates out into the open if only to educate politicians, media and citizens in general about the context for transit support and expansion.  Unrelenting good news is suspect if only because the rest of the world doesn’t work like that.

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44 Responses to Metrolinx Meeting Wrapup — December 2012

  1. Rod Taylor says:

    Some airlines buy their hotel rooms in bulk (minimum of N nights per month for a flat rate).

    I imagine that Metrolinx is selling a similar package to them (1000 trips per month for $18 per trip rather than $25) or something along those lines.

    About 20% of the $25 cost will just be handling credit cards, accounting, marketing, etc. There are a number of costs that a bulk customer doesn’t incurr and that discount is often passed on.

    The huge side benefit is that when someone on a flight asks about the best way to get downtown, the flight attendant will probably tell them to take the train.

  2. re: GO parking.

    I figure that Metrolinx is going to have to find more ways to monetize their GO parking in the future. Perhaps they will offer more ‘pay-in’ reserve parking. Otherwise, the only option available to them is selling parking lot lands for development, and using the development funds to build parking structures.

    In Singapore, parking structures around HDB (Housing Development Board) flats near the MRT stations are also made available to commuters who live in the surrounding areas. Perhaps Metrolinx can come to some sort of relationship with developers, to encourage more development around GO stations with shared use of parking.

    Of course I think Metrolinx should also work harder on encouraging carpooling activities too…I don’t know which of those two would have a better chance of success.

    Regarding GO usage and service, I feel that there is room to grow demand for GO services out of peak hours by promoting reliable bus service. Perhaps the 403-shoulder bus lanes + HOV lane have made a difference for GO bus reliability. Perhaps the Mississauga BRT will make a difference as well.

    But one big issue discouraging people from trying GO’s non-peak services are the locations of the stations and poor connecting transit. So, I’d also like to see Metrolinx & the TTC work to put more Car Share options at GTA GO stations and suburban subway stations. Knowing that a car is available at the end of a trip may encourage people who would not be ready to use GO to take advantage of what it has to offer.

    Case in point: There are 2 Auto Share cars being tested out in Mississauga … but instead of putting them at the City Centre Transit Terminal or at, say, Meadowvale GO station, they are sitting outside the Civic Centre for Mississauga employees to use. But in Toronto, there are AutoShare and ZipCar places everywhere.

    As for the Union Pearson (UP) Express … well, I’m not surprised that they would be looking at getting some of that crew transport market to ‘pad’ their revenues from the business travel. It’s also interesting that the graphics on the UP website remind me of Porter Airlines … which makes some sense, since Porter & the Toronto City Centre Airport are effectively competing against the UP Express.

    Finally, I cannot help but wonder how long it will be before Metrolinx is asking Disney Pixar if they can use Carl Fredriksen (from the movie UP) as a spokesperson.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: Metrolinx did mention at the Board meeting that they were looking at having car sharing at their lots. However, this would run into a problem you mention about the stations generally — the poor locations. A car share would be great for someone arriving on a train who needs a car to drive around locally, but not much good for someone more local to the station who would have to get there just to pick up the car. The question, then, is how much of a market for shared cars exists as an alternative to people driving their own vehicle out to a suburban location. Certainly worth testing out.

  3. George Bell says:

    Autoshare would be great for people in Toronto going to the suburbs (I can’t count the times I’ve had to rent an autoshare car for 3-4 hours longer just to deal with rush-hour). It would also be good at end-of-line stations where you might want to go further, in fact I think places like Barrie/Hamilton/Pickering would benefit from having specially targeted long-weekend service (ie. Sunday evenings back to Toronto), and autoshare/car rental facilities. Imagine a “cottager’s special” where for 70$ you get a car for the weekend and a trip from anywhere on GO to Barrie and back again…

    Further improvements could also be made by making the Presto cards compatible with the autoshare companies cars (including the billing) and also the bike share systems (which should also be expanded within a 5km radius around all go stations).

  4. nfitz says:

    You mention that GO hopes to implement 30-minute off-peak service on the Lakeshore line. Was this actually mentioned at the meeting? It was initially mentioned in an early version of the Proposed Fare Increase document and slides that discussed 2013-2014 enhancements that vanished shortly after it went on the Metrolinx site, when they put the current version up.

    Steve: Yes, it was mentioned at the meeting. It would not surprise me if they are having second thoughts and might have waved this around just long enough to soften the blow of the fare increase.

  5. nfitz says:

    If their justification for free parking is that most others get a discount for taking the bus to the station, how do they justify the lack of discount for those who take TTC to the station. Better yet, how do they justify rates from Scarborough station and Danforth station to Union being the same, despite one having a parking lot, and the other not having one (a problem that perhaps could be remedied simply by moving Danforth to Zone 2, which is what Exhibition and Bloor station are in).

    Steve: Metrolinx ties itself in knots whenever it tries to justify anything to do with fares and service within the 416.

  6. Tom West says:

    All of GO’s new parking structures have been designed with paid parking in mind. I think the most likely outcome is a “pay on entry” system, where you are charged a flat fare if you enter the car park before the end of the AM peak. That would catch most commuters, ensure casual off-peak users aren’t discouraged, and removes the need for any enforcement. (If you’re in the car park, you must have paid).

  7. W. K. Lis says:

    It would be nice if PRESTO (once all the “bugs” get worked out) to expand to other transportation. Auto sharing and the Bixi bike rentals for a start.

  8. Ed Drass says:

    So it seems short-haul fares continue to increase well ahead of inflation. As for charging for GO station parking, is Metrolinx just worried about the outcry or do they have some estimate of the impact on ridership? And regarding growth overall I wonder if GO and TTC can project realistic percentage increases when trains are considered so overcrowded now? Lastly, the benefits of an all ‘private-citizen’ board do indeed appear to be muted…

  9. Deb says:

    Does Presto include discount fares for seniors? Both GO and TTC have senior rates now, but I haven’t noticed any mention of this in the Presto information (with apologies if my aging eyes have missed such items!)

    Steve: Presto has not announced fares for anyone, let alone discount schemes for seniors, children, etc. You are probably better off taking the 192 Airport Express from Kipling Station.

  10. Roger Brook says:

    GO claims it’s on board with achieving the “high development potential, (and) intense concentrations of employment, shopping and recreation” called for in Metrolinx Mobility Hubs. As an example GO cites Pickering station, where it claims to have built the $22 million pedestrian bridge across the 401 at Pickering station with the aim of linking new users, “walkers and cyclists”, to “amenities” in “Pickering’s commercial core”.

    A more likely explanation:

    GO planned to add 1500 parking spaces at Pickering station by building a parking garage which required closing sections of the crowded free lots during construction.

    To ease this squeeze GO negotiated the lease of 550 temporary spaces from Pickering Town Centre (mall) north of the 401.

    Both lease & garage construction coincided with the opening of the pedestrian bridge which as it happens leads directly to the leased spaces.


    Parking garage infrastructure to keep Ontario on the GO

  11. Andrew says:

    UP President, Kathy Haley, mentioned that Metrolinx is talking to airlines about providing transportation for crews staying in downtown hotels.

    Given the abundance of airport hotels surrounding the airport, it seems highly unlikely that cash-strapped airlines will put their employees in expensive downtown Toronto hotels and pay the airport rail link fare, even if heavily discounted. During peak tourism times of the year (e.g. during the film festival) downtown hotels are often unavailable or extremely expensive, while airport hotels remain reasonably priced. Airport hotels are much cheaper than downtown hotels and most offer free shuttle bus service to the airport.

  12. Brent says:

    re: AutoShare in the suburbs: AutoShare tried placing one or two cars at Port Credit GO a few years ago. They were gone after a year or two… presumably just not financially viable. If it didn’t work in Port Credit (which is served by all-day bi-directional service, and where there is a large market of adjacent apartment dwellers that would also support the shared cars), I wonder where else it might work.

    Conversely, I recall reading 6 or 7 years ago about a trend in Los Angeles, where commuters buy second “beater” cars and park them overnight at suburban train stations to complete the last leg of their trip.

    GO has indeed been building its garages with the ability to charge for parking, but I believe it is something similar to the Calgary model from a few years ago (you pay at a remote booth which registers your plate; enforcement officers can patrol the lots, scan plates of parked vehicles and look them up in the day’s database). Because of the nature of GO trips, you could probably run enforcement easily with only a handful of officers. It would be similar to the POP ticket system, where enforcement is just frequent enough that it’s not worth your while to try and get away without paying.

    I’m surprised that GO still hasn’t moved toward parking fees, especially now that the garages are rolling out. It would be easy (and more equitable) to soften the blow by offsetting it by a comparable fare reduction. This also would give GO a tool to manage parking supply by increasing parking fees where supply is an issue and/or where lots of alternate access methods are available, and decreasing the fees at lots that are underused (yes, there are at least a few).

    In discussing the appetite for fare increases at GO and TTC, Steve contrasts the situation at TTC by noting that

    “In GO’s case, there is a clear desire to provide some new service, especially by getting more out of existing assets, and a recognition that the brand will be hurt if it cannot accommodate strong growth in demand.”

    The relevant word is “brand”. GO knows its core market (to the extent that they have defined six or seven different customer types and given then “names” so that they can discuss initiatives and the impact on these groups), and most are much more sensitive to issues like service, crowding, parking etc. than they are to ticket prices.

  13. nfitz says:

    “Airport hotels are much cheaper than downtown hotels and most offer free shuttle bus service to the airport”

    Indeed. They might find more of a market for getting tourists who stay in airport hotels quickly and cheaply into the city, than a 1960s-era market for flight crews that stay downtown.

  14. Cam Taylor says:

    Re: Bloor station

    I assume there will have to be a direct connection to Dundas West subway station eventually, regardless of the TTC not considering it a priority. Would Metrolinx be inclined to build that connection themselves to satisfy the needs of their customers transferring to the Bloor line? Curious.

    Steve: There’s an obvious need for the connection as part of Metrolinx “Mobility Hub” plan. However, Metrolinx seems to prefer taking cheap shots at the TTC over the lack of spending priority in Toronto for this connection than including it in their own capital program.

  15. Deb wrote,

    “Does Presto include discount fares for seniors?”

    On systems currently using Presto, including GO, a Presto card can be registered for concession fares, such as senior, student, and children. Once registered, the correct fare amount will be deducted when paying fare (tap-on/tap-off on GO, or just tap-on on other providers) with Presto, if the provider supports other fares (the TTC Presto terminals at a dozen or so subway stations ONLY deduct the adult token fare, regardless of how the Presto card is registered; similarly Durham currently only uses Presto for ride-to-go fares, so tapping on a DRT bus on your way to a GO station will deduct the adult ticket fare and then your GO fare will be reduced by the difference between the adult ticket fare and the co-pay discounted fare).

    To the best of my knowledge, the registration of a Presto card for a concession fare is an all-or-nothing thing. That is to say, if the card is registered as a student card through one provider, it is that way for all the other providers it is used on.

    What I am describing is from personal experience with my daughter’s Presto card last year. In order to register it as a student card, we had to provide proof of enrollment (i.e.: student card from school). This was done through YRT at their office at 50 High Tech in Richmond Hill. I do not know if this can be done at any GO station, or if one must visit the office at Union. In the case of student fare, it automatically expires at the end of June. I am unaware of whether it is possible to re-instate student fare status for the summer if the student is returning in September, as it was my daughter’s last year. I don’t suspect that seniors have to re-register as seniors, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

    In my daughter’s case, even though the student status was registered through YRT, we found that she automatically was charged student fare on GO.

    One other thing I have noticed: the sound that the Presto terminal on YRT buses makes when you perform a good tap-on is different if the card is registered for a concession fare, or at least my observation has found this to be true for students.

  16. Regarding the connection between Bloor GO and Dundas West … a few weeks ago there was an article about a designer who had built an attractive pedestrian covering/barrier for use on construction sites.

    Instead of plywood hoarding the barriers are made with steel & glass.

    Why not adapt these barriers to create permanent covered walkways between stations, and in places where underground travel is not an option?

    Steve: The problem is that the “walkway” is the sidewalk along the north side of Bloor and into the rail underpass. At some point, you have to cross Dundas Street and a covered walkway there is not an option.

    As for Auto Share to Port Credit … it seems like Auto Share in Mississauga & suburbs would work better for people who need to use a car for a last mile trip (say, coming out from Toronto). Someone living in Port Credit would likely have a car available, and so, would not need a car for most trips. By the time they got to the station to get the car, they would already be at their destination (grocery store, restaurant, bar).

    That is why I think Auto Share would work effectively for the more suburban GO stations … like Meadowvale or Langstaff or Etobicoke North … in semi-industrial areas, which do have hourly GO bus service but limited transit service.

    Cheers, Moaz

  17. nfitz says:

    Metrolinx might be taking shots at TTC about Dundas West station, but there’s been 2 or 3 things out of Metrolinx of late, suggesting that the tunnel from Bloor to Dundas West will open in 2015.

    The new website certainly mentions the tunnel, and the website for the Georgetown South project mentions it as part of the scope.

    More specifically, the November 14, 2012 e-mail from GO announcing the December 10th public meeting about Bloor station says that

    “Metrolinx’s regional transportation plan, we are planning to update and improve Bloor GO Station, making it a more modern link to safe, comfortable and convenient public transportation by early 2015. The project involves station enhancements, including a new barrier-free pedestrian tunnel and rehabilitation of the existing pedestrian access from Bloor Street.”

    So unless that pedestrian tunnel is going somewhere else than Dundas West station, it seems that Metrolinx is paying for the connection to the subway, even if they are bitching about it. I guess all will be revealed on Monday.

    Steve: I think you are misreading the notice. It says nothing about a connection to the subway, but as you say all will be revealed at the public meeting.

  18. nfitz says:

    Where would the barrier-free pedestrian tunnel lead if not the subway, or at least Crossways mall. Perhaps I’m missing something … I’m not that familiar with the train station, and normally my trips to Dundas West are limited to changing between the subway and streetcar or express Exhibition bus.

    Steve: The access to the station now is up a flight of stairs from the north sidewalk of Bloor Street. The ARL/UP will have its own platform and there will need to be a connection between it, the GO platform and the street that will have to be in a tunnel with one or more elevators to provide vertical accessibility. Dundas West Station’s street platform (where you would board a streetcar) is some distance away on the other side of Dundas Street.

    The relationship between the two stations is clear in the satellite view. Underground, the east end of Dundas West Station platform is just west of the rail corridor underneath the Crossways building.

  19. Robert Lubinski says:

    The GO fare increase tiers do have some unintended side effects. In Oakville there are two stations which are slightly more than 5 km apart, Oakville and Bronte. Oakville falls into the second tier of fare increase, while Bronte falls into the higher tier. The monthly difference in maximum fares will be nearly $30 (just a few years ago it was $20). This has the effect of tipping some commuters into travelling to Oakville station (by car or even by transit) instead of going to the Bronte station, even if might be closer in direct distance. Oakville also has more trains, with local service mixed in with express trains in the morning. It’s no wonder parking is at a premium there even with the new garage: more frequent service at a lower fare. It illustrates the problem of using the arbitrary cut-off points for tiered fare increases. A flat percentage would still result in a higher increase for Bronte station, but not to to the point where there is an 11% percent premium over the Oakville fare, for a stop which is relatively close.

  20. Deb says:

    To Calvin Henry-Cotnam:

    Thank you for the information on student and senior rates for Presto users on GO.

    Here’s hoping when the TTC makes Presto mandatory they will also take into account their many passengers who are not currently paying the full ‘adult’ fare.

    (A bit offensive, that term, since many students and ALL seniors are, after all, adults.)

    Steve: It is the TTC’s intent to preserve the concession fare structure in the move to Presto. Given the amount of grief the TTC has been about setting up these fares over the years, getting rid of them would be suicidal.

  21. Karl Junkin says:

    I agree that Port Credit is an odd candidate for a trial with AutoShare. Stronger potential locations for that would probably be Long Branch, or Rouge Hill, given the demographics and transit quality in such areas that would yield a stronger incentive to consider an AutoShare option at a GO station if it were available.

  22. Michael S says:

    As a regular rider of the TTC, and ONLY the TTC, I can appreciate the value of having Presto for the present day equivalent of cash fares/tokens/regional transit users who use both GO and TTC. However, I have absolutely no use for it as a Metropass holder. I would much prefer to pay the flat monthly fee into a Metropass, and have the privileges associated with it, rather than switching to a pay-per-use system, in spite of the fact that the cost would be more or less the same. Do you know if it might be in the cards to keep the conventional Metropass (perhaps update it to be compatible with presto card scanners)?

    Steve: At this point, it is unclear whether there will be a “monthly pass” purchase option where your account would be charged a flat monthly amount, or if something like the current GO tariff where fares are charged up to the point you reach the cutoff point (40 for GO) and you ride free thereafter. A related issue is the idea of moving to a timed fare system so that one fare is good for a set period, say two hours, in effect a limited time pass. This makes what one “buys” with a single fare different from today. The technical problem is that the logic of what constitutes a “valid” transfer on the TTC is far too complex to embed in a smart card system, but a timed fare is simple.

    This is also bound up with the debate about whether or not riders would “tap off”. If they enter a vehicle within the period of the timed fare but leave after it has expired, are they charged again? One might ask about “on time” guarantees like that on GO. If service screwups and short turns cause a rider to go beyond the two-hour limit, should they be charged another fare? If not, how would the system be set up to avoid this?

  23. Michael S says:

    A problem I would expect many people would experience from time to time would be to forget to ‘tap out’ and incur inflated fares/time in dispute with the fare administrators. It would be interesting if the process of tapping in/out could be adapted to use 407 style transponders, where people need merely walk past a demarcation point to have their fares recorded, rather than having to consciously perform the action. Taken a step further, conceivably, one could have such a system in place where simply being in the volume of a vehicle would record a person’s fare, since time ouside of vehicles doesn’t really amount to distance travelled in transit. Posession of a valid transponder would suffice for POP, and with vehicle GPS, one could very accurately bill by the Km if one so desired. Want a monthly fare? No problem, just check off a box in the database that flags the transponder as ‘valid’ until an expiry date. I certainly think there is room for some creativity and further advancement within the realm of Presto.

  24. nfitz says:

    Steve wrote:

    “The ARL/UP will have its own platform and there will need to be a connection between it, the GO platform and the street that will have to be in a tunnel with one or more elevators to provide vertical accessibility.”

    Oh! I’d have assumed that in an absence of a connection to the subway, that such accessibility and connections would have been all from the tracks, up to Bloor Street, rather than through a tunnel (which I have to wonder how frequently would actually get used, especially if no subway connection). So if there is a tunnel planned there … I can see that the subway connection mightn’t be in the cards … which would be the height of stupidity … but I guess that’s Metrolinx for you.

    Steve wrote:

    “The technical problem is that the logic of what constitutes a “valid” transfer on the TTC is far too complex to embed in a smart card system, but a timed fare is simple.”

    Fear not, we won’t be having to give free transfers to everyone! According to the Q&A session the Toronto Star had with Metrolinx ” the TTC’s transfer system is unique, and Presto has to be adapted to it, said McCuaig.”

    Steve: I think that is a boilerplate response so that Metrolinx isn’t seen as “committing” the TTC to a fare structure change they have not decided to implement yet.

  25. Steve:

    The relationship between the two stations is clear in the satellite view. Underground, the east end of Dundas West Station platform is just west of the rail corridor underneath the Crossways building.

    I can understand that, in the past with GO & TTC as separate as can be, the only point of having an east exit from Dundas West would be to go up into the Crossways building.

    But today, we have Metrolinx and supposedly better TTC / GO connections (though I haven’t actually seen any … maybe this could be the first?)

    So, could the TTC & Metrolinx just build an east exit that stayed at the same level as the subway tunnels then moved eastwards to the railway tracks. Maybe a long ramp like the one that connected the platforms at Keele to the streetcars downstairs.

    How far does the Crossways property rights extend underground? Or, is part of the building in the way?

    If Metrolinx pays for a tunnel without building a connection to the east end of Dundas West Station … that’s just sad. On the other hand … to cut costs they may end up saying that the tunnel is too expensive and people should just use Bloor St. to transfer between platforms.

    Oh, and is there any plan for a stop on the Milton Line at Bloor GO?

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: Please refer to my earlier article about Dundas West Station and the history of its planned connection to Bloor GO. This includes drawings showing the relative position of various components and a report on the subject from 1990.

  26. Long Branch Mike says:

    I was at the Metrolinx Dundas West Mobility Hub public meeting the evening of Dec 10, and they mentioned the following (please correct me if I’m wrong):

    - GO will implement 30-minute off-peak train service on the Lakeshore line.

    - TTC & Metrolinx are working and in negotiations with Crossways to build an underground entrance to the GO/UPE platforms, through the Crossways parking garage. They didn’t mention money was an issue, but they not be willing to pay what Crossways wants (the latter is my speculation).

    - TTC & Metrolinx are also working and in negotiations with local landowners to build a side entrance (& possible Kiss’N’Ride) to the GO/UPE platforms, on the west side, north of the GO/UPE platforms, for local access.

    - I can’t recall the specific deadlines for the above. Some were Spring 2015, in time for the Summer 2015 PanAm Games, and others afterwards.

    - The ARL/UP platforms have to be raised, to allow level access to the ARL/UP trains.

    - This forces phased elongation of the platforms north, the north part of which will be for GO Transit users.

    - ARL/UP trains are supposedly easily convertible to electric operation by replacing the diesel motors.

    - The underground passenger tunnels for the GO/ARL station will be 5m wide, wider than GO’s usual 3.5m wide, for the high passenger volumes Metrolinx is expecting.

    - No plan for GO Milton line platforms at Bloor.

    There appears to be no plan to consolidate the name of Bloor GO Station with Dundas West TTC Subway station (my own beef). No sense having a ‘Mobility Hub’ with a really long confusing double name!

    Steve: Most of this info has come out in other announcements and meetings before. It is amusing that the ARL trains are “high platform” cars. This implies than any future redeployment of them to other lines would be incompatible with the existing platforms, and that the airport station will be incompatible with any future GO equipment purchased for mainline operation (e.g. EMUs with floor heights comparable to existing GO fleet).

  27. Mark Dowling says:

    ‘Steve: Most of this info has come out in other announcements and meetings before. It is amusing that the ARL trains are “high platform” cars.’

    SMART in California specified highfloor and Metrolinx are piggybacking. Nobody has an FRA compliant low floor DMU to sell right now. Given the need to put the traction gear somewhere it’s hardly surprising low floor self propelled vehicles are hardly 10 a penny. The reality is that if successful in our climate a modern ADA and FRA compliant DMU could transform a lot of commuter and regional operations in North America currently stuck with a choice of locohaul of a handful of coaches and the inefficiency of wyeing, putting lipstick on 60 year old Budds, or with fighting the FRA for a waiver of EuroDMUs.

  28. Michael S wrote about Presto,

    However, I have absolutely no use for it as a Metropass holder.

    As Steve pointed out, the TTC has not decided how the monthly pass will be implemented on Presto. Either you pay up front on your Presto account, which would essentially give you what you have now with the Metropass, except that you wouldn’t have to wait in line to pay for it (though, you could if you like doing that). I believe the HSR in Hamilton does it this way. When using transit, any place you currently show your Metropass, you would tap a Presto reader. One plus with Presto: if you were entering a subway station, instead of getting your Metropass out to swipe in a turn style, keep it in your front right pocket and you can tilt your leg towards the reader before going through the turnstyle for hands-free entry. I do this now where Presto is installed.

    The other way, and one that we should be pushing for, takes away your need to cough up the cost of the pass up front. Just keep your Presto balance high enough for the next couple of days worth of token fares, and add as little as $10 at a time, and the system will take the token price each time a fare needs to be paid. With time-based fares that will likely be in place by Presto’s full implementation, if you tap-on again within the time period (probably 2 hours, since all the other GTA agencies use that), it takes nothing off the balance. When you have had the price of the Metropass taken off for the current month, all remaining tap-ons for the month are free. Essentially, you get all the benefits of the Metropass, but don’t have to pay for the full thing before the month begins.

    One bonus: if circumstances result in you not needing transit in a particular month to get the value of the price of the monthly pass, you only pay for the rides you actually use.

    As I said, we should be pushing for this from not. It’s not rocket science, and Brampton Transit also implements a weekly pass this way!

  29. NCarlson says:

    To reiterate, low floor single level cars of any sort are really not practical. One way or another the bogies and traction equipment (for MUs) are going to take a lot of room at the same time you will be paying more to lower the floor on what’s left. Ultimately we should be looking at high level platform in more places rather than ever more specialized equipment. Also bear in mind that loading a high floor train at a low level platform is considerably less problematic than vice versa.

  30. George Bell says:

    Calvin

    If the TTC went with the system you suggested they’d have to do a number of things to make it feasible.

    1) Redesign subway stations that currently use the “walk through and show your pass” system — since getting everyone to tap at busy stations will lead to lines
    2) Have presto machines on all vehicles and at all doors (probably will do this anyways, but having everyone tap as they get on the bus is going to be slower than the current system of “just get on” that is used on busier routes)
    3) They can resolve 2 by having onstreet swiping stations, but that costs money

    Even after all that, I still would have a problem with the system if they went to a per ride purchase (and that I have currently with the GO system), which is that while I might save a couple of dollars every year during the one month that I’m on vacation … the fine that I will receive if I accidentally forget to swipe once will cancel out those savings for many years to come …

    As a convenience I’d rather have the pass purchased before hand and safely in my wallet for the duration of the month.

    From the TTC’s perspective, they should want to get the money up front, since they make money off the interest (I assume, unless accenture/metrolinx gets the interest).

    I think having both systems (pre-purchase, and per-use discounts) would be a good way to go, and I wish GO would implement this.

    I also wonder how bulk purchases will work — currently I get a discount for buying the metropass from my employer. I assume the bulk program is mainly a way for the TTC to save on distribution costs (ie. having less machines and point of sale locations), so will the discount be given to everyone who pre-purchases a years worth of presto passes online?

  31. Karl Junkin says:

    George Bell said: “since getting everyone to tap at busy stations will lead to lines.”

    Having been a regular user of some of the busiest stations in the world, like Shinjuku and Ikebukuro in Tokyo, which all rely on automated gates where you tap both in and out to cross the fare line (previously with magnetic strip tickets before smart cards), there are seldom lines, and where there are, they are very swift moving. Smart cards will not condemn you to lineups if the fare line is intelligently designed.

  32. It’s funny to hear that Metrolinx is anticipating high passenger volumes for Bloor-Dundas West … but isn’t going to be adding a stop for the Milton Line.

    I don’t think that the increased passenger volumes are going to be from the UPex service.

    Cheers, Moaz

  33. George Bell mentions some issues with Presto on the TTC:

    1) Redesign subway stations that currently use the “walk through and show your pass” system — since getting everyone to tap at busy stations will lead to lines

    That is a concern, but I wonder if it is possible to have ‘portable’ Presto terminals that can be wheeled out (along with a chair in some cases!) when they open gates during busy times. If not, permanently installed terminals on each side of the gate would suffice as the tap time is not significantly slower than regular passing.

    2) Have presto machines on all vehicles and at all doors (probably will do this anyways, but having everyone tap as they get on the bus is going to be slower than the current system of “just get on” that is used on busier routes)

    If they continue the pay-as-you-enter system on buses, this is not an issue. In my experience, both as a user myself and observing others entering, Presto users are just as quick, and sometimes quicker, than users of other fare media. So many ticket, token, and cash users don’t bother to get their fare out as the bus arrives, but wait until they actually climb aboard. Passengers with a transfer have to show it to the driver, and if the driver is looking closely when a passenger flashes it too fast, they have to stop to show it again. Occasionally, even pass holders fart around to get out their pass while everyone waits.

    Presto users don’t even have to take the card out of their wallet or purse to tap-on, and a nice (though, it must get annoying after a while for the driver) tone tells the driver that the fare is paid, whether it is a new single fare, transfer fare, or pass fare.

    3) They can resolve 2 by having onstreet swiping stations, but that costs money

    Only needed to enhance vehicles using all-door loading with proof of payment.

  34. Karl Junkin wrote,

    Smart cards will not condemn you to lineups if the fare line is intelligently designed.

    Agreed. Though, I suspect that fears that some have may come from an expectation that the ‘intelligent’ part of that design to be lacking from the TTC. ;-)

    A fare card like Presto is one of those things that is very mysterious until one gets to try it themselves. Having used it for about a year now, I can’t imagine going back to tickets or cash, though I do have to occasionally do so on the TTC when not at a Presto-equipped subway station.

    That said, I too have my concerns over how well the system will work as the TTC comes on board with a few hundred percent increase in the number of users compared to today.

  35. There is one other benefit of Presto for those who do not use a monthly pass (or four consecutive weekly passes). The transit tax credit is available to those who pay at least 32 fares on a single transit agency each calendar month. At today’s fare, that is a tax credit of $12.48 when you use only $83.20 worth of tokens in a month.

  36. Ed says:

    I assume the tax credit is only available if you register your card. With the old passes, you can pay cash and still collect the tax break without Metrolinx knowing not only your travel patterns, but who you are.

    I have been forced to Presto by the demise of the ten-ride GO tickets (I used one on the last day they were allowed.) My card is not registered, and I top it up by giving the nice attendant a $20 bill.

    Beside the privacy concerns, there’s also the issue that, in case of billing errors, you are much better off if you have the money, rather than if it’s been auto-withdrawn from your account. This is the reason that I avoid automatic withdrawal payments for companies like Enbridge. In case of a dispute, they’re trying to convince you to pay more rather than you trying to convince them to refund money they already have taken from you.

  37. Ed said,

    With the old passes, you can pay cash and still collect the tax break without Metrolinx knowing not only your travel patterns, but who you are.

    Well, it’s your right to not want your movements tracked, even if you are not that important that anyone really gives a damn. Though, such tracking can work both ways, should you ever need an alibi – I can prove that I was at Finch Station on December 11 at 10:07 am if I needed to. Err, at least I can prove my Presto card was. ;-)

    I do share Ed’s concerns about the auto-top-up capabilities. I prefer to be more in control of just when value is added to my Presto card, even if it means having to be more aware of my balance and taking the necessary steps 24-48 hours before I know I will need the increase. Besides, I have an issue with a reload system that has a minimum trigger of $20. I routinely have my balance drop to the $3 to $5 range before it gets a reload.

  38. Robert Wightman says:

    Calvin Henry-Cotnam says:

    December 14, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Ed said,

    With the old passes, you can pay cash and still collect the tax break without Metrolinx knowing not only your travel patterns, but who you are.

    Well, it’s your right to not want your movements tracked, even if you are not that important that anyone really gives a damn. Though, such tracking can work both ways, should you ever need an alibi – I can prove that I was at Finch Station on December 11 at 10:07 am if I needed to. Err, at least I can prove my Presto card was. ;-)

    If you two don’t want big brother to know where you are or have been, start wearing disguises that mask you facial features from the all intrusive video cameras and leave your cell phones at home. With their built in GPS big brother can tell where you are without having to do cell tower location. The truly paranoid will only use one way pagers and pay phones if they talk to anyone. Does anyone remember the X-Files spin off, “The Lone Gunman?”

    Steve: Ah yes — a TV series that had the unfortunate plot line of foiling a scheme to fly into the WTC airing six months before the real thing.

  39. With regards to the 30 minute service midday on the Lakeshore line, GO Transit has been saying this for years — it’s time for them to either step up and implement it (good idea) or be honest and stop making a promise they obviously have no intention of keeping!

  40. In response to a comment I made about a posting by Ed, Robert Wightman wrote,

    If you two don’t want big brother to know where you are or have been…

    “You two”?!? Read my response carefully and don’t lump me in with the “I don’t want others to know my business” crowd. I am of the opinion that the only people “important” (note the quotes) enough that someone out there cares about their movement are already being tracked by the media or paparazzi. We all are really not that important.

    That said, Presto’s ability to track exactly where you are and when you are there is excellent when it comes to fixed-position terminals such as those at subway stations or VIVA stations. When it comes to the ones on vehicles, they would fail if the stop announcement system made use of their “knowledge” of location. It is pretty common to see a transaction record showing a location where the bus was about 10-15 minutes before one boards it and taps on. On Friday, one record shows me tapping on at the stop that I actually left the bus at, and another tap-on shows me boarding in YRT’s zone 2 when I was boarding at a dual zone 1 and 2 stop. I now have to go after YRT for the extra fare that was taken from me for this!

    Steve: There are reports (and some controversy) about fare cards being used to assist in police investigations in other jurisdictions. However, if one is really paranoid, don’t carry a cell phone.

    As for Presto’s inability to compute fares correctly, why am I not surprised?

  41. TorontoStreetcars said:

    With regards to the 30 minute service midday on the Lakeshore line, GO Transit has been saying this for years — it’s time for them to either step up and implement it (good idea) or be honest and stop making a promise they obviously have no intention of keeping!

    No, no, this time they are really going to do it! They promised.

    By the way … I’m down in Port Credit regularly, and I’ve noticed that when trains cross the bridge over the Credit River there is this abominable banging noise. I can hear it from more than a kilometer away (say, down in the harbour or at my favourite area park). If the banging noise is rapid, I know without looking that the VIA train to Toronto is crossing the bridge, while a steady banging noise means that it is a Toronto-bound GO train. Westbound trains are not as noisy when crossing the bridge, and so far I have not seen or heard a freight train crossing either way.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: I won’t believe any Metrolinx promises until I see money in the provincial budget allocation for GO Transit to pay for them. This is a wish list, not a commitment, and only the Cabinet and Legislature can authorize the actual spending.

  42. Robert Wightman says:

    Calvin Henry-Cotnam says:

    December 17, 2012 at 9:51 am

    “In response to a comment I made about a posting by Ed, Robert Wightman wrote,

    “If you two don’t want big brother to know where you are or have been…

    “You two”?!? Read my response carefully and don’t lump me in with the “I don’t want others to know my business” crowd. I am of the opinion that the only people “important” (note the quotes) enough that someone out there cares about their movement are already being tracked by the media or paparazzi. We all are really not that important.

    Sorry Calvin, I didn’t mean to imply that you were personally paranoid but just that you were making a general comment as was I.

    The one advantage that will theoretically come from Presto is the ability to get accurate riding statistics, including origin-destination pairs and transfers and times of rides. If, and this is only a hypothetical if, it shows that everyone who comes in on a 501 from beyond Humber transfers to an Eastbound King car then might be smart to run Long Branch as a Branch of King instead of Queen. I am not saying that this is the case, just using it as an example.

    Steve: I am really getting tired of using planning data as an excuse to force every user to tap on, and possibly tap off, throughout their trips. Anyone who has a “pass” type of fare on their Presto card should not need to tap anywhere ever unless at an entry barrier to unlock the gate.

    Presto seems wedded to their “loyalty” scheme where equivalent-to-pass functionality comes from counting rides, and I think this is counterproductive.

  43. Kristian says:

    Steve said:

    “I am really getting tired of using planning data as an excuse to force every user to tap on, and possibly tap off, throughout their trips. Anyone who has a “pass” type of fare on their Presto card should not need to tap anywhere ever unless at an entry barrier to unlock the gate.

    Presto seems wedded to their “loyalty” scheme where equivalent-to-pass functionality comes from counting rides, and I think this is counterproductive.”

    Yes, it truly boggles the mind that we are moving from a system which doesn’t record data for any access point to one which MUST log EVERY access by EVERYONE at ALL TIMES, along with the associated additional costs to the provider and the rider. It’ll be like processing the equivalent transactions-per-second of the retail payment industry during the Christmas sales season at each and every daily rush hour. (Except that customer service disputes will be handled far from as gracefully… at least when your card fails and makes you late for work you can blame the Government — I’m most certain your employer will be sympathetic.)

    Steve: It’s ironic that even GO recognizes the problems of forced tap-outs by having people register their “regular” trip which the system assumes they are taking if they don’t tap out. The entire passenger flow of offloading platforms at Union depends on this feature, something that obviously does not apply in a more complex network.

    Bus systems in the 905 only tap-in because it’s a fixed time-based fare, not one linked to your destination.

  44. Steve wrote,

    Anyone who has a “pass” type of fare on their Presto card should not need to tap anywhere ever unless at an entry barrier to unlock the gate.

    I would agree with that if we go with a POP/all door entry procedure throughout the entire system.

    If we retain the pay-upon-entry procedure on buses, then a tap is a more efficient way of verifying fare, for both passes and transfers, than something that has to be taken out, displayed, and seen by the driver. With something that can be read by a machine that then generates an audible tone that informs the driver of validity or non-validity, a boarding line moves a little faster. At least, that is what I found in Minneapolis and Vancouver.

    Steve: I agree, but as we move to more all-door loading, including on the articulated buses, tap-ons could be a nuisance at the rear doors. Mind you, for locations with ground loading assistance, we would be in the same position as an operator — needing some verification that a Presto card was valid. A difficult call, made more complex depending on which fare structure we wind up with.

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