The War on Metropasses (2)

The TTC’s November Commission meeting has been moved up from the planned November 25th date to the 17th, and an item sure to be on the agenda will be a fare increase for 2010.

There are two questions:

  • How big an increase will the TTC need?
  • How evenly will the increase be applied to different fare types?

As I already reported, TTC management has been up to its usual tricks of blaming heavy use of Metropasses for its financial woes.  For months, they have been preparing us (and priming Commissioners) to tell us how we are losing too much money on passes, and their value, relative to tokens, must go up.

We have heard this song for years, but through a period when lowering pass pricing was an integral part of the Ridership Growth Strategy, it was ignored.  Now, the TTC wants more money, and Metropass holders are convenient, dedicated transit users who can be counted on to cough up almost any increase.

What would, what should a fare increase look like?

The TTC’s 2009 projected operating results look like this:

  • Total expenses:  $1.3-billion
  • Fare revenue:  $836-million
  • Other revenue (advertising, etc):  $49-million
  • Subsidy:   $416-million (of which only $394-million is committed by the City)

Leaving aside where the missing $22-million will come from, the City has directed that all agencies should reduce their net funding requirements by 5% for 2010.  On a base of roughly $400-million, that’s $20-million for the TTC.  However, we also know from pervious reports that the TTC expects its funding needs to rise by $80-million in 2010, and that brings us to a total of $100-million required in new revenue.

Advertising and parking are unlikely to contribute anything, and advertising may even decline continuing a trend from 2009 where the budgetted $16-million is turning into a protected $13.7-million.  One has to wonder why we put up with all that advertising on the TTC for only 1% of the total revenue, but that’s a subject for another day.

(You can read the recent Chief General Manager’s Report, but Appendix A) with the details isn’t on the TTC’s site. I have scanned it for your convenience.)

On a straight percentage basis, if the entire $100-million is coming from fares, then the TTC needs to collect 12% more farebox revenue in 2010.  However, an increase of this size may deter some riding, and a larger jump, something like 15%, will be needed to achieve the target.  Even this assumes that recent experience, in which riders stayed with the TTC provided that service remained good (and “good” is open to some interpretation here), will hold up to a 15% jump.

What would this mean for fares, assuming everything went up more-or-less lock-step.

  • Tokens are now $2.25, and they would have to rise to $2.60.
  • Cash fares, now $2.75, would have to rise to $3.15, more likely to $3.25.
  • Metropasses, now $109  ($100 on subscription) would go to $125 (or $115) before allowing for the income tax credit.

We won’t know what is actually proposed until, at best, the agenda for November 17th’s meeting goes online probably about November 12th.  However, the report itself may be held down as a supplementary item, and we won’t see it until the evening before the meeting.  Some talkative Commissioners may, however, start discussing the options in advance to gain debating advantage.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

If the carping about Metropass “losses” continues, we can expect to see them go up by something like 20% while the token and cash fares are spared the same fate.  This could give us fares like this:

  • Tokens up to $2.50
  • Cash fare up to $3.00
  • Metropass to $130, or $120 on subscription.

This would move the fare multiple for passes up from 48.4  to 52 (from 44.4 to 48 on subscription).  The Federal income tax credit for transit passes is currently at 15%, and this reduces the effective multiple to about 38 using 2009 pricing for pass subscribers.  However, if the base price of the pass goes up, the multiple would also rise (to roughly 41 in the example here).

There will be huge temptation to limit the token increase to a quarter (if nothing else, it makes a nice sound bite) and stick the pass holders with a bigger jump.  Passholders make up a large chunk of TTC ridership, and for 2006, the last year in which the TTC published a detailed ridership analysis, adult passholders accounted for 38.5% of all rides on a moving annual average basis.  They accounted for almost half of the adult riding, and have without doubt overtaken all other adult fares as the primary source of riding from 2007 onward.  (By contrast, in 1996, pass holders accounted for less than one third of adult riding.)

In brief, pushing the Metropass price multiple up will affect over half of all adult rides taken today on the TTC, and a large increase in pass pricing risks affecting the TTC’s single largest market.

A fare increase is essential to preserve service quality, but the TTC should leave the relationship between different fares as it is today.  If not, they risk screams of outrage from pass holders whose fares will take a big jump for which they will see little or nothing by way of improved service.

If my scenario here is alarmist, if I am painting a huge jump in pass pricing that is not actually on the table, I invite anyone from the TTC to make a public statement disavowing such a plan.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Metropass subscriber, and will continue to be one because I use the TTC a great deal.  I am one of those on whom they “lose money”, although many of my trips have little marginal cost to the TTC.  If I were forced back to tokens, it would make the initial cost of jumping in a cab that much cheaper.)

42 thoughts on “The War on Metropasses (2)

  1. I wonder how the reverse holds up: If Metropass prices FELL, say, to $99.99 (marketing 101!), how much would ridership go UP, particularly in the off-peak for which additional service wouldn’t be necessary, resulting in an overall improvement in the cost-revenue balance? It’s a challenging, sensitive formula, but one that has to be looked at. If, hypothetically, you could get 33% of Toronto (that’s pretty optimistic, of course, since such a figure would represent around 66% of all ridership) to buy a Metropass, what would TTC’s finances look like? It’s an analysis I’d like to see, done independently, not internally.

    Steve: Another issue lurking in the background is that many of the fare schemes associated with smart cards are some form of pay-as-you-play pricing. Unless you can track every trip and decide which ones constitute a new “fare”, it’s very difficult to decide when an “all you can eat” cap might kick in on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. This makes the back end systems more complex — lots of work for the consultants and the IT folks — but not necessarily so good for the riders.

    The more attractive the TTC makes a flat fare, monthly pass, the less we actually need a complex smart card. Those whose careers depend on lots of smart card spending don’t like that arrangement, and it’s yet another black mark for the Metropass — it’s too simple.


  2. It will be hard moving back to Toronto in the spring from Montreal after being spoiled by the STM’s $68.50 monthly pass, $37 if your lucky enough to be a student!


  3. $836 million in fare revenue. Of course this is a government agency providing a service to its citizens so we could also refer to this as a tax.

    Collecting this tax $3.00 at a time is inherently inefficient.

    – loading streetcars and buses from all doors
    – no fare boxes
    – no fare validation schemes
    – not employing staff to do fare validation
    – not employing staff at stations to sell pieces of paper or plastic or metal
    – not having the TTC deal with cash or debit or credit cards
    – not having turnstiles or all the other infrastructure at stations to create fare paid zones
    – having the bus or streetcar driver just concentrate on driving

    It’s yours for $150 per GTA citizen.


  4. Those figures put the Presto numbers in perspective…

    To implement presto will require 1/2 of the money collected for an entire year … that’s insane! Especially if we have to do replace it every 10 years.

    Here’s my suggestion … let’s have a transit tax, 70$/year for every person in southern Ontario would cover what is currently collected by the ttc, so I’d imagine if you collected 120$/year from everyone in southern Ontario (in the greenbelt even) you would cover all the other cities, make it 100$ and put the other 20$ on businesses/land owners (don’t cover regional transportation like go, only local transport – buses, subways, streetcars).

    Right off the bat we would save 500 million $, but we would get additional savings by being able to remove/sell all ticket booths, ticket collectors, ticket cops, tickets, tokens, passes, printing, interac machines, phone lines, complaint lines, anti-counterfitting department … and would save a bunch on loading time (which results in less vehicles needed) as well as less waste produced (printing, shipping, mailing of cards/tokens) … and increased ridership, which is good for the city because it gets cars off the road (less construction, faster commutes) … also, there would be auxillary savings in the suburbs where school busses for highschools could be cut in favour of “free” local transit. As well, savings from new vehicles which wouldn’t need to be outfitted with radios, electronics etc.

    Does anyone have numbers on what is currently being spent per year on the collection side of things, including staffing / counterfitting / hardware / maintenance / policing etc. I know we just got new tokens a few years ago for a few million$…just wonder what percent of the budget it is on average…


  5. Depressing: the prospect of my household’s monthly transportation budget jumping 20% (from $200 to $240). More depressing: we’ve no real alternative.


  6. To me, it makes a lot of sense for the TTC to move into the pricing space on the Metropass created by the federal tax credit. You have said it yourself, the credit has the effect of creating demand or transit without providing one thin dime towards actually operating it. By increasing the multiple on the pass, the TTC can capture some revenue, while still offering the pass at an attractive multiple after the tax credit is factored in. There was no credit at all a few years ago, so all pass holders are still better off than they used to be, no?

    Steve: Except that municipalities are not supposed to move into tax space vacated by the Feds as it would be an indirect transfer from Ottawa to the cities.


  7. The press release for the new High-Security passes has a few statistics. One relevant one here is that Metropasses currently make up 40% of fare revenue, although this is a different metric from your 38.5% of rides.

    Steve: As Metropasses become the dominant fare medium for adult riders, they will also become an increasingly important part of the revenue stream. That 38.5% figure was from 2006, and I am sure it is higher for 2009. The TTC has to stop thinking about nickle and diming every rider, and instead treat their service as something bought in bulk. That’s the inevitable result of lowering the pass multiple relative to the single fare.


  8. We really need to start charging 905 residents more for transit. Perhaps we should have a “Toronto” card, for all legitimate Toronto residents. Everyone with a “Toronto” card should be allowed to pay standard fare for taking TTC. Everyone from the 905 area should pay more, perhaps 1.5 times as much. Make it 2 if you wish to use a TTC parking lot.

    It’s high time that the TTC was a service for Torontonians instead of the 905. I’m getting sick and tired of Standing room only at Finch station during Rush hour. If the 905 wishes to use the TTC, then force them to fork out more. Otherwise, let them start taking GO Transit. It’s more of a 905 form of transit: Toronto is quite underserved by this government entity, and pays much more to boot.

    Steve: Remember that Queen’s Park pays for a chunk of TTC operations, and a lot of the capital construction. Their revenue doesn’t come just from the 416.


  9. The jump in the cost of my metropass will come straight off the cost of food. I have nowhere else in my personal budget to cut.


  10. In Ottawa, the cash fare is much higher than if you paid by ticket or transit pass. This is to ENCOURAGE people to buy the passes.


  11. In MTL, they have used since a year the OPUS card (chip card) and it will help to reduce costs for the montly and weekly passes. Why does Toronto not have a similar system?

    In addition, with that OPUS card, you can use it in Laval or Longueuil. So you don’t have to buy a new card for every transit Co., just load the titles on your card and you are on your way.

    I don’t know.. but could it be a good thing here?

    Steve: There was a presentation about OPUS by the head of AMT here in Toronto earlier this year. There are two important differences between our systems. In greater Montreal, there is a much higher subsidy rate for transit fares, especially passes, to the point that they are the primary method of paying fares for regular users. Also, there is no real attempt to charge fare by distance, only a rough zone system depending on which of the metropolitan operators’ systems you subscribe to. This immensely simplifies the IT infrastructure needed to manage the passes compared to some of the complex schemes proposed for Toronto.


  12. Steve wrote, “Except that municipalities are not supposed to move into tax space vacated by the Feds as it would be an indirect transfer from Ottawa to the cities.”

    For sure, which is why YRT did it!

    The real problem with this is that this transfer does not come from the feds 100% – some of it comes from those least able to afford it: the working poor and students. These groups often have no taxable income and therefore do not get this non-refundable tax credit.


  13. Eric Chow wrote, “We really need to start charging 905 residents more for transit.”

    Wait a minute: I often hear the call for road tolls for vehicles from the 905, so which is it: do you want people making the commute to use their vehicles or public transit?

    Setting aside the provincial funding for capital projects, don’t forget that 905 commuters often have to pay effectively double fares, whether they travel to downtown or to the outer 416.

    The other thing to remember is that any attempt to charge more will inevitably lead to calls to charge more for outer 416-ers to travel to/from the core.


  14. David Cavlovic wrote, “In Ottawa, the cash fare is much higher than if you paid by ticket or transit pass.”

    In York Region, Brampton, and Mississauga, there is only one cash fare for everyone. Discounts for children, students, and seniors are ONLY available for purchasers of tickets or passes. While this is partly to make automatic counting easier, it is an idea that I feel the TTC should consider.

    I don’t expect it would make a huge impact in the TTC’s revenue numbers, but it may also have a small effect in their cash handling costs. Also, it may help in the cash-flow as more people would abandon cash fares and purchase fares five or ten at a time.

    Of course, there might be a loss-factor benefit to the TTC when the occasional rider purchases five fares at a time and ends up misplacing a token or two. 😉

    Steve: Tokens are the single largest source of “coins” that the TTC has to deal with. The new ones are so heavy, that the TTC must build a new revenue processing facility at a cost of $15-million because the old one has structural failures.


  15. Neil, I like your idea. Just eliminate fare collection completely. Reduce staff (collectors, auditors, verifiers) and maintenance operations (i.e. farebox equipment maintainers). Pay the drivers of the buses, automate the subways, and future LRT’s. You’ll only need a bus/streetcar driving staff, cleaners, IT, legal, and finance team. If people took the TTC as their #1 choice of transport, then just imagine the reduction of cars on the road, keeping our roads lasting longer.

    Eric C, think of your argument in reverse. Everytime you go into the 905 and everytime you purchase goods/services/food, you’re impacting the 905 with a cost.

    – Truck drivers pass through the 905 to bring you food.
    – Truck drivers pass through the 905 to bring you goods.
    – If you use transit in the 905, should you be expected to pay 1.5 times the fare?
    – If all the 905’ers that currently work in the 416 started to work in the 905, would the business exist in the 416?
    – If you were to drive outside Toronto, let’s say to Pearson Airport, or to Canada’s Wonderland, should you be charged 1.5 times the price of the plane ticket or the admission ticket because you’re not part of the 905?
    – Visitors to this province or country use our infrastructure, should we be charging them 1.5 times the price because they don’t pay municipal property tax or federal income taxes?


  16. Metro ran an article today about fare increases in the new year.

    Coincidence? (Somebody must read your blog!)

    Steve: Actually, Ed’s article was up on Metro’s website before I wrote my piece. I wanted to provide more detailed analysis and comment than he has room for.


  17. TTC is in the unusal position for a Canadian transit system that significant portion of revenue and ridership comes from outside the city it serves. Farebox revenue comes from Toronto and non-Toronto residents alike, but the operating deficit is met purely by Toronto residents. On the other hand, as Steve pointed out, a lot of capital expenditures are financed provincally, from people across the GTA and the rest of Ontario.

    Here’s a thought… consider an ‘annual pass’, with a price such that (price * number of Toronto residents) + (price * non Toronto regular users) is equal to TTC’s annual expenditure. All Toronto residents pay (via property tax system), and in return get free rides. Those regular users outside Toronto pay the same amount. Cash fares remain for occasional non-Toronto users.

    Ther result would be (1) The average amount paid per Toronto resident (in fares and deficit support) would fall, as some of TTC’s current deficit would now be met by those users from outside of Toronto; and (2) the average amount paid per user (regardelss of origin) would fall, because more of the cost would be by non-users.

    The exact cost for an ‘annual pass’ would depend on what percentage of TTC’s revenue comes from non-Toronto residents, and I have no idea what that percentage is. If it is 50%, it would cost $250; if is 25%, it would cost $375; and if it is 10%, it would be $450.

    Steve: The problem with your scheme is that it is unfair due to the way the property tax system works. The tax on a house has nothing to do with how many people live in it, and yet a house with six people could get six Metropasses. Someone who lives alone would get only one. Moreover, people who live in rental accommodation (like me) typically pay a higher tax for what we get than single family home owners because apartment buildings are taxed at a higher rate. My taxes are buried in my rent, but if my building were taxed like a house, my rent would go down.


  18. Hi Steve,

    I was just curious if you happen to know what the percentage of the $2.25 token fare cost goes to the Non TTC ticket agents (i.e. Convenience Store Owners that sell TTC tokens)? If you encourage a significant number of people to switch from metropass to tokens would there not be a substantial loss in revenue because more people would be buying tokens from somewhere other than a subway station?

    Steve: I believe that the cut given to the ticket agents is under 5%. They also sell passes, or can if they choose to stock them. The recent change to use a peel-off sticker was to combat a situation where an agent would turn in a bunch of “unsold” passes that had actually been in use and, in effect, were rented by the agent. This dodge is no longer possible.


  19. One thing to compare this to is car ownership costs. I just got the notice that my insurance is going up again … $1,800 to $2,100. 3-4 years ago I was paying $2,200 for two cars being driven to work; and now I pay $2,100 for one that sits at home. If metropasses rose as much as car ownership costs, then $125 wouldn’t seem like much.

    On the other hand, I do need a car for occasional use (what with elderly relatives in 905, work meetings in the back-of-beyond, and frequent trips to Quebec) … perhaps after laying that much out for the increased car insurance, there is no money left for transit … and I’ll have to switch to driving to work! 🙂


  20. In Ottawa, transfers and passes are accepted between OC Transpo and STO (Gatineau transit). These are two different cities, separated by not just any imaginary line, but a provincial boundary, as well as a river. These two providers at least try to work together, even if many of their attempts are ham fisted. It makes no sense to me that Toronto should differentiate between the 416 vs. the 905.

    However, one of the key differences is that if you have a residence in Ontario, you must get the OC Transpo pass, and if you live in Quebec you must get the STO pass. Service in Ottawa is better, but the pass is more expensive accordingly. So it’s seemingly beneficial to get a STO pass instead, however the need to provide proof of residency makes this extremely difficult. Is this the best way? Probably not, but it seems to work, and their are relatively few jurisdictional battles between the two agencies.

    Now, as for Toronto, they want to increase transit use, but make it more and more onerous to use. This is insanity! If two transit agencies in different provinces can get it to work, why can’t Toronto and it’s surroundings?


  21. The radical idea proposed by Neil and George is very appealing. All the money that goes into fare collection (like tax collection) is non-productive. It doesn’t move anyone anywhere. Regular transit users will save a pile of money, current non-users will have a big incentive to leave the car at home.

    I think the proposal should be GTA wide, so there will be no bickering over residents of neighbouring municipalities getting free rides. (Tourists and visitors will get a free ride, but anything that increases tourism is seen by most people as a benefit.)

    I scanned municipal sites to find their transit budgets, got populaton stats from Wikipedia, and came up with the amount residents are currently paying for transit, through a combination of taxes and the fare box. Note that these are just operational costs. I’ve used “person” to mean “resident” to save space. Adult single fare is based on best price for tickets or tokens.

    Municipality  Pop.  Op Cost Cost/  Subsidy/ Trips/  Cost/   Adult
                  (k)       (m) Person Person   Person/ Person/ Single
                 (2006)  (2009)                         Year    Fare
    Toronto       2,500 $1,300  $520   $116     180     $2.90   $2.25
    Mississauga     670 $  120  $180   $ 84      40     $4.50   $2.40
    Brampton        430 $   70  $163   $100      25     $6.50   $2.50
    York Region     900 $  100  $110   $ 58      20     $5.50   $2.60
    Durham Region   560 $   77  $138   $ 99      15     $9.20   $2.63
    Total         5,060 $1,667  $329

    *York Region costs represent both YRT and VIVA. Adult fare is for the YRT, one-region ticket.

    We could eliminate fares for local transit throughout the GTA with a tax of $329 per resident. As the above figures show, this is an increase of about $200 a head over the subsidy that is now paid through municiple taxes. It’s not that much, really. For the cost of a set of snow tires you get to travel anywhere in the GTA a whole year for free. And free fares are certainly going to increase ridership, which should lead to more service, which will attract yet more ridership.

    Some GTA colleges cover a transit pass as part of the mandatory student fees. If our politicians had the balls to levie a similar charge on GTA residents, we could make a quantum leap forward towards transit sustainability.


  22. Eric Chow, Laurie, Neil, and George: those suggestion would be a non-starter for any politician. Anyone who suggests those ideas would be laughed out of the house faster than Steve can whip out his Metropass (which I estimate takes around 0.625 seconds).

    Say what you will, but this amounts to nothing more than a cash grab, and a bad one at that. While there are right-wingers who support transit, what they do not support is an additional tax which means less money from taxpayers wallets. It’s akin to the Ontario Health Premium levied by Dumbo McSilly and his Fiberals. This would not only backfire, but in the absense of a viable, reliable transit alternative, a greater call for yet another expressway into the Downtown Core would get even louder.

    Calvin has it correctly, you want to make it more attractive for 905ers to take transit. Not everyone will take public transit because it is unable to suit their needs, and for others, paying two fares to just get across the 416-905 border is just pure silliness.

    I also like Karl’s point about making Metropasses cheaper. Coming from Ottawa, I believe that a pass in that city was necessary if you were making more than 30 trips in one month. Here it is 50. Making a Metropass more financially attractive would not only attract more riders, if it was cheap enough, there is more justification to buy one even if you weren’t making as many trips to cover the cost. It would just be one of those things that are great to have in case you need it, but not entirely necessary.

    Steve: A big problem with proposals for fare-by-distance implemented via Presto! as the “solution” to the cross border fare problem is that the very people who take long trips, who we want to get out of their cars, would be faced with higher fares. People like me who live close to all my major transit destinations would ride probably more cheaply than I do today.

    This is a classic example of the scope of an issue being too narrowly defined. If all we care about is revenue, then we shake down every rider for every cent we can get out of them. If what we care aboud is the larger benefit of having more people on transit, then the equation completely changes.


  23. I’m noticing that the biggest single problem with elimination of fares has yet to be brought up, and I’m surprised Steve hasn’t chimed in on this point.


    If there were suddenly no fares… demand would surge… instantly!

    There is no way the system would be able to handle it. We have neither the fleet nor the infrastructure to accommodate such. The closer you get to the core, the worse the situation would get. Then you have people complaining about their tax dollars going to a system that is too crowded for them to use… not unlike the current situation we have anyway.

    Steve: I didn’t want to chime in because the important thing here was the discussion of fares, what level they should be at, and as a spinoff the question of how much we spend to collect them.


  24. “Some GTA colleges cover a transit pass as part of the mandatory student fees.”

    I think you meant, “some GTA colleges force students to pay extra fees to purchase a pass which may or may not suit their needs”. Toronto universities have rejected such a course by referendum, and there is no reason why they of all classes of Torontonians should be subject to a mandatory pass when a vote of their number has declined such an imposition.

    Steve: And I might also add that it was a ridiculous “marketing” stance for the TTC to insist on 100% takeup of passes by universities as a condition of the U-Pass program. This almost guaranteed its failure, but I am sure there are some within the TTC who are quite happy with that arrangement.


  25. “Toronto universities have rejected such a course by referendum, and there is no reason why they of all classes of Torontonians should be subject to a mandatory pass when a vote of their number has declined such an imposition.”

    We bloody well did not. ONE SUBURBAN school did. Ryerson (and I believe others) were then told by their student unions that there would be no referendum on the basis of U of T Scarborough’s rejection. Suffice it to say I think the odds of success were better downtown.

    In any case, the real problem is that a referendum was required at all. Waterloo didn’t push the issue off the student government, which has an even greater ability than the city to debate forever and accomplish nothing.

    That said, why the TTC insists on making all student discounts be administered through a third part is beyond me. Just make a list of eligible institutions and set up a new category under the existing MDP.


  26. Capacity … obvious …

    But as a goal it makes sense … fee collection costs money, if we eliminate it, or minimize it we save some money …

    So, are there ways to get there? Which lines cost the most for fee collection? Which lines are the most underused? Which lines make the least amount of money? Which lines serve the poorest parts of town? Which lines serve the busiest parts of town? Which lines cause the most risk for collectors? Which ones serve mainly students? Which ones serve mainly seniors? Which ones have the most transfers? Which ones have the least? Can we make them cheaper, can we make them free? Would it hurt if transit was free 1am-6am on weekends? How about half price days during the summer weekends, or smog days. Why is gas more expensive in some parts of the city but transit is the same price everywhere?

    Do we need one size fits all pricing for all lines? If we have to implement Presto, is it necessary on all the lines? Is it cheaper to propose something else for Ontario ….

    What happens if we just raise the prices on busy lines? What if that money could only be spent on improving those lines?

    What about a metropass lite? It only works on busses? Or it only works during non-rush-hour … what about selling a family pass that is good for four people?

    The goal should be to maximize the usage of the system for the least amount possible … if we can lower the prices for people without putting the system to overcapacity and increase usage of the under-capacity parts of the system we might be able to increase dependency and hence the mind-share that people give to the ttc when it comes time to vote, or when it comes time to pay the taxes.


  27. With all the talk of how the TTC insisted on 100% take-up for the U-pass program (which I believed was the case), it was pointed out to me by my son that York University students can optionally purchase the pass on campus for $96.

    Being on the border with York Region, it is impossible to insist on 100% take-up for a TTC pass, but there is no similar discount purchase program available for YRT passes. Though even if there was, my son says he would probably still buy his pass off campus given the huge long lineups to save $13. The lineup would be worth it if he could purchase a few months at once, though.

    Steve: This begs the question of a special type of “MDP” for university students. Why queue to buy a pass when they can just be mailed to you and billed to your bank account? Of course, with a smart card, the “purchase” would be done online rather than having to queue to buy a real pass.


  28. One thing to remember about a metropass increase is that the MDPers won’t pay it immediately. My subscription anniversary is July so I will continue to pay $100/month until June even if there’s a hike unless TTC have changed their billing practices since the last time.

    Steve: There has been talk of doing that, but I’m not sure the legal folks would go for it. In effect, it would be a change in the terms of your subscription contract without your having agreed to it. Definitely worth checking on.

    I even remember one year when they marketed the subscription program on a “beat the fare increase” basis with the guarantee that the existing price would hold for one year.


  29. @George: Fare collection overhead may go down if fares are eliminated, but security overhead would go up. We’d need more transit constables to make sure people are not sleeping on the subways, etc. It’s easy to forget, but the presence of a collector adds a certain degree of safety to every subway station.


  30. The other thing to keep in mind about the VIP passes is that at least at Ryerson the TTC seems completely unable to get additional orders out in a timely fashion; if the student union ever orders to few we’re pretty much out of luck, I recall one occasion when the TTC told them that the additional order would be delivered “tomorrow” for well over a week.


  31. From the University of Toronto Student Union Site:

    We do not “run out” because we “didn’t order enough”. We have a credit line with the TTC, which is determined by a number of factors. We are entitled to a maximum of 12,000 Metropasses per month. The TTC only makes a certain number of Metropasses per month, and we are the single largest buyer of the Metropass. They cannot provide us with unlimited quantities based on our demand. The line of credit also costs us money.


  32. Some observations from other systems that I have used and their pass systems.

    1. Chicago: The Chicago passes are activated by the reader and are good up til that time on the day that they expire. A day pass that you first use at 1033 a.m. one day is valid until 10:30 a.m. the next day. Since that passes are only checked upon boarding you can actually ride around for quite awhile after it has expired. I believe that there weekly and monthly passes are also activated that way. There is also a card reader on a pole opposite the driver so people with passes can pass by it and it bleeps if you have a valid pass. This allows for quicker entry.

    2. London: The London Underground has six zones and the inner two are treated as one if you stay with in them but you can get a fare without zone one. The day pass is either for only zones 1 and two or for all zones, including the trams and the Docklands Light Rail and some Rail line inside the city. The Oyster Card is set up so that you only pay the minimum of a multi trip ticket or the cost of a day pass, whichever is less for the trips that you make that day, providing you tap in and tap out. If you don’t tap out it charges you the maximum possible cash fare. There are “tap” stations all over the place and people seem to be tapping away like mad to avoid the surcharge. I think part of it is to determine travel patterns and get accurate loading counts.

    3. Melbourne: This is my favourite city. They have a zone 1, zone 2 and a zone 1 and 2 “ticket” or pass. They have a 2 hour ticket but it only show the hour for which it was activated and not the minutes. If you activate it at 9:59 it is good until 11:00 but if you activate it at 10:01 it is good until 12:00. you can buy a 10 by 2 hr ticket which is good for 10 rides on any days or a 5 day pass that is good for any amount of riding for 5 consecutive week days; these cost the same amount. A two zone 2hr ticket cost $5.80 while an all day pass costs $10.60. It pays to but the day pass. The 10x2hr ticket and the 5 day pass both cost $49.60. The monthly pass cost $169.00 and the yearly pass is $1808.00. There are no fancy card readers or magnetic strips or RFID chips. Just time stamp the 2 hr ticket or show your pass to the roving inspectors. Extremely low tech and easy to operate.

    If you want you can down load all 116 pages of their fare manual.

    Any way you look at it I think that Melbourne is the simplest system to operate and maintain. My $0.02 worth.


  33. I hadn’t thought about the trickier aspects of doing the VIP for students. I’m on it through my employer (a downtown hospital); the cost comes off my paycheque, and I can drop by the business office any time during the last 10 days of the month to pick up my pass. I have to sign for it, but I’ve already paid. The drawback is that the office has to order the passes more or less at the start of the month — i.e. the cost of my December pass will come off my first paycheque in November. So the business office always knows exactly how many passes they need to order, but the system’s not very flexible.


  34. Stephen Cheung, Yes I realize the no-fare option is radical and would require politicians with serious vertabrae. This would have to be done at the provincial level since that is where the taxation ability lies. Imagine the PR spin, “Ontario sets an unprecedented green initiative”. But in the end it would be the voters that would need to be sold. To transit users it would be preaching to choir. To drivers and business it would be, “We’re doing our best to make the roads less crowded”. btw, I’m also against road tolls for the same inefficiency reasons.

    The solutions to fare collection and validation are what they are because they are being proposed by offices whose sole purpose is that activity. That is why they are often silly and self-serving. When all you have is hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

    I also find the discussion between municpal, provincial and federal funding rather amusing on topics beyond just this one. There is only one taxpayer. Politicians often lose site of that.


  35. @Neil: Politicians with that many vertebrae would also need to run on fare-free transit as a platform. They would likely not get elected given the current transit modal share.

    People who don’t run on fare-free transit as a platform would not want to spend political capital on implementing it.


  36. Robert Wightman made one error and one omission about Melbourne’s fares. The two-hour fare is good for two hours from the next full hour after it is validated (see page 13 of their fare manual). Validating a ticket at 9:59 will have it good until 12:00, not 11:00 as he mentioned. Validating it at 10:01 will have it good until 13:00.

    The omission is that those two-hour tickets, if validated after 18:00, are good until 03:00 the next morning!

    I have to agree that their system is one of the simplest to use and likely as simple to implement. Fare cards are available for sale in most convenience stores and newsstands (at least in the CBD), as well as in train stations and from self-serve vending machines on the trams.


  37. Electric Landlady wrote, “I’m on it through my employer (a downtown hospital); the cost comes off my paycheque.”

    One nice thing they have in the States is that when one purchases a transit pass this way, it is a pre-tax deduction, so you don’t have to wait until next April to get your tax credit. To put into numbers, instead of $109 coming off your paycheque (assuming regular price), only $92.65 would come off.

    Of course, down there, it comes off one’s paycheck, not one’s paycheque! 😉


  38. First off, I do not buy the TTC’s claims that they are losing far too much on passes! On most transit systems a pass pays for itself after 40 rides (twice per day, five days per week) give or take. If virtually all transit systems can operate like this, why can’t the TTC? Currently one must ride the system 49 times (48.44) before the pass pays for itself. I’m willing to bet that most rides beyond the 40 are impulse rides – ones that the person would normally walk but decided to take transit instead since they saw a bus coming their way. While they may affect the average value on a whole, the reality is that these rides do not cost the system very much and probably cost the rider more than the TTC.

    I also wonder how the TTC counts Metropasses along with transfers? If a Metropass user makes a transfer, are they counting that as two rides? And since riders who use transfers do not pay the driver, are they counting that as a Metropass since the number of riders does not add up to the fare collected? I have no doubt that through creative accounting they are finding ways to skew pass usage numbers to try and justify increasing its cost, or eliminating it altogether!

    Another thing: How come the TTC gets so little subsidy compared to other transit systems? Blaming Harris is fine and dandy, but other GGH transit systems seem to be subsidized far more. Is this because the TTC has higher operating costs, the current regime feels ‘we’re fine’ and feels they don’t have to treat Toronto fairly, they don’t want to upset voters in ridings that hate Toronto, etc?

    Finally, here is an idea, though controversial, to deal with this fare mess. Raise cash fares to $3, eliminate all transfers except between subway/SRT lines, and eliminate tokens as well. This means that if someone has a two way trip which includes at least one transfer, it would be cheaper for him to buy a day pass. It also means for regular users a pass becomes the only logical option. Sure they may be paying more compared to tokens and bulk fare, but at least they are getting a far more convenient experience.


  39. Fingers crossed. From a piece in today’s Star on the good admiral’s new TV show:

    Q: A big thorn in riders’ collective side right now is the proposed fare hike that would see Metropasses jumping to $126 from $109. Where do you stand with the increase?

    A: I’m not fully supportive of the recommendations. I know why they’ve come forward, because the TTC has a $100 million shortfall … I’m not prepared to hit the Metropass riders this hard.

    They are our most loyal, dedicated and dependent riders. I think you’re going to find the commission is going to adopt a fare increase, but it’s not going to be as tough on our Metropass riders.


  40. Neil: I think you’re missing my point, or maybe I wasn’t clear enough.

    The biggest problem with the transit tax is, surprise, not many will benefit from this. Sure those who will will get free transit and all, but what about those whose transit options are so ludicrous that they have no choice but to rely on their cars?

    Just as the argument goes about riders in the TTC formerly subsidizing for free parking, there will always be one about the rural or transit-inaccessible people always having to subsidize people in Toronto for free transit.


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