Passes, Smart Cards, Fare Zones and the GTTA

I received the following note from Miroslav Glavic:

I am reading Metropass Triumphs! and I have a question or two, and a few more…

I personally think there should be ONE transit agency for the GTAH (up to Barrie, then east to Oshawa and west to Hamilton).

Smart cards are nice, I love my metropass, when I want to go to SQ1 (I live in Scarborough), I have to get out my metropass (which I love and have been getting for years now), then get out the change and pay.  One card would be nice, I go to Seneca College, Seneca@York campus, I can use my ONE CARD (ID card) in all of their campuses, take out book in all the campuses libraries and so forth.  Something like that for the GTAH would be nice.

Now to the non-universal fares…

Let’s say we go to the Toronto Zoo and after a day of visiting the animals (my favourite is the Gorillas, what’s yours?), I go to Fairview Mall, you go to the airport, we both put [in] $2.75.  Do you think it’s fair that it is the same fare?

In London, I went from Heathrow station to Charing Cross (via Picadilly Circus station), I went through most of their fare areas).

What if you went from Don Mills Station to Victoria Park Avenue/Sheppard?  Do you think it is fair to pay $2.75 to go 5 stops? (or 1 direct stop with the 190).  You can go from Don Mills Station to anywhere in the city for $2.75.

What if the TTC had fare zones? (yes it would get people a while to get adjusted), by the way London has a monthly pass as well.

Let’s go back to the example about the Zoo, what if to Fairview Mall it was $3.00 then to the airport was $6.00?.

The way it works in London is that you put the ticket/card (like a smaller metropass, made out of paper/cardboard material), and out it comes from the other side, imagine like the reader for metropasses, then when you get out from your end station you do the same, I guess it will deny you exit or something like that.  I am sure there is a way to implement this to use on buses and streetcars.

The TTC would have get a lot more money which it needs.

I am using cash fares for my examples, but there would still be one price for metropasses.

Steve:  I don’t go to the Zoo, but have dropped in on the Royal Winter Fair where my favourites are the swine.

The use of cash fares skews the argument badly.  One huge advantage of the Metropass is that people don’t pay individually for each trip they take.  Saying that it’s unfair that a ride two stops on the subway costs the same as a ride to the airport misses the point that with a pass, the fare is not charged for either trip, but for transit usage in general.  One big reason I posted Metropass Triumphs! is that we now have more than half of TTC rides taken by people who don’t have to think about reaching into their pocket for change or resenting the cost of individual trips.

Turning to Zone Fares, Toronto had them until 1972 when they were eliminated by the suburban members of Metro Council.  Their argument was that suburban taxes paid to support the TTC, and suburban riders should pay the same amount as their city counterparts.  Any attempt to re-introduce zones, at least within the 416, would meet with strong opposition and would, I feel, be counterproductive.  With a flat fare Metropass, we make the system appealing wherever one is travelling, and it is simple to administer.  Zones just complicate things and undo some of the benefits of the flat fare. 

The claim that the TTC would get much more revenue means that, one way or another, someone pays more for their trip.  On a zone basis, long trips are penalized, and yet it is these very trips that are the most difficult to attract to transit.  How would the good folks of Vaughan or the students at York U feel if we told them that their brand new subway was going to be in Zone 2 or 3, and that it would cost extra to come downtown?  “We spend billions to build this thing and now you want us to pay an extra fare?”

I am already on record as opposing zone fares even if we extend the fare structure to the entire GTA.  Yes, that will cost money, but it will save us a fortune on expensive fare collection technology and on endless squabbling about where the fare boundaries should be.  The option of a premium fare for GO Transit still remains because it is a fundamentally different class of service, but at least the same pass would be valid on local systems at both ends of the trip.

The current estimate of implementation costs for the TTC is in the range of $140-million, with an ongoing maintenance and support cost of $10-million or more for a the GTA Smart Card system.  Do we really need to spend this much money to replace a system that works today?

What, exactly, is the supposed benefit of a Smart Card?  If the purpose is to allow us to divvy up fare revenue among GTA agencies, isn’t that a bureaucratic exercise, a matter of turf protection, rather than of providing good transit service?  I am not advocating elimination of local transit operators, but must ask if there were already one big transit system, would concerns about revenue sharing and division even exist as a justification for Smart Cards?