Fare By Distance: How Much Would We Pay?

In the thread about new streetcars, part of the discussion turned on the question of fare collection.  I’ve been thinking about this for a while and planned to write about this topic, but when I actually started, realized that there’s more here than will fit in one article.

One major topic in all discussions is the question of flat fares versus fare-by-distance, and this inevitably gets pulled into questions about “equality” in the way that we price transit so that riders are not penalized by things like zone boundaries and operator service territories.  However, any fare system brings its own benefits and problems.  We may solve problems for one group of riders, and create a new set of problems for others.

This article considers fare-by-distance by analogy to the existing TTC system.  It is intended as a “back of the envelope” calculation to give readers a general sense of the numbers and is not intended to be a prescription for any particular implementation.  What is important is that anyone talking about fare structures cannot simply wish away problems of any system by saying “everything will be fixed with Presto!” or similar, simplistic bilge.

For 2008, the projected revenue (almost entirely fares) for the TTC was $887-million for a ridership base of 466.7-million.  That gives an average revenue per trip of $1.90.  Note that this stirs together all the fare media and classes of riders including:

  • Monthly, weekly and daily passes
  • Adults and concession fares
  • Token and cash fares
  • Other income such as advertising

Worth noting is the average per-trip subsidy of $0.65.  That translates to a $303-million subsidy requirement.  Any change in subsidy arrangements (higher/lower per trip) must address this very substantial funding line in the TTC’s budget.

In looking at fare-by-distance, we must first determine how much to charge based on current riding habits.  This is rather challenging because we do not have average trip length information.  Some trips are quite long, others, especially those taken with passes where there is no marginal cost, are extremely short.  For the sake of argument, I am going to use Canadian Census commuting information.

The Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (which includes a lot more than Toronto City proper) has a median commuting distance of 9.4 km.  The map linked here shows that this value is much higher in the outlying areas and much lower downtown.  The median commuting distance for the City itself is only 7.5 km.  (The median, as opposed to the average, is the value where half of the commutes are above and half are below.)

If we take these median values as the average trip length (that’s a big leap, but I have to start somewhere), then the revenue per kilometer is $.253 (if we use the Toronto City median) or $.202 (if we use the CMA median).  One caveat here is that the distances reported by Statistics Canada are “crow fly” values and the actual commutes will generally be longer.  This would tend to lower the revenue per kilometer based an actual trip paths.

That range from 7.5 to 9.4 km is interesting from another point of view.  If we draw a circle around Queen and Yonge with an 8 km radius, the east and west boundaries are almost exactly the old Queen line, Neville to Humber.  The north boundary is Lawrence Avenue.  This area roughly duplicates the old TTC zone 1 which was mainly the pre-amalgamation City of Toronto.  In other words, the median commute distance is roughly on the scale of the old City measured outward from downtown.

What this would mean is that on a purely fare-by-distance model, fares would likely be lower within the old zone 1 and higher outside of it.  For example, the distance from Queen and Yonge to Steeles is 16.6 km, and a strictly fare-by-distance calculation would expect to receive $3.80 (plus subsidy) from such a trip.  Distance to the outer corners of the 416 are even longer.  Going north to Richmond Hill adds another 5 km, for a trip that is close to three times the median value.  I am quite sure that the residents of Richmond Hill and environs expect to pay one, standard TTC fare to get downtown, not three.

By contrast, the GO Transit fare from Richmond Hill to Union is $4.78 based on a 10-trip ticket, or about $4.30 for a monthly pass.  Therefore the revenue GO gets from such a commuter is in the same ballpark as TTC fare revenue redistributed on a distance basis.

I repeat that this is a rough estimate for the purposes of discussion, but it’s a discussion nobody wants us to have.  Metrolinx and Queen’s Park buried any questions about revenue tools, and by extension fares, well into the next decade.  If there is to be any integration of regional and local systems, the question of fare levels and structures must be addressed.

Fare-by-distance inherently penalizes the long-haul rider.  Yes, in theory, they pay the cost of using more service to make their trip, but the larger issue is that this fare may deter them from moving from auto to transit.  Many discussions of cross-boundary fare integration have, at their core, an implicit assumption that fares for cross-border riders will go down.  This would be true for short commutes, say from the southern 905 into the northern 416, where the trip length is lower than, say, 8km.

However, the long trips would pay more, and fare-by-distance would allow the TTC to charge suburbanites, who have been highly subsidized in their travel to downtown, a fare proportionate to the length of their trip.  This is quite likely completely contrary to the planning goals Toronto and Queen’s Park have for moving more people onto transit.

How you collect the money — the technology, the inspection regime — is immaterial to this discussion.  I don’t care if the fare card is GO Green or TTC Red, the question is how much I will have to pay to use it.  This is the sleeping issue in regional transit integration, and it will be the transit equivalent of road pricing for politicians.

We need to understand and agree first on the nature of GTA fares and the social goals we hope to achieve by increasing transit use.  Can we justify a higher subsidy on the basis that the alternatives — driving those who can afford it into cars, and penalizing those who live on the outskirts but must commute by transit — are more expensive than improved subsidies and service?

Once we answer these questions, then we can turn to specifics of the technology.  What we don’t need is a razzle-dazzle show that employs armies of consultants and technicians to build a “solution” to what is really a political, policy question.

56 thoughts on “Fare By Distance: How Much Would We Pay?

  1. As an alternative, I’ve read you advocate for a GTA-wide flat rate (iirc). How high would this flat fare have to creep for the subsidies to remain on par?

    Steve: That’s one of those “it depends” questions. Right now, transit riding outside of the 416 is small (about 10%) compared to the TTC. The subsidy levels are higher, and there’s also a GO-based subsidy intended to offset the cost of building more parking. Trips that are entirely contained within one “fare zone” today are not the issue, but the cross-boundary trips (including transfers from GO to TTC) are a big problem. If we only unified the fares for the surface routes (buses that cross the boundary and charge two fares now), the hit would be comparatively small.

    A related problem would be the subsidy levels. Would the 905 municipalities contribute their share to the cost of running the unified network? Today they get off free of the large costs associated with rapid transit lines that serve their citizens.

    My thoughts about a single fare go roughly as follows: Politically it will be impossible to impose fare-by-distance on the 416 given over 35 years of a single flat fare, but there will be strong pressure to “do something” about double fares for cross-border trips. A flat fare could be implemented tomorrow without any technology changes, only the will to pay for it. At some point, the cost of that technology will wake up politicians to a trade-off: flat fares are simple and quick to implement. Further out we may see a very coarse form of fare zones, but the problem will always remain that these will penalize the very traveller we want to attract to and keep on transit. Only a major, permanent increase in the cost of auto commuting would reset the balance and allow us to charge high fares for long-distance commutes on the transit system (leaving aside GO). There would still be a social equity issue for people who are forced economically to live in outlying areas and commute long distances, but who cannot afford to drive.


  2. I am thinking about London England which used to have a true fare by distance system when I first went there in the 70’s. The last tine that I was there they had, if I remember correctly, 6 zones in concentric circles out from the center. The far for one or two zones was, I think, the same. A single fare let you ride zone 1 and 2 or 2 and 3 or 3 and 4. They had a one day pass for zones one and two or a more expensive one for all six zones. I bought two zone one two passes for my wife and I for the first two days to do our two of all the sites, museums, art galleries, House of Lords etc. On the third day I left her at a shopping area downtown with an inner city pass, zones 1 and 2, whilst I went of to Wimbledon at the end of one of the Green Lines to ride the new light rail lines.

    For this large metropolitan area this zone system seemed to work equitably. The cost for the inner two zones was more than the cost for any other two zones as it contained a larger area where the majority of people travelled. They had either the Presto or the Oyster card which you swiped near a reader every timed you entered or exited the underground and a lot of transfer stations. It had a maximum amount that you would pay each day depending on the number of zones that you used. If you failed to swipe at one of the transfer stations it would charge you the maximum amount for each line. I think that they did this to gather correct statistics as to routes taken and usage.

    The pass was also good on the inner end of some of the commuter rail lines though if you used the Presto/Oyster card you paid a little more. If you could get from the east end of London to the west without going into zones one and two you got a bargain fare, and a lovely tour of suburban London. If you are going to implement some sort of fare by distance or multiple zone system then I think that you need to look at the cost structure for electricity or natural gas; you pay as constant fee each month for being connected to the service and another fee for how much you use. If a 1000 people want to ride the King car from Jarvis to Yonge you will need to add another 7 cars (CLRV’s.) If these people got on at the Danforth they would also require 7 cars so there are two parts to the cost; the cost for providing the service and the cost for using the service. People who take the TTC to lunch in the middle of the day probably do not require the addition of any extra vehicle whilst those who ride it to work in the rush hour do require the addition of extra service.

    Someone who wants to hop the GO train at Guildwood in the middle of the day is not going to cost the system as much money as someone who wants to get on at 7:15 in the morning as there is excess capacity at noon but not at 7:15 a.m. Neither fare by distance nor flat fare is truly equitable. I think that a fare structure should look at incremental costs and usage cost but this becomes very cumbersome; therefore I think that the current system in London is a good compromise. Every change to the fare system will create winners and losers. I believe that the system that makes more people feel like winners is the best one to choose. I apologize for the use of “whilst” but since I was writing about London I felt the overwhelming urge to over use the word.

    Steve: I have no doubt that a zone system can be constructed that would be vaguely equitable, but this does not change the fact that people who now enjoy a relatively low flat fare over all of the 416 (and those who hope to extend this into the 905) will be very disappointed. Meanwhile, I who do almost all of my riding in what would now be the “central zone” will be overjoyed to get a cheaper fare. This is not the sort of political optics that sells well in the GTA.

    London had no problem with their system because they always charged that way and people were used to it.


  3. A flat fare is a subsidy on sprawl. It will encourage sprawl.

    Steve: I agree, but also suspect that there would be strong pressure to implement it. We already know that York Region expects people entering new stations on the Spadina extension to pay a “TTC” fare and ride all the way downtown. That flat fare expectation is already built into expansion plans, and nobody has explained where the extra subsidy is to come from.


  4. On your point about social equity and the social/economic trade-off (more affordable housing further from the CBD vs. higher direct fare-by-distance costs borne by transit riders)…. how have other jurisdictions addressed this? Have those governments used other fiscal measures outside of the direct costs of fares (e.g. tax credits) to balance the cost impacts? To what extent do property taxes level the playing field (one pays proportionately more tax living closer to downtown… arguably justified partially by the extra service) with respect to the total costs to Toronto/GTA residents?

    Steve: First off, many living in the suburbs are in rental homes, not freehold. They pay property tax indirectly through their rent, and at a higher rate than homeowners around them thanks to the classification of multiple unit buildings as “commercial” property. Taxes on homes are, in theory, based on the fair market value of the home. In any event, people of limited income, often with multiple incomes per household, cannot just respond to some sort of theoretical free-market force and move themselves to a location where the benefits of transit fares counterbalance the tax load.

    Other jurisdictions either leave the poor to the wolves, or they recognize the importance of transit as a social good rather than trying to recover most of the cost from the farebox. When the recovery rate is lower, debates about squeezing every penny out of riders through the fare structure don’t have as great a validity because fares are only part of the revenue stream.


  5. While I can understand why like to look at transit as a social equity issue, I think that looking at it from that direction ignores the fact that transit is also a business that provides a valuable service to its customers. I always like a free lunch so the idea of some level of government paying for my metropass is appealing. However, as it currently stands no government is offering to do this, and we do have transit riders who are willing to pay to take transit instead of other substitutes – walking, driving, cycling, etc. Why not charge a fare that more accurately reflects the cost of providing the service?

    Ever thought that fare-by-distance would enable the TTC to provide better service? As at stands now, there is little incentive for the TTC to reduce crowding and improve service to far-flung areas because of large per-ride subsidies. I can imagine there are quite a few “choice riders” who are turned off by the prospect of standing cheek-to-cheek for 30 minutes on say, the Steeles East express coming in from Scarborough.

    On the flip side, lower fares for shorter trips could improve the TTC’s cost recovery by filling up empty seats on routes with higher turnover. I am sure it doesn’t cost the TTC $2.55 to take me on the King Car from Church to York in the morning!

    Just think of the interesting fare options we could come up with given the chance! What about fare-by-direction? A surcharge for those traveling in the peak direction and a discount for reverse-commuting!

    Steve: Why not charge more? Because the effect of doing this may have costs that don’t show up on the TTC’s books. The scale of the “business” is not the TTC, it is the city overall.


  6. One can’t compare GO Transit with the TTC. By far all the passengers on GO travel a fixed distance e.g. Oakville to Uinon Staton and back. A monthly pass for that distance would make sense.

    But on the TTC the distances travelled can vary considerably over the period of a week as riders go to different places for different reasons.

    Thus fare by distance would make montly passes impossible and casual ridership, even short distance ridership, would be discouraged.

    Steve: The GO/TTC comparison was intended to show how a fare-by-distance structure on the TTC could cause long-haul fares to rise to or above GO Transit levels. This is important in the context of discussions such as the relative merit and attractiveness of the Richmond Hill subway and GO improvements to a line that will stop literally across the parking lot from the subway station. When the subject of “high” GO fares comes up, the response is always that GO is a premium service. That may be so, but if TTC moves to fare-by-distance, then the differential between the two systems may vanish. That’s a subject I will turn to in another post.


  7. I’m surprised that the first option you present (if not endorse) for changing the fare structure is fare-by-distance. Trip length is not the most accurate way to address the cost inequalities of the system. There will always be subsidies from more cost-effective routes to lesser ones, but any fare reorganization should try to provide users with a more realistic idea of what their trip costs to the system.

    I would be more comfortable with a fare regime that charges users more for less efficient forms and routes, which would often not be the longest. This would force politicians to come to terms with the cost of the more dubious plans, such as the Sheppard subway line and York/Vaughan extension.

    The TTC already has the rough subsidy-per-route numbers to implement a more cost-representative form of pricing if/when they move to a smart card based system.

    Steve: I presented the fare-by-distance option first because I wanted to put the analysis of the actual fare levels we might see in a separate post from a more general discussion of integrating service and fares across the GTA. People talk a lot about swipe cards and new fare schemes, but they don’t think through the implications. I wanted that in place first.

    The TTC’s subsidy per route numbers are total crap because of the way that they assign revenues and costs to routes. The formula causes revenue from long trips with multiple transfers to be overstated, and revenue from short trips to be understated. It also does not distribute the revenue appropriately between links within a trip as it treats them all the same. The result is that a ride on the Coxwell bus and the subway contributes half a fare to each route even though the time spent on the subway is much greater. All of the short routes connecting with the subway look very profitable on paper for precisely this reason.

    You will also find that if you work backwards and calculate the total revenue and expenses for one day’s operation, the proportion is nowhere near the actual value for the system as a whole. When it’s all totalled up, the cost recovery for the surface system, if you believe the route by route table, is under 50%. Some of this can be offset by a hugely profitable subway line, but I think that the real problem is that the formula is broken.

    For 2007, the revenue allocated to the surface network was just over $1-million on a weekday on operating costs of nearly $2.4-million. When the TTC’s own model claims that the surface system, without which we might as well not have a subway network, “loses” so much money, is it any wonder that they don’t run better service?


  8. This is the question we should be asking: When does a flat-fare become undesirable?

    Over a small region, a flat-fare makes sense. If there is not much difference between the longest and shortest journey, then the administrative overhead over charging by distance isn’t worth it.

    Over an entire country, a flat-fare makes no sense. Should we pay the same to hop on a plane to Vancouver as we do to take the streetcar two blocks? Obviously not. Here the costs are too disparate to justify the flat-fare.

    What is a zone-based system? It’s really an amalgamation of several smaller flat-fare regions. We really have a three-zone system today; Toronto, Mississauga, and York Region. The problem with having zones that are too big is that the cost of crossing a zone border while the overall trip length is short is unfairly expensive. It also removes economic incentives to live closer to where you work and play, the only cost tied to the length of your trip being the opportunity cost of spending more time on transit.

    The point I’m getting across here is that for several reasons, we should greatly reduce the size of our current zones. It should not cost the same amount of money to travel a short distance as it does to travel a long distance; we want people to make economical choices. By having a flat-fare system, we are impairing their ability to do so. It messes around with GO, and it punishes people who have to cross borders.

    We do want people out of cars and into transit, and likewise, I’d like to see people get out of transit and on to their bicycles or walking.

    Finally, I’d like to just make a personal note. I’ve lived in the Netherlands, where the busses and trains are integrated nation-wide (16 million people, for those of you who want to say that NL is so very small), and nobody ever complains about fare-by-distance. And just in the interest of full disclosure, my current commute (by TTC) takes on average an hour and fifteen minutes (it’s 20km “as the car drives”).

    Steve: I agree that if we have zones, they need to be smaller. They also need to be something other than concentric circles focussed on Union Station in recognition of travel across the region, not just to the core area. The political problem lies in implementation. Try telling people in Scarborough that their ride to downtown just doubled in price.

    The fare zones within the 416 were eliminated in 1972 because Metro Council was ticked off at paying for the TTC’s subway expansion program, but having to pay extra to use the suburban network. What people will accept is often a question of what they have today. Have the Netherlands ever had a flat fare system for a large metropolitan area, or did they always have some form of zone or distance based fare? Also, what proportion of the cost of the NL trip is covered by fares and what by subsidy? If the subsidy is high, then the fare is not really recovering the “true cost” of the transit trip, and the subsidy allows people to ride cheaply as a matter of social and political policy.


  9. I just did some quick calculations using 2006 data from the Transportation Tomorrow Survey database. The TTS data are also straight-line (“as the crow flies”) distances, but cover all trip purposes (e.g. shopping trips may be shorter than commuting trips). Unfortunately the travel distance is from origin to destination, not distance on transit, but we can get around this by eliminating trips with an auto or GO train at one end (as opposed to trips where you reach your stop or station by walking, both at the start and end of your trip).

    This approach gives me an average (mean) trip distance of 7.9 km, or a median trip distance of approximately 6 km, for all transit trips that use TTC for a portion of the trip (but that do not use GO, which would result in higher averages).

    An added complication is how to address GO. You suggest that a trip to Yonge and Hwy. 7 from Union would be comparable in TTC fare to the existing GO fare. The question is to what extent can (or should) you charge a premium for the GO service, given the savings in travel time (albeit with a poorer headway, although the GO 2020 plans will help).


  10. Everywhere else transit agencies are trying to eliminate or reduce zones – seems extremely backward to talk about introducing zones in the City of Toronto.


  11. Everyone is going to hate me for this, but perhaps we need to bring back fare zones.

    Zone one, downtown, everything between Eglinton, Eglinton West, Jame, and Vic Park stations.

    Zones Two and Three would be on opposing sides of yonge st. You’d only pay once (IE if you go from zone two, though one, to three, you only pay one extra zone fare, not two)


  12. Also, why not decrease the TTC-to-905 “zone fares” to just one dollar? IE if your on the 107 bus and cross the border between Toronto and Vaughan, you only need to put one extra dollar in the farebox?


  13. Any system that is implemented would need to be revenue neutral unles some government is going to increase subsidies. The biggest complaint is by people who ride across a zone boundary, usually 905 – 416, and end up paying over $5.00 for a relatively short trip. That is why I think that bringing back the two zones for Toronto some what as before but only having one fare for them is a start. If you could put a set of zones around Toronto, say zone 3.1 for Mississauga, 3.2 for Brampton, 3.3 for York, 3.4 for Durham and only charge one fare for any two zones. Zone 1 and 2 or zone 3.1 and 2 or zone 3.1and 3.2 or 3.2 and 3.3 or 3.3 and 2. This would get rid of the major complaint from someone who pays a huge fare for a relatively short ride but would put in a very basic crude fare by distance. I realize it is not perfect but I give it for a starting point in discussion.

    I do not think GO can work directly into the same fare structure because it is a premium service but there should be some incentive to ride transit to the suburban stations. I also do not see how this can work without some sort of pass system. It would be to difficult and time consuming to go back to checking fares at zone boundaries or using pay exit like on Eglinton East.

    Steve: I included the comparison to GO fares because, depending on how the local fares work, the fare for the “premium” GO service may actually be similar to the charge for the “local” service. This is related to GO’s evolution into just one more part of the transit network as it moves to frequent all-day service in many corridors.


  14. Would it not be an invaluable boon to business in Toronto if all transit in the downtown core was free? They do it in downtown Calgary. This would also eliminate any fare collection issues related to streetcars downtown.

    Steve: There’s a big challenge with the subway. If you can get into a subway station free, then you can ride out of the free zone without paying a fare, and you can also obtain a transfer valid for use anywhere in the system.

    Also, I suspect that the sort of businesses that would benefit from increased transit riding (and better service) are those in the neighbourhoods served by the streetcar lines near, but not in downtown. Drawing the boundary around the free area would be a political nightmare. Calgary’s downtown is much more compact than Toronto’s.


  15. Why do we need pre-set geographic zones? Just have fares by distance and the commuter selects the distance they normally travel for work/school and pay accordingly.

    Simply put: I travel about 20kms.. so I get a monthly pass that allows me to travel 20 km in any direction from my home (including crossing regional borders and using different transit services). someone who lives and works downtown gets a pass for 5-6 km. Obviously, there are technical hurdles to overcome especially for one time cash fares and the odd occasion where one has to cross their pre-determined zone. And all transit organizations will have to figure out a way to share the cross regional fares equitably.

    Steve: It’s not quite that simple. If you want a “20 km” pass, you will probably pay considerbly more for it than you do today for transit fares. Also, your scheme is inherently biased against people who live close to the lake as they cannot take trips over a circle of 20 km radius.


  16. There needs to be a balance between penalizing the longer-distance commuters (those who most need to be encouraged to use transit) and making shorter-distance commuters feeling they are subsidizing the others.

    The trouble with “fare by distance” is that it is very difficult to implement it in a true fashion. By this, I mean that we approximate it by creating zones where there are discreet distances. This means that some short trips get dinged for a higher fare because they cross a boundary, while some trips of a greater distance don’t because they don’t cross a boundary. On top of this, when you look at how GO Transit implements “fare by distance”, they do so by having a base fare that is the same for all trips and adds what is essentially a “zone surcharge” on top of that. The last couple of fare increases at GO didn’t touch the “zone surcharge”, but rather the base fare, meaning that the shorter your trip, the greater percentage increase to your fare.

    I have proposed what I believe is a balanced approach between making people who need to use more of the transit network pay a little more, but not an outrageous amount more. You can see the details at http://lrt.daxack.ca/FareSystems/index.html but there are basically five pillars of the concept:

    1) Unified fare structure with time-based fares (this might be where Metrolinx should be focused – let the separate agencies schedule and operate vehicles)

    2) Overlapping boundaries (not just a single point, like Steeles Avenue)

    3) Zone supplements (an incremental amount to pay when crossing into another zone, not a whole new fare)

    4) Full integration with GO transit (A GO route ought to be like any other route, but given that GO may function more as an express backbone to the GTHA, an additional zone supplement would be acceptable)

    5) “City Saver” discount fares (since this system might best work if the single-zone base fare is $3.50 or even $4, a “city saver” fare is one with a shorter expiry time – 60 minutes instead of 120 – and is not eligible for a zone upgrade, so it could sell for perhaps $2)

    I welcome comments and criticisms on this, but I suspect that Steve would prefer to keep the discussion here more generic to the topic. So, if you want to tear apart any of this specifically, do so using the blog link at the bottom of the page link above.

    Steve: In all of this discussion, what we don’t have is any concrete proposal (or group of proposals) from an agency like Metrolinx pulling together all of the financial information and costing out what fare structures would look like. This is the single greatest failure of Metrolinx because fare integration is at the heart of building a truly regional network.

    Their view of fare integration was that it was a technology problem, but they never addressed what a new fare system would look like or how the revenue would be shared across the GTA.


  17. I agree that implementing a zoneal system within Toronto would be politically difficult, but I don’t think the concept of charging by distance would result in fewer people transferring from car. If you have to pay $2.75 for a 1km bus ride, you are far more likely to take you car than if that 1km was cheaper. However, given the cost of using a car is very much distance-based, I don’t think having to pay extra for longer transit trips would produce a significant shift towards car.

    Steve: The big problem will be that a lot of people who now get relatively cheaper flat fares would see a big jump, and many who expect to see cross-border trips get cheaper would be disappointed. We already know that the change from free to paid parking for Metropass lots has driven away some car-to-transit users. Over the long haul, everything might balance out, but the short term implications of large changes in fares have to be considered. Indeed, that’s why there has always been a call to have regular, small increments in fares rather than long freezes followed by a big jump.

    With regard to the subway extension into York region… given this will increase both costs and revenue, York Region should have to pay the extra costs, but retain the extra revenue.

    Steve: The agreement negotiated with York gives all the costs and revenues to Toronto. I would love to know whether York would have signed it if they had been exposed to the extra costs of running their new subway lines.

    (Seperate question, which has been bugging me, and I thought you might know Steve… why can you not use a transfer obtained at a given subway station for buses from that station?)

    Steve: A transfer is intended, under current rules, to allow you to change from one line to another, and you must obtain your transfer where you originally paid your fare so that the time on it roughly indicates when you started your trip. If you take a transfer from a station and then use it on a connecting vehicle, you have in effect “reset” the origin of your trip and could get away with doubling back, stopovers, and all those other heinous crimes that defraud the TTC of trillions of dollars every day. (Excuse me, I had a little spell there — too much reading TTC official reports.) If you want to cheat, there are many ways to get around the restriction as long as you pay attention.

    For surface connections that are not in a paid area, get off before you arrive at the transfer station and pick up your “new” transfer there. For extra comfort choose a station where you don’t have to climb Mount Everest to reach a transfer machine. At paid connections such as my home station Broadview, you can pick up a transfer that will be valid on connecting routes with the streetcars and buses leaving that station.

    If you’re on a surface route, try to get on a car that’s being short turned, and get a new transfer when you, poor naive soul that you are, get turfed off at the short turn point. (This no longer works on Queen where you were supposed to get or have one when you boarded.)

    Please note that I am simply pointing out the way that thousands of people, myself included, minimized our fare costs in the days before the Metropass (which is 29 years old this month). Any system that involves incremental charges will have a way to beat it, and people will always figure out what that is.

    One big issue if a distance based fare consists of a flat base fare plus a mileage increment is that stopovers, one of the best features of a Metropass, won’t work unless there is also a time based component to prevent hitting up passengers for a new fare every time they board.


  18. I’m curious as to how implementing zones is going to work… On the subway system it is easy, you have limited entrances and can easily track people entering or exiting. But we have so many bus routes are you going to start adding the burden of tracking who is crossing a zone (I’m talking about the sub-metro-wide zones here)?

    I liked the system in Hong Kong where you pay by the number of subway stops you were travelling (buy a ticket at the originating station, keep the ticket which only lets you out by automatic gates at the stop you paid for) meaning a true fare-by distance rather than arbitrary zones. But their system is almost completely subway based and can therefore be managed in that manner. The TTC doesn’t work that way – you can control access to the subway for trip from Ossington to Spadina, but how do you do it for the same distance on the Davenport bus?

    Steve: Passengers must both “tap in” and “tap out” of vehicles so that each link of the trip can be tracked.

    One more comment regarding the equity of flat vs by-distance: whether for good or ill we do not live in a cityscape set up for most people to live next to their places of employment, nor do I think most Torontonians want to. For one thing, many people change jobs more frequently than homes. If we’re talking social-engineering here, tieing people to their jobs because the burden of changing employment (for better opportunities, more satisfaction, whatever) also involves changing their residence is not good policy. Labour mobility is something to be encouraged not discouraged by imposing higher commute costs on those who seek (voluntarily or involuntarily) different employment in areas that may be further from home. Especially the lower-income near-suburban residents that only have their commute time, not money, to trade for employment options across the city. The assumption in fare-by-distance is that people can fairly easily choose to live near work and that if they don’t they must be able to pay the extra cost of long-distance commuting. However in reality the closer you get to employment opportunities the more expensive housing becomes, generally.


  19. I’d suggest a bit of a hybrid model. A flat fare for bus and streetcar/LRT routes (say $1) and a fare by distance for subway, GO Train and GO Bus routes. This model would make short distance travel affordable while pricing transit services according to distance and convenience as well. If you want to take the Eglinton LRT across town instead of the Bloor-Danforth line it would be cheaper but take you longer.

    It would also be easier to implement. One touch-in when you enter the bus/streetcar/LRT and a touch-in/touch-out at subway and major GO stations.

    There is of course some room for discussion on whether LRTs should be included or not or portions thereof (Scarborough RT/LRT from Kennedy to McCowan for example). And we could play with the fares as well. But I suspect that this would be a system that most would find equitable and easy to understand and use.

    Steve: There are three problems here. First, the system was designed on the assumption that subways (and the RT) are an integrated part of a whole network. If we charge more for the subway, we discourage people from using it, and some will shift to other routes if they can. This is counterproductive.

    Second, the Eglinton “LRT” will be underground from roughly Don Mills to Jane. Is it a subway or a streetcar for fare calculation purposes?

    Finally, you have not considered how GO would be integrated in this scheme. At some point, there will be 10-minute or better service on the Lake Shore corridor all day long, and this line will behave more like a subway than a commuter rail operation. It will have strong off-peak demand and travel patterns that are not oriented to Union Station. A trip that uses GO for a link in its journey needs an integrated fare. “Integrated” does not mean adding the standard GO fare on top of whatever we charge for the local component(s).


  20. I think the problem is being approached from the wrong direction. If you want to get people to use transit more shouldn’t we be encouraging more short trips that people take regularly? Usually, that’s the crowd that is not relying on a car. Making short trips cheaper will promote more transit use. Encouraging longer distance transit trips can be achieved by coupling fare-by-distance implementation with disincentives for car use (Gardiner tolls, higher parking charges, etc.).


  21. If zones were going to be implemented the cost for current riders could not be much higher than what it currently is. To do this the TTC needs to get other revenue sources. If the goal is less people on the roads, then charge for the roads, that drives up the number of people using TTC and the system becomes more efficient.

    There are a number of ways to increase revenue without raising ticket prices:

    – Road tolls (or congestion charges)
    – Retail on subway property (convert those parking lots into retail+parking)
    – Merchandising
    – Allow BIA’s to “augment service” for a fee (using specialized vehicles, etc)
    – Adding Bike service
    – Increased advertising
    – Refunds for using less used routes (we give you 25 cents back if you take the less used route)
    – Sales taxes etc.

    Steve: Many of the items you list do not generate much revenue and/or may have other side effects. Road tolls and sales taxes are the two biggies, and this was identified some time ago in a report on revenue generation alternatives. That discussion was quickly buried for political reasons.

    Subway property is in the process of being redeveloped where possible. The TTC, like GO, will have to face the question of whether the best land use is a parking lot or an office/condo structure. Buildings with people in them create ridership, and probably more rides than a parking lot. Property developments are in the works for lands at many stations notably Eglinton, York Mills, Warden, and Islington. Usually, the income from such schemes is used as an offset against the cost of a station renovation that accompanies the new building.
    Retail revenue on the TTC as a whole is generally low. You can see the contribution of various components in the 2009 Operating Budget at page 17. Advertising and rent between them contribute about 3% of the amount received from the farebox. A huge increase would be needed to make a dent in fares (or to mitigate an increase that might occur otherwise).

    BIAs tend not to have the kind of money needed to generate meaningful subsidies, and they will generally complain that, for example, a subsidy to riders on St. Clair will benefit many who do not shop in that street.

    Finally, a less-used route will quickly cease to have that characteristic if the discount actually diverts riding to it. Also, what is “less used”? Some routes have very strong all-day, bidirectional demand over at least part of the route. Deciding which parts of the system should get a discount will be difficult, and fraught with political issues.


  22. Fare-by-Distance and Fare-by-Time (my favourite) have been mentioned, but I don’t think Fare-by-Mode has.

    Zone A – Subways
    Zone B – Streetcars & LRT
    Zone C – Buses
    Zone D – GO Trains
    Zone E – GO Buses and BRT

    Not as convenient as a flat fare systemwide, but then nothing is. One interesting side effect might be an increased viability of daytime bus service parallel to the subway lines.

    Steve: This reminds me of Boston, and an hilarious story about the perils of replacement services. MBTA passes had pictograms indicating what mode(s) they were valid on, but the Arborway streetcar had been running with buses for years. Even so, it was a “streetcar” (actually a surface subway route) for fare purposes. Bewildered tourists would board with a “bus” pass and be refused because they were getting on a “streetcar”.


  23. I think the current London model works well, and is comparable to what we have in toronto today. The subway and commuter rail works on a zone basis, like GO transit. There is a base fare, then supplements to the fare if crossing zones. This is easy enough to accomplish because the entry and exit is generally controlled at rail/subway stations. Since it is practically impossible to do this on buses, the whole city bus network runs on a single flat fare.

    It basically adds the subway, and possibly GO buses and TTC express buses to the category of ‘premium service’ while eliminating the double fare for cross-border regular bus trips. If transferring from bus to subway/GO you would pay the normal GO fare, minus the bus fare you already paid.

    This would work well with a time based transfer system that allows at least one transfer before using a premium service, and one after. So, you could take a bus to the GO station, take the GO train, then subway, then another bus no matter how long that takes you. Or you can take several buses at either end of the trip, as long as you are still within the time period of the transfer.

    GO/subway zones could either be simple to understand, with concentric rings around union, or it could be more complicated, based on real distance travelled. Simpler is better for users to understand, even though it will never be perfectly fair.

    Steve: The only problem with this is that the TTC subway has always been considered as an integral part of the network and charging extra for it could, in effect, raise many riders’ fares substantially. Another difference to London is that the subway system blankets the city and the buses take a secondary role. That’s not the situation in Toronto. You could have the anomolous effect that the brand new Eglinton LRT/subway opens, and everyone must now pay a higher fare to ride the replacement service.


  24. I think we’re ignoring the logistics of a distance based fare system in this discussion. Certainly bus rides would become longer as drivers verify that the person has the correct zone card and they give them the right day pass or ticket. And then presumably we would have to have extra police to make sure people weren’t travelling beyond their zone. The London underground has an extensive zone system because it is easy to track where passengers get on and off, but they adopted a flat fare for London buses that if I am not mistaken has, in conjunction with increased enforcement of bus only lanes, increased bus ridership by 20% or more. Zone fares are not the way to go.


  25. Fares won’t be integrated as long as separate agencies exist. A better and simpler scheme would be fare-by-time. Buy a ticket for 30-minute travel, buy a ticket for 2-hour travel, etc. Easy and simple to enforce too as the ticket has an expiry time. Put machines on the system so people can extend their tickets if they need to and allow a little bit of a grace period.

    Steve: My comment will probably cause all manner of unnatural events, but I agree wth you [pause here for distant rumble of thunder], especially about the question of enforcement. In effect, a fare becomes a limited time pass. All the debates about stopovers, strange routings, doubling back simply disappear. This is also easy to implement for a Smart Card because it’s simple for the system to determine that you have started a “new” fare and bill accordingly.


  26. I think zones with an incremental increase instead of double-fare is the best compromise between fiscal and social goals, and keeping it simple enough people can understand it.

    1. Keep the current transit zones – Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, York and Durham. (Yes, and even Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton, Milton, Guelph, Kitchenere, etc. Why not think big?)

    2. For people travelling within one zone, there is a base fare or monthly pass cost. No change here.

    3. For 50% more the person can get a multi-zone pass. For single trips, have a multi-zone ticket/transfer with a two hour limit. That will be long enough to handle commutes, and it can also be used by people just doing local errands without having to pay 2 full fares. (Like the city-saver fare Calvin proposes.)

    I wouldn’t make it any more complicated than that. Sure, someone could travel through three or even four systems in their 2 hours, and get more “value” for their money, but if some poor stiff is actually spending that long on transit, they deserve a break.

    4. GO users can pay a similar premium, say 50% of the Toronto fare, for transit use in both their source and desitination zones. For ticket rather than pass users, the local transit use would have to be within 2 or 3 hours (depending on GO journey length) of boarding the first vehicle. This is a much deeper discount than currently offered, I believe, and may be enough to actually get GO commuters to leave the car at home. For about $2 a day over the GO ticket price they can drop off their kids at school on the way to the GO train, and pick up a loaf of bread on the way home, as well as riding to and from their workplace on the local transit.

    There will have to be some formula devised for sharing the premium revenue, x% to each participating transit authority. Ridership surveys can be done to work out a fair fare allocation, and these should be repeated annually to keep pace with changing commuting patterns.

    I’m not stuck on 50%, it could be more or less depending on usage patterns, subsidy levels and other factors. However, there is a merit in simplicity. The public are not going be able to grasp a 47.9% premium, or a 62.4% premium.

    Steve: This addresses some of the issues, but the fact remains that the zone boundaries become artificial locations where a fare jump occurs. This is the bane of the 905ers, and the supposed reason behind the Smart Card project.

    All the same, it would be intriguing to see this (and other models) actually priced out to determine the actual revenue it would generate and the distribution to the local systems including GO. If the amount allocated to any agency goes down, there will be a call for more subsidy or service cuts. Who will pay for it? We need to understand the effect of various fare and revenue allocation schemes in order to select the one best suited to the network overall. I will say it again: Metrolinx has done us a huge disservice by concentrating on infrastructure, lines on maps, without looking at fares and revenue.


  27. Steve wrote, “We already know that York Region expects people entering new stations on the Spadina extension to pay a “TTC” fare and ride all the way downtown. That flat fare expectation is already built into expansion plans, and nobody has explained where the extra subsidy is to come from.”

    At the risk of sounding a bit cynical, part of that subsidy will come from York Region (and some Peel Region) residing commuter students of York University who won’t want to walk across Steeles from the Steeles West subway station to get to and from campus on a hot, cold, rainy, or snowy day!

    Today’s commuter students enjoy riding on several YRT routes and two VIVA routes, and the YRT/Burlington route 77A right onto the campus without having to pay an extra fare. Under the agreement already set out for the Spadina subway extension, no non-TTC routes will operate into Toronto in this area anymore. Transferring from a non-TTC route at any station from Steeles West up to VCC, will require paying that single fare that could take them all the way downtown, but they will only be going one stop south of Steeles West.

    They can, if they choose take certain routes to the Steeles West station and walk from there.


  28. To the TTC’s credit, they at least got real input on this matter from Montreal’s experience.

    Worth noting that at its lowest level, GO does run a flat fare. If you only travel one zone, it is the same cost as travelling within the same zone. Whether I travel from Union to Exhibition or Bloor, I could go to Long Branch or Kipling for the same price, because there is no fare lower than one zone over, even though there should be a separate fare for travel within the same zone (however few trips that would actually generate, fair [fare?] is fair [fare?]).


  29. The trouble with fares-by-time is that then there is no incentive for providers to improve journey times … plus cancelleations and delays will make someone’s trip longer, so they have to pay more.

    I think it would be better to have a flat fare (say 1$) plus a small amount per minute (say 5c). An hour long trip then costs $7, while a ten minute hop to the shop costs only $1.10.

    If you have a unified fare structure, then revenue must be allocated somehow. However, I feel this is a problem that has already been solved (see e.g. UK rail system, with 3000 stations and 20 operators…)

    Steve: I think those whose commutes are well over 10 minutes will not be very pleased with your scheme.


  30. According to the AAA, it cost about $0.40 to $0.50 per km to operate a motor vehicle. This includes gas, payments, licence fees, maintenance and parking. Even if we move to a fare by distance model and charge someone like $0.25 per km, transit is still cheaper.

    Steve: Be careful how you use the numbers. A good chunk of the operating cost of a car is a sunk cost that is incurred even if it just sits in the garage. You have to use marginal operating costs, plus the perceived value or cost of transit travel (convenience, access, crowding, etc).

    The average commute using a vehicle is less than 40 miles or 64 km. Even if someone were to commute that much by transit, it will only cost $16 under this new model. 64km is enough to go from Scarborough all the way to Erin Mills Parkway on the edge of Oakville. If someone were to do it to today using a combination of TTC, GO and MT, it will cost more than $10 for sure. Fare by distance does not really penalize long haul riders that much.

    Before rolling out a new fare model, we must implement a RFID system to go along with it. This way, we will do away with transfers. This eliminates paper cost and the cost of resolving transfers disputes. With a RFID system, there are no disputes when transferring. Any new fare model must reduce the possiblity of disputes between operators and passengers.


  31. In response to the idea of making the downtown zone free, what if only the surface routes downtown were free — or POP?

    This would speed up boarding (at least until the new streetcars with all-door boarding arrive), which would help get the streetcars moving faster and ease congestion a bit.

    Make the “free” zone the area bounded by Spadina, Bloor, Sherbourne, and the Lake, and I bet you’d see streetcars moving much faster here. (Perhaps not including the Spadina car in the free zone, because much of its ridership is just between points on the street?)

    Anyone transfering to the subways would either pay or show their transfer at the station, or at any other transfer point on their trip as they currently do anyway. How much revenue would they really lose in this situation?


  32. Something that I think would be interesting to observe would be the results of the abandonment of GO’s zone system. If a GO Monthly Pass was flat and system-wide, how much would the average pass holder be inclined to use GO, now that their pass is good for trips that don’t go to Union? Ridership, particularly off-peak ridership, would surely rise so long as off-peak service is provided often enough. As someone that is used to using GO for shortcuts, most often in reverse-peak directions, I know for a fact that there is incentive if it is affordable to more people. Frequency of service is still a problem, of course.

    GO currently uses a hybrid time-zone system. This is a fairly recent change. Go back a few years and tickets would say “valid only for next available trip.” Now it’s valid for 4 hours from time of purchase (no doubt related to the reality that some bus routes in GO’s network only run once every 4 hours). Tickets now say quite clearly that it is valid between the zones listed for 4 hours from the printed time of purchase. I was tempted to use it just yesterday as I was just barely within the 4 hours’ limit on the way back into town from a Scarborough excursion. Would have been my first time using a single-ride ticket for a return trip, legally from my understanding of the text on the ticket, but why add another transfer to my trip (even though it might ultimately be faster)?


  33. M Huigens writes:

    “Especially the lower-income near-suburban residents that only have their commute time, not money, to trade for employment options across the city.”

    This is important and needs to be repeated and understood. Sure, the poor schlub living in an apartment tower on Dixon Rd. is getting a “cheap ride” commuting to work in a low-rent industrial area in Scarborough. But these are the people who live where, frankly, those of us who have a choice don’t want to live; and they work, again, where those of us who have a choice don’t want to work.

    And they don’t get paid a lot. They may not even have an alternative means of transportation. There is absolutely nothing to be gained, and much to be lost, in trying to “recover” more of the “long distance” fare that they “ought” to be paying. (Hmm, it’s my “scare quotes” post.)

    At the same time, a lot of downtown routes are overcrowded. Taking the Queen car for 5 blocks, or even 15 blocks, is often less attractive, and slower, than just walking. Even with a Metropass, there’s a substantial convenience hurdle imposed by the current service levels on the routes that are candidates for “jump on, jump off” service (i.e. streetcars and other downtown routes, mainly).

    Fare by time is likely the best approach if we’re looking at overhauling the system. Make the fare by time extend over the regional boundaries.

    (So you can stand there, tapping your foot impatiently, waiting for connection, as your faretime dribbles away.)


  34. Steve you raised some good points about my hybrid proposal to which I’ll respond:

    1) ‘ First, the system was designed on the assumption that subways (and the RT) are an integrated part of a whole network. If we charge more for the subway, we discourage people from using it, and some will shift to other routes if they can. This is counterproductive.’

    I agree that some of the load will get shifted around to surface routes. No system is perfect and we’ll have to make some compromises. The idea here is that people should pay for the convenience of an express trip, by paying fare for distance which ostensibly should work out higher than a flat fare for most reasonable distance. If somebody wants to save money they can take the bus or streetcar or LRT. If they want to save time they can go fare-by-distance on the LRT. Of course, we’ll have to work out some kind of discount scheme for those who use the bus or streetcar and then transfer to the subway.

    2) ‘Second, the Eglinton “LRT” will be underground from roughly Don Mills to Jane. Is it a subway or a streetcar for fare calculation purposes?’

    I’ll admit that this is a tough one to deal with. It’s easy to deal with those who use just the tunneled portion or just the surface portion. The hard part is dealing with those who travel from surface to tunnel. There two options I can see. First, Eglinton could be treated like any other LRT and we can just accept the hit. Second, we could assess a transfer at where the tunnel starts, give the aforementioned transfer discount and then calculate fare-by-distance for those who tap out in the tunnel or anywhere else on the subway system.

    3) ‘Finally, you have not considered how GO would be integrated in this scheme. At some point, there will be 10-minute or better service on the Lake Shore corridor all day long, and this line will behave more like a subway than a commuter rail operation. It will have strong off-peak demand and travel patterns that are not oriented to Union Station. A trip that uses GO for a link in its journey needs an integrated fare. “Integrated” does not mean adding the standard GO fare on top of whatever we charge for the local component(s).’

    I don’t know if I wasn’t clear on my proposal earlier but I would treat GO trains like the subway network. Tap in, tap out and charge a fare by distance. GO fares would have to be reworked from the present. GO buses are a challenging one because many GO stops are regular bus stops where one can’t tap out and many are in stations where you could design a tap out barrier. This could of course be dealt with through regulation, ie. ‘If you don’t tap out you get charged the full fare of the route.’ That idea could even be used on LRT stops if we wanted to do fare-by-distance on the LRT network, come to think of it.

    The hybrid system, does give us some flexibility. For example, different fare-by-distance schemes could be worked out for the subway system and the GO rail network thereby charging premiums for the ‘express’ nature of GO. Yet, the system retains fixed low fares for local travel. Indeed, depending on how it’s designed, we could well lower fares for local travel.

    I even have an entirely off the wall idea: fare-by-distance-by-time….well not quite. Basically, we could do much of what I proposed using fare-by-time but charging different rates based on the speed of the mode of transport. So GO would charge more for an hour of travel than the bus. Of course some kind of differential would have to be worked out for transfers and such….anyway this is more of a dingbat idea than my hybrid plan.

    Steve: Thanks for all your feedback.

    It has been interesting watching the comments on this article as it was intended as an introduction to the complexities of changing fare systems. We have covered a lot of territory in one day’s worth of comments. The important point in all of this is that there is no one perfect structure, and any change will have its effects both on fares paid by individual riders and in the operational complexity (or not) of charging and tracking fares.

    Now if only we could get the politicians talking about this seriously.

    Oh, wait, I forgot, we got rid of all of the pols at Metrolinx and replaced them with “professionals” who have yet to deign to meet in public let alone talk about anything substantive like fares and revenue allocation.


  35. Fare by time does work in Ottawa quite well. And it’s one that I think most GTA residents could easily understand (already done in some areas after all) and adopt.

    Just forget the boundaries, mode of transport and charge fare-by-time. just apportion revenue based on how much time the person spends on each system. If you get on YRT, then YRT charges you a flat fare for let’s say one hour. After a 20 minute bus ride you get on the GO train. Here you would have to tap in at the GO station. And then tap out when you reach Union for example. Then tap in to the TTC again and ride till you tap out….and if you don’t tap out we can assume that you ran out all your remaining minutes on the last system you were on.

    There’s of course a lot of challenges. A good IT backbone would be required to allow people to be tapping in and out all over the place. And you would have to really get all the services to work together. But it’s a system that if implemented would be easy for most people to use.


  36. Steve, my point is simply that I am a senior on limited fixed income. At the beginning of the month I get my pass. Being no longer a regular daily commuter I suspect that the TTC does better than me on this deal but nevertheless, for the rest of the month any public transit I use is taken care of. I don’t have to worry about whether I have tickets or whether I am entering the subway where there is an attendant but most of all, as the month draws to a close and the money runs lower I can still hop on the TTC and go up to see how the work on the St. Clair line is doing or I can take a walk along boardwalk on the beach. I can hop off the subway and do a bit of grocery shopping and then get back on the subway and all of this I can do without having to worry about whether I will break the bank. I can be penniless but still spend a pleasant summer’s day riding all over the system and enjoying the city.

    Bring in fare by distance and all this is gone. Had I thought that were about to happen I would have held on to my car. And I am by no means alone in this.

    To put what I said above more briefly, what you really hit out at with fare by distance is discretionary transit use.

    Steve: Lest there be any doubt about it, I am quite firmly opposed to a fare by distance system, especially one that does not have an “all you can eat” pass option. People who make the commitment to use transit a lot should be rewarded with an effectively cheaper, more attractive fare format. How you collect it really does not matter. A good example would be wireless bills — I can subscribe to a relatively expensive fixed rate plan, or go cheaper and get dinged when I go over my limit. You don’t need a new technology to collect either type of fare, only the will to implement it.

    If we are to have a zone system, them have monthly passes valid for specific types of travel with a supplement to be paid for anything outside that territory.

    Simplicity of implementation and control of costs for frequent users are the two keys to my version of an ideal system. Discretionary, spur of the moment use is essential to giving transit the same psychology of no marginal cost that auto users think they have.


  37. I just returned from London. The daily off-peak travel card was only fractionally more than the return for a not very long journey from zone 3 to zone 2. The travel card was about $10, the single was around $6.

    I wonder how $6 single fares would change the TTC’s calculations, and how people might react to paying something more like the real cost of their tickets, i.e. a sutuation that does not allow commuters to ignore that the government(s) hide a significant part of their real commuting costs.

    In some senses, it’s analogous to buying water in plastic bottles. The convenience hides the real costs to society of the remaining bottles, and the convenience of cheap transport masks that other taxpayers are picking up the tab for the difference between the fare and its cost (e.g the Sheppard line). In both cases, ‘someone’ (i.e. all of us) has to pay the piper, eventually.


  38. If GO were to offer a less mystified fare structure that allowed a monthly pass to be used over a larger urban area instead of a specific trip, then it would be a convenient add-on to, say, a Metropass. Imagine, if, in addition to my $100 Metropass, I could pay a set amount to take advantage of GO buses within Toronto as well, it would probably be worth it.


  39. When I visited San Francisco I purchased something called a “BART Plus Pass”. Bart uses a pay-by-distance system with the ticket being scanned and deducted by the fare gate to let you in and out. You choose a certain pre-loaded value at the time of purchase depending on your travel habits and the pass is valid for half the month. As a bonus, your last exit is accepted even if there’s only five cents left on the ticket. (Five cents is the minimum cost increment in the pricing structure.) What you also get with this pass, which is more significant, is unlimited travel on all surface systems in the region, not just connecting routes or outbound transfers.

    I had to stay at a hotel south of the airport before the BART was extended there. I took the hotel’s courtesy shuttle to the airport and then used the pass to get on an express bus to the then end of the BART line, Colma. I proceeded to ride the entire BART network and then exited in Downtown San Francisco much later in the day. Because the system can only track entrance and exit points I was only charged for the distance from Colma to Downtown. I spent the rest of my stay taking advantage of the unlimited surface rides to tour the entire MUNI streetcar and cable car systems hoping on and off as I pleased and using some bus routes (including trolleys!) when needed. Even the tourist-focused MUNI Day Pass requires extra cash-fare to board the cable cars, which I didn’t have to pay.

    I can’t begin to guess at what the value of my travels should have been. I also have no idea how revenues from these passes are supposed to be distributed amongst the various surface operators throughout the massive region covered by the unlimited trips provision. (I would think that the typical commuter would not access more than two of these surface operators in their regular travels.) If we’re going to track trips this is going to be a massive technical challenge to do accurately (given how I kinda hosed BART). Placing a value on these trips and distances is all the more complicated and awkward and a potential mine field for alienating a great number of customers.

    My point is that technology of collection and revenue distribution and any political and social goals must absolutely be considered hand-in-hand. Otherwise none of this will work correctly or fairly, no matter what value we place on a given trip. I believe this is what Steve has been hammering all of you with – no element of this can be considered in isolation. Especially when we have in many cases multiple modes or routes serving the same travel corridors/patterns, most simplistic solutions fall apart. Residents throughout cities or regions are more likely to end up hosed via their local tax bill then they are through fare structure inequities, including those who don’t even take/need transit at all.


  40. If the TTC implemented the Presto card, it would be easier to implement a fare by distance program.

    But my general guideline would be one fare for less than 10km (i.e. local travel), a higher fare for travelling more than 10km (i.e. for commuters), and another fare for travelling outside Toronto (with exception of the 192 Airport Express bus).

    Any service outside of Toronto (with exception of the Airport Express) should be covered by both Toronto and the other city/region based on the distance within each area. For example, if bus A runs on a 20 km route, of which 5km is in Mississauga, then Toronto should cover 75% of the costs and Mississauga 25%.


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