The TTC has published a lengthy report on the subject of Smart Cards. I am not going to attempt to precis the material here, but the “bottom line” is that, yes, Smart Cards will work, but are we willing to pay the price for what they will give us?
The conclusion observes:
The business case demonstrates that a smartcard system will have definite benefits for customers (convenience), decision-makers (flexibility in policy and pricing), and employees (safety and security). The analysis estimates that the cost for a TTC owned and operated smartcard system is between $250M to $260M in capital, and $11M to $12M in additional operating expenses annually. The business case analysis further shows that while the current TTC fare system does have limitations, it is simple to understand and operate, and is relatively cost efficient and reliable. From a state-of-good repair perspective, the current fare system does not need to be replaced.
There is an interesting table in Appendix H showing the capital cost of various new Smart Card systems on large transit properties expressed per weekday boarding. The cost cited for Toronto is cheap compared with Boston, Chicago or New York. Whether this indicates we will do things better and at less cost, or that there is more headroom for overruns, only time will tell. The time to implement a system on the TTC is projected at six years.
There are without question benefits that would come with Smart Cards. However, we must decide whether they are worth the investment. Recent comments at the TTC minimize costs with a shrug “it’s only about $40-million a year”.
As I have said so often, remember this the next time the TTC says that they cannot afford more bus service, or Council balks at the rising cost of transit subsidies.
Amazing, isn’t it, how we have money for the toys, but not for the things we really need.