Thanks to an oversight on the security on the Metrolinx website, it was possible to view a report that was pulled from the agenda for this Friday’s meeting. (Thanks to one of my regular correspondents for spotting this.)
The report talks about integration of services between the TTC and other systems as well as a Metrolinx-GTAH pass. Because the report has been withdrawn it cannot be considered to be an authoritative Metrolinx statement, but it’s indicative of Metrolinx’ ham-fisted attitude to local systems including the TTC.
Updated: Comments on the report added.
Update 2: Tess Kalinowski writes about this issue in The Star.
Update 3: For the convenience of readers, the report which was pulled from the Metrolinx site is now available here.
John Barber’s scathing commentary on this report is online at the Globe and Mail.
This report proposes that Metrolinx embark on a takeover of fare integration and service co-ordination for cross-boundary operations. To that end, Queen’s Park would be asked to implement the necessary legislation to remove jurisdictional obstacles and to proclaim the section of the GTTA act empowering Metrolinx to implement a Farecard Division. The target for full GTAH-wide fare integration would be 2012.
Notable in many discussions of fare and service integration is the absence of GO Transit, even though the GTTA Act includes GO as part of a future integrated system. Nobody wants to mess with GO’s revenue stream, or to contribute “local” demand to what is seen as a regional service. Strangely, the same approach is not taken with respect to the TTC (see the Richmond Hill subway debate).
The report notes that between 1996 and 2006, transit trips to downtown Toronto from the 905 have increased while auto trips decreased. I venture that the vast majority of this effect is thanks to GO rail services, not to cross-boundary bus routes.
The two proposals in the report are that:
- Mississauga Transit’s 20 and 26 Burnhamthorpe routes, with some additional peak service, would replace the TTC’s 50 Burnhamthorpe bus, and
- Viva Orange would carry passengers in parallel with the TTC’s York U Express so that surplus Viva capacity could relieve overcrowding on the 196.
These two routes are the “low hanging fruit” of service integration because, for the most part, services between the 905 and 416 do not duplicate each other. Indeed, the TTC operates many routes across Steeles Avenue under contract to York Region.
Work has been underway at the staff level on some joint operation agreements, but much of this was on hold through late 2008 while labour negotiations were concluded by various agencies. However, “TTC senior management is not in favour of progressing any further”, and this currently precludes further consideration of joint operations. TTC’s concern lies with collective agreements about who has the right to carry which passengers.
I find it hard to understand how it is acceptable for York Region to contract with TTC to operate its buses (and its drivers) into YRT territory, but not for TTC to agree that Mississauga Transit (possibly under contract) could operate into Toronto. Whatever the impasse, a future issue for Metrolinx will be the inevitable consolidation of bargaining units among the regional agencies and the likely standardization to the highest common denominator of labour costs.
Other legal problems include provisions of the Public Vehicle Act and the City of Toronto Act, although neither of these is considered to be an impediment.
Although the two proposed corridors are easy pickings for the “save our tax dollars” crowd, the proposal is silent on the issue of fare integration. Metrolinx would like to take over administration of the GTA Weekly Pass, but this is hardly “integration”, only an administrative transfer. For cross-boundary riders, nothing would change at all, only the name on the pass (assuming that they bought one).
The biggest drawback, of course, is that the pass is useless on GO Transit because it is a completely separate fare structure. Yes, GO has “integrated” fares with the smaller 905 systems, but only as a way of reducing the demand for their parking lots. There is no TTC/GO integration or discount even though this is probably the single most important issue for GTAH fare policy.
One issue the Burnhamthorpe proposal appears to ignore is the effect of the new Kipling regional terminal on Mississauga’s route structure. Will any of their routes even come to Islington Station?
The report is rather vague about comparative costs of the current MT/TTC overlap versus a consolidated MT operation. Much calculation is to be done, some extra costs such as fare inspectors need to be added, and yet this calculation does not appear even pro forma in the report. The report notes that cost savings “should result”, but declines to show how.
Metrolinx makes one startling comment:
“It is not necessary to wait until the Presto fare card is fully implemented, as this is a fare policy issue and does not require a technological solution.”
Huzzah! Huzzah! We don’t need hundreds of millions in technology to integrate fares! But wait a moment, the issues on Burnhamthorpe and at York U are small change and don’t really address cross-boundary fare policy at all.
Metrolinx needs to get away from the chaff, the small operational issues, and concentrate on the big picture of revenue sources and sharing for the GTAH systems. We need to understand how new fare systems would affect the cost of commuting, and whether capital programs will consume so much of any new transit income that nothing will be left for service.