Caribana Cash Grab (Updated)

Update:  At the TTC meeting on June 18, the Caribana pass was approved at a cost of $18, the price of two Day passes.  Sanity prevails.

At this week’s TTC meeting, a report recommends that a special two-day Caribana pass be issued for August 2 and 3.  Great stuff!  Give the tourists a souvenir.  Simplify ticketing.

But wait.  The price will be $20, or $2 more than the cost of two Day Passes “to offset the cost of production”.   Are we really supposed to believe that it will cost $100,000 to produce the 50,000 passes the TTC expects to sell?

I have no objection to event-based transit passes for conventions and other gatherings, and the idea is certainly not new in Toronto.  Tourists are found money for the TTC, and the last thing we need is to put them in a situation where they pay more for their “special” pass.  

Collecting fares is part of the business of running the TTC.  Selling special passes simplifies TTC operations because visitors only need to buy one pass.  These can be sold through hotels, not just a handful of downtown subway stations.  Pass holders enter vehicles quickly rather than pulling together odd amounts of cash.  Service runs more smoothly, and all door loading is possible at major stops.  That quality of service is worth something, if only fewer delays and short turns.

Doesn’t this count for anything at the TTC?  Maybe the lesson they need is that of basic market forces — have a pile of unsold, overpriced passes on August 4.

The two-day pass should be sold at a discount relative to individual Day Passes.  Show our visitors that we welcome them on the TTC.

20 thoughts on “Caribana Cash Grab (Updated)

  1. If it is an individual pass, then yes it is overpriced, but it is going to be valid for families. In that case, it doesn’t look to be that bad of a deal.

    Steve: It’s a family pass, but you could buy two day passes (which work for families on weekends) for $18. Why charge the tourists extra?


  2. Any additional cost should come from the PR budget and/or the allocation the City gives Caribana.

    Unfortunately, as the TTC’s dalliances with merchandising and the low return on their advertising spaces have shown in the past, they’re not very good at making money except at the fare box but true innovators like Spacing can sell 60,000 buttons without TTC endorsement.


  3. If nothing else, there should be a discount for buying two days’ worth of transit up-front. $15 or $16 for a Caribana Weekend Pass might generate some sales to people who otherwise wouldn’t buy a day pass for both days.


  4. Given the decline in the number of tourists visiting the city due to border hassles and the high Canadian dollar and associated effects on the local economy that have been widely reported in the newspapers, I’m not convinced that nickel and dimeing visitors on TTC passes is a good way of encouraging tourists to become repeat customers and visit Toronto again.

    I thought David Miller and company were trying to sell Toronto as a destination? Not being cheap and nickel and dimeing the people who do visit might be a good place to start. An attraction like a historic streetcar line along the waterfront might be a good idea too, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s already been done, discontinued and followed a couple of years later by the then-recently rebuilt PCC cars being given away for pennies on the dollar fraction of the rebuild cost. Only in Toronto.


  5. Waitaminute… how does this square with the TTC’s own posted rates for convention passes? Says right there: 1,000+ passes for 2 days is $4.75/day.

    And they want to charge more than double this for Caribana? Why?

    Steve: The Caribana passes are based on the “family day pass” which is good for two adults and up to four children, while the convention passes are for one person. All the same, it would cost two conventioneers $9.50 for two 2-day passes. The kiddies, if any, are not worth another $10.50!

    I think that the TTC assumes that conventions will overbuy relative to what they actually use, but the impression it gives to anyone who knows about these things is that Caribana-goers are being ripped off.


  6. This is ridiculous; the TTC should be discounting passes to major events. Event specific advertising on the pass could cover the printing costs. I’m sure Red Stripe would pay to be on the back of a Caribana TTC pass. It encourages responsible drinking and targets people from the Caribbean!


  7. I suppose that the TTC figures that if the tourists will pay $2 for a 25 cent bottle of water or can of soda, charging them $18 instead of $16 is no big thing.

    What would be interesting is if someone bought the pass in advance and expected to use it for ALL of Caribana which, despite what many people think, is a two week long festival.

    Come to think of it, for the majority who believe that Caribana is just the long weekend, there are three days to that weekend. So why is the pass only good on two days?


  8. If there was improved service by a dedicated streetcar/bus lane up and down Bathurst St., maybe it would be worth it.


  9. Whatever happened to the environmental/social aspect of our city’s transit system? Wasn’t encouraging transit usage part of the TTC mandate at one point? The TTC has been cash poor for so long that the mind set is becoming permanent… even something as simple as a special pass for festival goers, a pass that will entice new riders out of their cars, comes down to whether or not it can add a bit of cash to the bottom line. Sadly the TTC report lists the price of producing the commemorative pass at only $10,000 or $0.20 for each of the 50,000 passes. Where did the $2 come from?

    I’m in agreement with everyone else on this one, a city agency should not be gouging tourists to the city! Maybe the TTC can be enticed to keep the pass priced at $20 but make it valide for three days to cover the weekend events.

    Having said all that, if the TTC can sort out the details, it would be great to see passes of this sort sold with event tickets on a regular basis – passes for the film festival, the tennis cup, the jazz festival, etc. What a great way to promote the TTC to new users.


  10. I just want to point this out: Tourists get ripped off EVERYWHERE.

    Anyways, how do they base the prices on passes (monthly/weekly)? Do you have any idea? I have an adult metropass which I get at ttc stations or my campus but if I had to pay cash fares, it would be $2.75 x 4 (home-work-home, home-work-home) almost every day.

    Steve: They started off with the existing Day Pass which is priced at four fares or $9 (4 times $2.25). Multiply by two for a two-day pass. Add $2. Stir well.


  11. If we’re only covering costs, then the markup on a 1-day pass should be the same as a two day.

    It occurs to me that the proposed pricing for both passes makes cash handling easier since change would only be bills rather than coins…

    Steve: Assuming that you concur with that sort of pricing, would you agree to have all sales taxes rounded up to the next dollar to make change simpler? Why don’t we just charge people more for everything?


  12. These Caribana pass are limited edition products, of course the TTC can charge more for them. The value of these passes are not just access to transportation, but also there is also a collection value to it as well. Maybe one day, it will be sold for more than what the TTC charges for on Ebay.

    Some people will buy these commerative passes just to collect. In that case, it is pure profit for the TTC. They should do this type of things more often. In Japan, there are limited edition Snoopy passes, passes that commemorate x years of service and so on. They are all sold for above the par value. People still line up for them. Very often, the passes are not even use.

    The Royal Canadian Mint does it and no one seem to complain. Why do people pay a 100% premium on first strike coins? A regular 1 troy oz gold maple leaf coin cost about $940. The first strike coin cost over $2000. It is the same 1 oz of gold, yet no one complains.

    Anyways, I wish the TTC would do this more often. It gives tourists something to buy and it also gives railfans something to look forward to too.

    Steve: When the Mint starts helping to run the transit system (rather than suing the City for using the penny in an ad campaign), then I will think of passes as premium cost memorabilia. Also, people buy the Mint’s offerings because they want to collect them. Visitors to Caribana just want to get where they are going.


  13. Wait a minute! We are all balking at the TTC and I am wondering if there is another “bad guy” lurking in the shadows…

    Something struck a chord in the back of my mind when I read what Gilbert May wrote, “Sadly the TTC report lists the price of producing the commemorative pass at only $10,000 or $0.20 for each of the 50,000 passes. Where did the $2 come from?”

    Steve mentioned that these passes would likely be sold by hotels, and I am wondering if that has anything to do with where the $2 cost is coming from.

    Forgive my cynicism about the hotels, but as a person who has volunteered at various Caribana functions since 1991, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding the mess and chaos that goes into pulling off this festival every year. I see the things that the public does not see: you only see media reports, and interviews with Caribana board members. You don’t see the third point of view that comes from the volunteers.

    Personally, the fiscal conservative in me believe, given what I have seen, that this festival could be pulled off without a dime of public money (except for garbage pick-up and policing on parade day) AND have funds left over for a scholarship or two. I won’t go into all the details of how this could be accomplished, but suffice it to say the hotels play a big part in all of this. These hotels cover their costs throughout the year and festivals in general, Caribana in particular, are the icing on their cake. If they even gave 5% of that icing, the festival would be close to operating in the black. Include restaurants and taxi firms, and they would be.

    What do the hotels give? Typically, not much more than a couple of free rooms over the long weekend so that Caribana board members and some other officials can stay downtown. I am close to someone who, though not on the board, had a fairly high responsibility task and received such a perk.

    Given all that, it would not surprise me if hotels wanted a commission for selling these passes.

    Steve: I’m not such a curmudgeon as you (maybe it’s just that I’m in a good mood tonight), but experience tells me that this is more a question of TTC stupidity than some sort of collusion with the hotel industry.


  14. During a recent visit to Dresden, Germany one of the many things that impressed me about the transit systems was that same-day transit use was INCLUDED in tickets for sporting events such as the Dresden pro hockey team and Bobsleigh World Championships (which involved an hour-long bus ride up into the mountains). Obviously the economic models are different for these European transit systems but in comparison it seems even more ridiculous for Caribana attendees to be charged a premium for a TTC event pass. If the city really cared about promoting transit use and reducing congestion, working out a deal to bundle TTC access with Leafs/Raptors/Caribana/concert tickets would be a useful step.


  15. I don’t recall the Pope visit, for which there was a pass the TTC did a special design for, causing this type of cash-grabbage, and because of that, I don’t buy the collector’s item bit. Also, the Japan reference isn’t true in all cases; many times special ticket designs are just limited edition but at regular cost; first come first served.

    Steve: The TTC got a special subsidy for the extra service and fare concessions for World Youth Days, and it’s therefore hard to make a direct comparison with Caribana.


  16. The TTC document indicates that the cost to produce these passes is less than $10,000 – or less than 20¢ each. Unless a regular day pass cost much less than 10¢ each to produce, the TTC does not have any extra costs on this project.


  17. San Francisco MUNI gets away with charging $5 for the cable cars, while the regular adult fare is $1.50, and transfers from other MUNI routes aren’t accepted on cable cars. This is all done knowing that tourits are the main customers, and they’re not likely to know that they are being gouged unless they have studied the fare card ahead of time. The locals know the $5 fare is a total gouge, but some unsuspecting tourists from out-of-town aren’t likely to know it. Likewise, out-of-town visitors would see the Caribana Pass for sale at hotels etc, and are probably not going to know that they could get a better deal on regular day passes, (unless they happen to read this blog!) They’ll see posters promoting the Caribana Pass and would just buy it to avoid the hassle of exact fare, etc. The visitors just want to get to the parade and will pay for the pass, just like they will pay $3 for the $1 bottle of water. Tourists get dinged no matter where you go.


  18. The RATP in Paris has a similar arrangement with their day passes.

    The ParisVisite pass is €8.50 for an adult and allows unlimited rides in zones 1-3 (most visitors only want zone 1). It’s mentioned on their English and French language websites.

    The Mobilis ticket is €7.50 for ulimited rides in zones 1-3 or €5.60 for zones 1-2. It’s mentioned on their French language website only.

    There are a discounts on attractions with the ParisVisite pass, but for most visitors the difference is €2.90.


  19. Robert: At least the 1 and 3 day Muni Passports are a relative bargain, and give unlimited cable car rides as well as regular Muni service. The 3-day pass I bought there was $16 in 2007 (now $18). Monthly passes also cover cable car rides.

    It is one thing to overcharge all tourists with a promoted “tourist pass” but this a one-time thing for Caribana. Will there be a Pride “Pass”, a TIFF “pass” and a Luminato “pass” – why just Caribana? Just doing this for Caribana makes one wonder why – because this is a more out-of-town (where many attendees come from the US) crowd than many other festivals and events?

    I have the Papal Visit pass, though I didn’t use the full worth. It was a nice collectable. It was a lower price than a regular day pass as well (I need to find it, but the price – I believe $4 or $5 – was a bargain).

    It should only be fair that the TTC charge $18. After all, there’s going to be many visitors who would not make the full use of the pass anyway.


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