The Mysterious GTA Pass [Updated]

[This piece has been updated to correct information about the tax deductibility of weekly passes.  Some comments in this thread will reflect the original version of the post that didn’t include take this into account in price comparisons.] 

Cynthia Cheng wrote to me recently:

I know plenty of people who don’t even realize that GTA passes exist and are paying two or more fares to get to and from work, school, etc. I am sure that if enough people know about it, then perhaps we’ll have monthly passes rather than weekly and perhaps more outlets would sell them. Do you know why this is?

A while ago, I had written about the demise of the GO/TTC Twin Pass thanks to GO-Transit’s refusal to pay its share of the $10-subsidy built into the pass.

There is, however, a GTA Pass that costs $43/week.  The only place it seems to be advertised in Toronto is on a pulldown on the TTC website for the various types of fares and passes.  It is not on the TTC fare card, nor is it on the VIVA farecard.

I had lots of time to contemplate this today while I languished in Don Mills Station waiting 22 minutes for the nominally 15-minute headway on the 190 Rocket to STC.  In vain did I search for any mention of the GTA pass on TTC or VIVA displays.

According to the web page, I can even buy one of these mystery passes at Don Mills Station.  The only problem is, I cannot do this in the bus loop, but at the collector’s booth which is somewhere else, I am sure, but not on the path I take from the Sheppard Subway train to the buses.  [In one of the comments below, directions to this booth were provided.]  I could also do this at STC station where the bus/RT interchange actually passes through the same space as the collector’s booth.

But would I want to buy this pass?  What does it offer me?  If I am a 10-trip-a-week person, my TTC fares at ticket rate would cost $21, compared with $30 for a TTC weekly pass.  That pass is tax deductible only if I buy 4 a month, and there is no bulk buy discount because, obviously, if I wanted that I would be in the Metropass Discount Program.

Meanwhile, over in Mississauga, I could pay $22 for 10 tickets or $23 for a weekly pass.  This means that a GTA pass equals the combined cost of 10 trips at ticket rate on the TTC and Mississauga Transit, and I can get a combined pass for the TTC and other GTA systems for only $13 more than a TTC-only weekly pass.

If we were pricing things the same way for monthly passes, the equivalent cost would be $143 assuming no discount for bulk purchase, but eligible for a tax refund of roughly $21 for a net cost of $122.

As things stand, I can pay $172 for four weeks’ worth of GTA passes, or buy a monthly pass for both systems.  The after-tax cost of the weekly passes is $146.20.  This is cheaper than buying monthly passes for the TTC and Mississauga Transit separately, about $166 net of the tax rebate, or $159 if I buy TTC passes on the discount program.

The situation is comparable for other GTA systems combined with the TTC.

This is a good example of how fare structures can be bastardized depending on what one is trying to achieve, not to mention the marketing issue that this is an almost unknown type of fare.  Given the discount, I’m not surprised they hide it!

Integrating fare systems where there are existing deep discounts for certain types of usage will be a real challenge.  Once we eliminate the artificial barrier between the 416 and 905, what should the fare be?  What should passes cost?