Fare By Distance? Not When It Suits GO (Updated)

Today, GO Transit implements a 25-cent across the board increase in all fares.  Writing in the Star, Tess Kalinowski reports displeasure among commuters who have been slapped with higher relative increases for short trips than for long ones.

This isn’t the first time GO increased fares disproportionately, but the cumulative effect sets a pattern.

One commuter who travels from Old Cummer to Union complained that:

… the flat-fare hike means riders who live in Toronto are subsidizing passengers travelling from places such as Hamilton and Barrie.

“Over the last five years, I’ve seen my fares go up 27 per cent. Somebody from Barrie has seen their rates go up 9 per cent, Oshawa 14 per cent, Hamilton 10 per cent,” he said.

In response, GO replies that many costs have nothing to do with how far someone travels:

Transit officials defended the increase, saying many of the system’s costs, such as snow removal, station improvements and communications, are fixed and have nothing to do with distance. They also worry about discouraging riders from farther afield by pricing them out of the system.

Strange, that argument.  It’s precisely the one for which I, among others, have been villified when suggesting a flat (or at least flatter) GTA-wide fare policy.  Long distance riders are subsidised with free parking, new make-work garage building, and proportionately lower fares relative to the resources they consume.  Why?  Because we don’t want them driving to and from work.  The costs — both physical to provide and maintain infrastructure, and social to consume so much land with unproductive roadways and a low-density lifestyle — are greater than what it takes to subsidise their commute by GO.

As regulars here know, I have a big problem with parking construction as an alternative to improved local feeder bus services.  This issue will only grow as GO becomes less of a peak period carrier and more of an all day regional rapid transit system.  That’s one of the many areas Metrolinx, in its less than infinite wisdom, chose to ignore.  We won’t have “Mobility Hubs” complete with soaring interiors and palm trees as Metrolinx envisions if stations are surrounded by parking garages, and those who cannot afford to dedicate a car to all-day storage at a GO lot will still be isolated from regional transit services.

Finally, those who advocate for fare-by-distance as a “benefit” of the “Presto!” card (or whatever technology is eventually adopted) should compare notes with the folks at GO for whom high costs for long trips are a very bad idea indeed.  Queen’s Park and its agencies don’t seem to have a consistent view of how we should price transit.  There is no perfect system, and all of them will distribute benefits and rewards inequitably.

Metrolinx could do everyone a big favour by looking at the impact of various options for fare structures, including the wider issues of local service funding and the broad social value of mobility for everyone.  Will they will have the fortitude to take on this issue (and revenue tools in general) rather than studying only infrastructure we may never be able to afford to build and operate?

Update 1, March 14 at 3:50 pm:  Andrew Salmons of Milton has created an online petition requesting not only a reversal of today’s increase, but a lowering of GO’s cost recovery ratio so that fares could be reduced.

31 thoughts on “Fare By Distance? Not When It Suits GO (Updated)

  1. Fare by distance systems, such as GO, tend to be zone-based with a flat base fare plus zone surcharges. The problem, as highlighted here, is that it is so very easy to simply increase the base fare that applies to everyone’s fare that results in shorter distance users paying greater increases.

    Not only do the longer distance riders benefit from lower percentage increases and lots of free parking, they also benefit from a better choice of seat on the train!

    Friday morning on the Jim Richards show on CFRB, the topic of introducing zone fares within the TTC’s operations was discussed. I managed to call in and bring up the fact that there is a fine balancing act between trying to promote transit use for the longer-distance commuters, while trying to not make the short-distance users feel they are subsidizing the others.

    This extends across the GTA. While I am sure that the TTC user who travels from Queen and Dufferin to Queen and Yonge feels their $2.75 is subsidizing the user who travels from Markham and Sheppard to Queen and Yonge for the same $2.75, how does this make that second commuter’s neighbour who travels a similar distance as the first commuter, but does so from Markham and Sheppard to Markham and 14th Avenue for a cost of $6.00?!?

    I’m not sure what the best fare system is, but I have outlined a possible system on my website at http://lrt.daxack.ca (click on the green circle). A flatter system with small increments for crossing zones is needed. Though a slightly higher base fare would be likely, shorter distance users could benefit from a “city saver” fare that has some restrictions on it (such as no zone-crossing upgradability and a shorter expiry time).

    Whatever the optimal system is, we don’t have it today, and cannot seriously start thinking of smart-card technology until we move to it first.


  2. I think that a real impediment to cross-border travel is the rigid fare zone barriers. Within systems like YRT, there is a 2-4km threshold one must pass through in order to be charged an extra fare, whereas there is no extra fare charged transferring between systems like Mississauga and Brampton. In Toronto, if I want to meet my friends at the Promenade (only 2km north of Steeles, and easily accessible by transit from my house) I have to pay an extra $3.00 each way even though I have a Metropass.


  3. It would be nice GO fares integrated with TTC fares so that, for instance, that I could take the GO from Union to Exhibition for the same fare as taking the streetcar. Many european systems have similar structures. Doesn’t Durham region also have something like this?

    Steve: There are subsidised GO/local joint fares that GO pays for. More of this, and more local service especially off peak is badly needed to make this type of travel widely attractive.


  4. Charge+fare by distance – a difficult concept for anyone who’s never taken a taxi. I also have no problem with GO having a higher fare recovery ratio, since it’s a system that by its nature supports urban sprawl.

    Steve: The difference with taxis is that people make a choice to take them, but don’t depend on them (or probably could not afford to) for day-to-day travel. I take taxis regularly, and indeed almost did tonight after languishing for some time awaiting a 510 down on Queen’s Quay. Base fare plus distance makes perfect sense in this case, but I would almost certainly never take a taxi from downtown to the suburbs except in the middle of the night when there is no other option.

    The problem I have with fare by distance advocates for the GTA is that their proposals would almost inevitably mean higher fares for existing TTC riders in the outer 416. This is counterproductive.


  5. I don’t think this is really feasible unless GO trains within the city become far more frequent. In Paris, the RER network is used as an alternate subway system because the trains come extremely frequently within city limits, where up to four or five regional destination branches travel a common subway route that is much faster than the regular system.

    Steve: Some of the Metrolinx plans call for GO frequencies of 15 minutes or better on an all day basis. The implications of this both for fare structures and the network role of GO have not really been examined in detail.


  6. Steve, it seems like there’s a bit of a contradiction here. You often point to GO as the agency that should be handling trips that others want to handle by extending subways everywhere (e.g. Richmond Hill). That’s great, but unless GO gets enough of a subsidy boost to keep all trips under $4 (seems unlikely), it seems you’d need fare-by-distance to make such a scenario work. I don’t see how GO fares for Union to Exhibition, Long Branch, or Richmond Hill can be in the same cost ballpark as Union to Hamilton without either bankrupting the system or being too expensive to be a viable alternative to the TTC.

    Steve: It’s the “enough of a subsidy” part that is important here. We are within a decade going to have a situation where GO is providing frequent all day service in many corridors, and the subway is going well outside of the 416. Some premium for express service is probably justified, but the more GO starts looking like a surface rapid transit line, the harder it will be to reconcile the fare structure. This will get especially messy if there is a GTAH-wide fare integration of local services.

    GO (and Queen’s Park and Metrolinx) cannot keep ignoring the implications of converging roles for all of the formerly separate transit operations.


  7. Hi Steve:-

    I guess it all depends on the Transit Sytem that one is transferring to as to how inexpensive or expensive it may be to cross boundaries. In Oshawa, I was pleasantly surprised when I boarded a city bus after alighting from a GO Train, dropped a loonie into the fare box, asked the operator how much the fare is so I could pay the rest and discovered from him that I’d put in more than I shouild have already. I think the fare should have been 50 cents, or some other rapper fare like that.

    Is this right? Should Oshawa be doing this if the great and dense city of York Region won’t. Well I guess Oshawa just doesn’t know that they should be following in the big Burgs footsteps and not going their own way. Or is it that they’ve been able to gain a subsidy from the province that no one else has been able to tap into? What gives? Since I have almost no need to travel into the northern hinterlands I guess I’ve discovered the “Golden Area’ of transit, along the lakeshore. Me Lucky!!

    Do I agree that Oshawa should be doing this? Sure do, if in philosophy and not in what’s really happening. For if this gets people from their homes and onto the GO without the need to congest the roads with their guzzelers, wow. But the reality was that a 1/4 full Go train saw about five people get on the bus. Oh well that’s four fewer vehicles. It’s a beginning.

    Dennis Rankin, the City dweller.


  8. I am afraid that I have to mainly, not totally agree with GO on this. Since people want frequent service with a seat most of the time GO has to haul your empty seat all the way to the end of the line and back even if you get on at Old Cummer. If you don’t like the extra fare then take the Cummer Bus to Finch and take the subway downtown. If it is not fast enough for you then you are paying a premium fare to get an express service. Since 95% of the GO train passengers use Union I believe that there should be a surcharge for anyone who uses Union or one of the inner Toronto Stations, Bloor, Mimico, Danforth, Cummer and Scarborough. You should pay the premium because your seat has to go to the end of the line even if you don’t.

    If you travel from Brampton to Weston like my daughter used to do then that seat is reusable by someone who gets on at Weston to travel downtown. I think that it would be more equitable if GO did not put the $0.25 increase on people who exited before those stops or who travelled in the reverse peak direction. You have to realize that if you only travel 1/3 of the distance that the cost to haul you is more 1/3 that of someone who goes to the end of the line; in reality it is probably the same since the extra cost to carry your mass is almost the same as it is for someone travelling from the end. If people want a true fare by distance then GO should run one or two trains in each morning and out each afternoon to each station so that they don’t have to haul every seat o the end of the line; but that would mean you would have a less convenient service, so you need to make up your mind about what kind of service you want, cheap or convenient. I believe that GO should have a zone system rather than the so called fare by distance service with the inner zone costing as much as three or four of the outer zones to reflect the true cost of providing your seat.

    Steve: As I have said before, fares and subsidies don’t exist just to cover costs, but to advance the larger goal of making public transportation a viable alternative to driving. If we made people who want subways into the 905 pay the full cost, including capital, of what we are building, they would have to pay a fortune.


  9. Hopefully the TTC doesn’t adopt this zone fare structure. I am from Vancouver, that is where I learned to appreciate public transit, they have the zone fare system in place. When I moved to Toronto a few years ago I was amazed that I could get from the outer reaches of Scarbourough, near Meadovale, where I first lived to downtown. I don’t know about GO, but I think the TTC is helping increase transit use and ridership by having this flat fare system.


  10. Umm, the only way to “lower the cost recovery ratio” is for the government to increase subsidy. Not likely to happen. Governments love to make one time expenditures to buy or build things, but they avoid recurring expenditures to operate them like the plague.


  11. Nausea sets in when I see people like Mr. Salmons who spend some time to get an online petition going and then will become some sort of go-to person for the media whenever they need a sound bite to criticize GO Transit.

    The other woman (the name escapes me now) who complained a couple of years back was in the lovely Metro once again this past week condemning GO. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but clearly she, Mr. Salmons and much of the media don’t really get the big picture – mainly that there are complexities involved when using (sharing) rail infrastructure that doesn’t belong to you.

    Unfortunately the media does a poor service to the general public who eat this up and GO will end up getting a bad rap in the end as a result.

    Steve: There are two intertwined issues here. First, fare policy has nothing to do with the railways, except to the extent that they try to get as much ffor use of their tracks as possible. However, a related problem is the degree to which GO builds new tracks, and, as we learned for one cock up this winter, the fact that they are actually responsible for some of it.

    GO needs to be held to account for service reliability, and for springing a fare announcement with zero notice or debate. If the TTC tried the same thing, all of the anti-Millerites would be denouncing him on the front pages of every newspaper. Even I, a supporter, would be extremely upset as this is no way to give riders or the public in general any sense that they matter to GO’s decision making.

    The City of Toronto Councillors who sit on GO’s Board have some explaining to do.


  12. Thank you for adding to this debate. I complained to GO in writing about this, even though (thankfully) I no longer rely on GO after moving from Brampton.

    The whole implementation of this fare hike was a slap in the face to the riders who continue to deal with the frankly unreliable service GO provides (I still get GO e-alerts) – with less than 24 hours notice of the board’s approval, which is unusual. Was that to minimize attention by doing it on the Friday afternoon before March Break? The 25 cent fare increase is also higher than usual, but also well above inflation contrary to their claims.

    I also keep noting that GO has never fixed the problems with its supposed “fare by distance” model – did you know, because GO never fixed the zone for York University, that Bramalea to York U is the same fare as Square One to York, even though that’s twice the distance? Or that Union-Brampton is more expensive than Aurora-Union, though it is closer? (You might not like that one, Robert Wightman!)

    This is why I think GO really should start charging a nominal fee for parking, even if it $2 a day or $25 a month, and reduce fares accordingly. The TTC got away with eliminating Metropass parking (though I think a compromise, such as a parking/premium express Metropass would have been a better idea). They claim adding parking and maintenance of that parking is rationale for increasing their fares. I’ve never parked at a GO lot, save the odd occasion I parked at Bramalea during off-peak times when I had the family car and a later class downtown. I was subsidizing everyone else’s parking. When I took the Georgetown line, I’d see lots of people walk (gasp!) from Weston and Brampton in the evening.

    At least Vancouver’s expensive West Coast Express includes the local transit fare home on Translink, and AMT in Montreal does have TRAM (TRain, Autobus, Metro) passes that give rides on STM and the local transit authorities as well.

    This reminds me of when Gordon Chong called the shots on GO – his exact words at one time, when defending the end of student discounts, was “transit is not a social service.” I really want GO to get past that old mindset of being a luxury park-and-ride service – and there have been some promising steps before the parking lot announcement and this public relations fiasco.

    Is there hope that GO can realistically morph into a real regional rail system as planned?


  13. Steve said: As I have said before, fares and subsidies don’t exist just to cover costs, but to advance the larger goal of making public transportation a viable alternative to driving.

    Steve, you should tell that to politicians because I don’t think they believe that at all. In the 905 local transit has been priced to the point that the only people who would use it are those who have to. For the majority who already own a car, leaving the car at home and taking transit makes no economic sense.

    Sometimes I think politicians don’t want transit to attract more riders because it will cost more in subsidy.

    Steve: And we won’t mention how certain regions expect to get subway service subsidised by the City of Toronto’s riders. It will be intriguing to see just how much service York Region provides once they have two subways plus improved GO service to contend with. Of course, they may be counting on a rigged Presto! fare scheme to relieve them of the true cost.


  14. I disagree with the zone system as-is, because of the arbitrary boundary element.

    While it is impossible to have a system excluding that element without an overhaul of the fare collection equipment across the region and include a tap-out component, it does provide the function of equitable treatment of all riders. For example, if each stop has it’s own radius, a ticket from Woodbine to Pape would be one price/”zone”, while Greenwood to Broadview would be the same price, but a completely different “zone” because each station has its own “zone” radiating out from it. It’s effectively charging by real distance, not arbitrarily drawn boundaries on a map. A pass could be bought where it is based on a “home” station and a set distance (presumably the distance to get to work) and then allow travel in any direction for that distance from the “home” station. Upon tap-out, if beyond the distance set on the pass, it just charges the difference for a single trip.

    Tap-out would require a huge cultural shift, which is a big problem with implementing such a system, unless the doorways on all vehicles (or faregates in the subway) detect it automatically, without the any effort from the rider.

    I don’t believe the flat-fare system as-is is fiscally sustainable, especially with 905 subways. The TTC used to charge zone-fares and turned a profit back then. I don’t agree with the old system because it also used arbitrary boundaries, but an equitable system would be worth looking at. Yes, outer-416ers would be paying more to get into the core, but why should we assume they’re all bound for the core – many are, but many are not, too. The same should apply for travel into the 905: distance fare only, no municipal-boundary surcharge.


  15. I find this problem to be double edged because there are arguments for a true fare by distance and the system that GO is implementing now. For the GO train service I believe that there are three parts that need to be costed out:

    – a) Those that are fixed such as the cost of the stations that you are using and the cost of the vehicle at the time that you are using it.

    – b) Those that are distance dependent such as the cost to actually pay for the excess fuel to haul you, these are not very high if you check out the fuel cost per ton mile for trains, and the portion or the route that you actually use.

    – c) The incremental costs of providing the equipment and crew for your train. If you travel in the peak period then that equipment must be purchased and the crew paid for. There are not many people who are willing to work two hours from 6:00 to 8:00 and then two hours from 17:00 to 19:00 for only four hours of pay.

    If we could get a true break down of each of these costs then I believe that we would find out the present system is not that unfair or is that unfare?

    The fixed costs are those of providing your station, Union Station for 95% of the train riders, and the peak equipment needed. One of the costs is the providing of a parking space that most riders feel is their right. The cost of providing this spot increases the closer that you get to Union so maybe there should be a negative distance coefficient for this. You pay more the shorter distance that you travel. While I am in favour of having commuters pay for a parking spot I realize that it is going to create a huge outcry. I spent the past few days driving to some of the GO stations and there are many that do not have a usable transit service to get them to the GO train. If they cannot drive and park then they will not use the system. Last year when I checked out Mount Pleasant the parking lot was used at about 60% of capacity. Last week it was at 90% so the system is proving popular. This station has 11 bus bays in it so maybe it will be a major transit hub and hopefully more people will connect by bus. I believe that GO should be proving a subsidy to passengers who connect by public transit similar to what they pay for subsidizing the parking but as this is an operating versus a capital cost problem it will not happen easily.

    I often see the early afternoon train that arrives at Brampton around 15:30 and it usually has more than 400 people on it most of whom do not get into a parked car. Should these people not get a break on their fare for not being in the peak period and not using a precious parking spot? This is a complex problem that needs to be addressed and with a fare card could be but we have to be careful for we may get what we wish for and its not going to be what we really wanted. Costing is a complex problem that needs to take into consideration many factors and not just distance travelled.

    Sean Marshall Says:

    “Or that Union-Brampton is more expensive than Aurora-Union, though it is closer? (You might not like that one, Robert Wightman!)” Actually as I can get downtown in 35 minutes versus 51 from Aurora and have a better choice of travel times I am willing to pay it. This results I believe from the Old Gray Coach days of drawing concentric circles around downtown Toronto and seeing which one you started in and which one you ended in and not taking the alignment of your route into consideration. Since both of these trips end at Union I can live with it. Should you be penalized because the Grand Trunk or Canadian Northern chose a circuitous rout out of Toronto?

    The system ain’t perfect but until we get a fare card or some other method of integrating fares it is a decent, not great but decent, compromise for the times. Remember that when I use GO I walk to the Brampton Station, do not use a precious parking spot nor do I require a local transit subsidy. Maybe one day I will drive over to meet the first train, park in the best parking spot and go get breakfast. I don’t think there is any sign that says I have to use GO transit just because I parked there.


  16. Don’t forget that the whole purpose of GO services is to get people to downtown Toronto, plain and simple. While they do over all day service on the Lakeshore Line, and limited non-rush hour service on part of the Georgetown Line, rush hour services goes into Union Station in the AM and out of Union Station in the PM. Short distance travel inside the City of Toronto is primarily the TTC’s concern.

    I agree that the fare structure could be better, but if costs go up too much for long distance travellers you will see people going back to driving.


  17. We need to increase the government subsidy first, and then lower the fares.

    We cannot do the latter in hopes the former will follow unless we want to see what happened to the TTC in 1996 in a modern context.


  18. I fail to see what the issue is. Most transportation systems charge more to go further. However, there are fixed costs associated with terminal and station operations that mean that longer trips are proportionally lest costly per distance. When capital is added in, this effect us even greater: consider the interest on the cost of upgrading Union Station.

    There is no way to perfectly cost out a passenger trip – and there are certainly far greater disparities in terms of regular travellers and occasional; and between adult and student. The occasional travellers are hence subsidizing the everyday ones. Is it ‘fair’? How many angels are on the head of a pin?

    Steve: The issue here is that GO has been implementing flat fare increases with the effect that the cumulative percentage increase for short trips is higher than for long ones.


  19. Robert:

    Aurora is farther to Union than Brampton both by train and even as the crow flies. (From Front and Bay to Wellington and Yonge in Aurora is 51.7 kilometres; from Front and Bay to Queen and Main in Brampton is 40.4 kilometres – the fare discrepancy has nothing to do with rail alignments.) My complaint was that GO can’t even get fare by distance right, and there’s no better example than the 407 Route to York University. GO originally had York in Zone 05 – the same as York Mills/Yorkdale, but gave it Zone 19 later, but never adjusted the fares accordingly, resulting in strange results as Bramalea commuters overcharged compared to Square One passengers.

    I believe two years ago, GO adjusted the fares slightly downward at some Lakeshore East stations to adjust for historical discrepancies, so they can do it. They just choose not to for Brampton.


  20. I heard a snippet of Andrew Salmons on 680 “News” this morning. The thing I find ironic about his petition is that he’s coming in from Milton, which is one of the more distant (higher-fare) stations, meaning that the impact of the fare increase is proportionally less. He sees a 3.2% fare increase; riders boarding at, say, Mimico are experiencing a 6.6% fare increase.

    I wonder how much of this increase is due to the costs involved in building and maintaining new parking structures. I agree with Sean — it is time for GO to start looking at detaching parking fees from regular fares. They can be used not only to financially support existing and new parking facilities, but as a “carrot/stick” approach to try and more evenly distribute parking from over-capacity stations to stations that are less popular and have vacant spaces, or to alternate access modes.


  21. Dennis Rankin: My understanding with regard to local transit ‘co-fares’ (where you travel more cheaply on local transit if you’ve used a train) is that GO provides that difference to the local operator to reduce the number of people who drive to the station. GO should really charge for parking. Parking spaces cost money to maintain (snow removal etc.), and I’m left wondering why non-car users should subsidise car users.

    Also, I think GO should aim to raise its farebox recovery ratio to over 100% (i.e., be profitable), and then use the money for capital improvements.

    Fare changes should be percentage based, not flat, and happy once a year on a pre-set date. (Start of the fiscal year seems sensible to me).


  22. Karl Junkin wrote, “Tap-out would require a huge cultural shift, …”

    I agree. One of the benefits of my fare integration plan at http://lrt.daxack.ca is that, with the exception of GO Transit, a tap-out would not be needed. Implementing tap-out on GO is not the hardest thing in the world to do, but it would be a bit like a return to the days when you had a two-part ticket and the second part had to be deposited upon exit.

    While on the surface, my plan sounds like tap-out would be needed, it is unlikely that any routes would operate through three zones (which is why it would be needed for GO). Theoretically, someone with a fare paid to one zone should pay the upgrade when entering the second zone, but in the interest of making this easy to implement and use, it wouldn’t have to be strictly enforced except when the passenger needs to transfer to another vehicle in the new zone.


  23. Karl Junkin wrote, “Tap-out would require a huge cultural shift, …”

    Which is why the Presto card is planend to have a ‘default’ journey for commuters. If you tap in at usual station, the system will assume you are making your usual trip, and you don’t have to tap out. All the systems I’ve come across that require you to tap out will charge you make ths most expensive journey possible if you don’t. For GO Trains/buses, that would probably be changed to traveling to the end of the line. (Given that something like 97% of journeys involve Toronto Union, that seems sensible).

    Steve: Sounds great with GO’s existing demand pattern, but if you look 20 years down the road and see GO running frequent all-day service on (at least) Lake Shore, Georgetown and Richmond Hill, assumptions about commuting patterns could fall apart.


  24. Several people have discussed charging people for parking. The truth is that GO does charge for several reserved parking spaces. They seem to be adding the number of reserved parking spaces at Long Branch – they now have a lot of reserved parking spaces. These reserved parking spots are paid for.

    Also, as others have said, there are two types of costs – fixed and variable. Fixed costs are paid for regardless of how much revenue GO brings in. Variable costs increase as revenue increases. In the case of GO, fixed costs are the costs of maintaining the stations and other equipment. Variable costs are fuel costs and the costs of staffing trains. Staffing costs are variable to the number of hours a station is open and how busy it is.

    The other factor is property tax. Unless GO is exempt from property tax (I am not sure about that), then the cost in property taxes for stations is another factor. Property taxes are generally less outside of Toronto, and increase the closer to downtown the stations are.

    I agree that increases should be in percentages, not dollar amounts. But also recall that at some point people might find it cheaper to drive then to take GO, thus meaning less passengers and less revenue.

    Steve: What GO should be selling is speed and convenience. Once they have frequent all-day service on many lines, they cannot possibly afford to build garages to store everyone’s car. However, neither GO no the local transit operators seem willing to grasp this problem because it will require substantial improvement in local transit services.


  25. re: The issue here is that GO has been implementing flat fare increases with the effect that the cumulative percentage increase for short trips is higher than for long ones.

    True – but it may well be that this corrects distortions in the existing pricing.

    Steve: If so, then GO should publish details of how the existing fares are inequitable and how they plan to converge on a better system. This would be an opportunity to make a better story out of what, otherwise, consists of GO getting all sorts of criticism for an increase almost without notice.


  26. First off, subsidies are a very complex issue to tackle. What has not been mentioned is that drivers subsidize transit via gas tax. Our nation is based on subsidization for various services, and for the most part it is what makes our country great. I have a problem with it when one party is paying through the nose for inferior service, while others are getting more than they deserve for far less. For example, as mentioned earlier one would only take York Region Transit unless they have to. The fare is expensive and increases every year, and the quality of service is a joke. Meanwhile YRT service to GO is efficient, and the fare is affordable and has been frozen for years. This is where I have a problem since the majority of GO users are well off and can afford to pay their way more than those who are forced to rely on YRT service.

    As for regional fare boundaries, due to the complex design and commuting patterns of the GTA, this problem cannot be solved in a single blog thread. I do think whatever is chosen it should be consistent across the region. Example of how this is not practiced is that every GTA transit operator charges different fares or that a Viva ride between two zones costs an extra dollar, but to cross into “Toronto Zone” costs an extra $2.75.


  27. Steve wrote:

    What GO should be selling is speed and convenience. Once they have frequent all-day service on many lines, they cannot possibly afford to build garages to store everyone’s car. However, neither GO no the local transit operators seem willing to grasp this problem because it will require substantial improvement in local transit services.

    At the same time, if the connecting services are not fast and convenient at as well then people will want to take their cars to the GO station. Metrolinx needs to step up with some way of dealing with this. But I still think it goes back to the “get people to Union in the morning and home at night” theory. Until Metrolinx, GO Transit, and the local transit companies realize that this is the 21st Century and the things have changed, the same old theories will apply.

    The solution should be simple, but it will not come end up that way.


  28. One thing that might be worth considering is fare-by-distance but influenced by service – if a line like Lakeshore E/W and likely Milton is getting all day two way service (and likely has had substantial capex invested to do so) it might be seen as fair to charge a bit more for the same journey as say the Richmond Hill line which is largely untouched, where the lower frequency and limited service window of the train service means commuters are more governed by the possibility of missing the last train.

    With tap-on/off there might also be the possibility of offering “cashback discounts” on the listed fare to encourage counterflow services or other offpeak ridership. With per-ride tickets this would be impractical without creating new forms of fare media.

    Steve: I think we can assume that per-ride tickets will vanish. My overall concern is that fare collection not turn into a gigantic technology project creating an overburden of cost on transit systems. There are major policy issues about revenue distribution and regional transit funding that must be answered first. Otherwise, all we will do is collect the same inequitable fares with very expensive machinery.


  29. Sean:

    You are right I pay $0.10 per trip more but I believe that I have better service than the Bradford line and compared to what I make now it is a bargain compared to what I paid in the early ‘70’s with what I earned then. But you are right there should be some form of equity for equal fare for equal distances.

    Regarding “tapping out”, I believe in London that if you don’t tap when they want you to tap then you end up paying a higher fare. I don’t think that our commuters are too dense to learn to “tap out.” A card with an embedded RF chip should be readable when you enter or exit a vehicle like a bus or LRV If you place lots of convenient readers that bleep or flash to signal that they have read your card then their should be no problem “teaching” the riders how to us it, especially if it will work for many systems.


  30. Steve, you say that proposals that would mean higher fares for existing TTC riders in the outer 416, who travel greater distances, would be counterproductive. Why? It is true that charging by distance inevitably means that those who live in suburban sprawl, as in much of the outer 416, pay more than those who live in compact areas and need not travel as far. But what is counterproductive about that?

    Steve: Counterproductive in the sense that it is those who have long commutes who would be relatively more attracted to auto travel, something we don’t want. The subsidy of long trips is part of the price we pay for making transit if not wildly attractive, at least competitive.


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