The Metrolinx board will meet on Monday, January 9 to formally approve new, higher fares across the system effective February 18, 2012. Unlike the previous fare hike of March 20, 2010 which was a flat $0.25 bump in all fares, this round uses tiered increases so that short-distance fares are not as disproportionately penalized.
- Fares which are now between $4.20 and $5.50 would rise by $0.30 (5.5 to 7.1%)
- Fares which are now between $5.51 and $7.00 would rise by $0.35 (5.0 to 6.4%)
- Fares which are now at $7.01 or more would rise by $0.40 (at most 5.7%)
Considering that many GO fares are well above $7 (a one way from Kitchener-Waterloo to Union costs $14.60), that maximum increase amounts to only 2.7%. Oddly enough, the presentation on the agenda notes that:
A flat increase disproportionately impacts shorter trips and will make any potential future fare integration arrangement with the TTC more difficult to achieve.
The 2012 increase is still disproportionately high for those who might make short journeys. The idea that this somehow supports future fare integration with the TTC is hard to swallow.
The average GO fare is $6.55 and the average increase, allowing for the effects of discounts, will be about $0.31 (4.7%) . If this were applied to the KW-Union fare, the increase would be about $0.70.
A chart of page 3 of the presentation makes interesting reading. It shows various GO cost factors and their rates of increase over the past decade. By far the highest are diesel fuel and electric power.
Concurrent with the fare increase, GO will change the discount plan for adults and students to encourage their shift from paper passes to Presto. The discounts of 17.5% and 35% now offered to adult and student passholders respectively will stay in place for Presto fares, but the discounts for a paper pass will drop to 15% and 30%.
Like the TTC, GO faces the dilemma that adding service, even if they carry more riders, drives up costs because on average all services recover only about 80% from the farebox. Stronger ridership with little service improvement is financially beneficial, but service improvements add to the operating costs.
With constraints on funding from Queen’s Park, passengers will have to dig a little deeper. This is a major issue for future GO planning as they move to services that will not have as robust a cost recovery rate (two way, all day rail service). The farebox cannot pay for GO’s evolution from a system that cherry-picks the cheapest of riders to one that provides service as a basic policy for the GTAH.