Dining With Andy Byford

Recently, I was part of a dinner group hosted by the Star’s Corey Mintz that included TTC’s CEO Andy Byford.

A transcript of our conversation (somewhat edited) is on Corey’s site.

13 thoughts on “Dining With Andy Byford

  1. (the “Actual Leftists lapping up actual gravy (privately funded)” pic at the bottom of that transcript was just golden lol)


  2. (I’m commenting here because it was something Steve said)

    “The problem is that that’s a fairly limited definition of a fare structure, and the TTC’s requirements are much more complex”

    The TTC’s fare requirements are not more complex than any other transit agency on Presto! Without knowing the exact figures I would guess that almost all riders use cash fares, tokens or daily/weekly/monthly passes – all of which can be done with Presto as it exists right now. (I know this because it already is!). GTA passes are also possible with the current system.

    To put it another way: what does the TTC want to do with its fare system that cannot be done with the current Presto system?

    Steve: The TTC must move away from its complex transfer rules to something like a time-based fare. Also, Presto has no way of handling multi-person fares such as a family pass unless it’s done on the honour system and does not require metering passengers through turnstiles.

    One point about “pass” type fares is that in theory one should not ever have to “tap” except at barrier entrances. A checker can verify that you have a valid “fare”. However, if there is an administrative “need” for the vast majority of trips that are taken on passes today to tap in everywhere, a lot of trips will be missed because many people simply won’t bother on crowded vehicles.


  3. Steve,

    Was this dinner the one where Karen Stintz was present, or the more recent one with Byford & Upfold? I remember you were at the dinner with Stintz, but I didn’t read any mention of you in the recent article in the Star. So, I’m glad you included the link to Mintz’ site because I actually feel more confident knowing you were there.

    That said, it seems like an interesting discussion was had and I had to smile at the inclusion of gravy on a sub….

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: The online article includes a photo with me sitting beside Andy Byford. Only Byford’s and Upfold’s comments were included in the article because they were the focus, while the other media/bloggers present animated the conversation.


  4. Steve: I agree it would be good for the TTC to move to a time-based fare, but that’s something that could be done with Presto. (It already is – I know Hamilton, Durham and various other systems give you unlimited travel for 2 hours after the first tap-on.)

    Steve: The challenge is to get the TTC to make this changeover with their existing system because transfers and Presto will co-exist for some time (easily a year) during implementation. I know that other systems do this already, and it should have, but didn’t, shame the TTC into making the change long ago.

    With pass-type fares, there are two ways to do it with Presto. One is what I call “tap-and-cap” (tap on every trip, and your expenditure is capped at the pass cost, which is what GO and Oakville have). The other is to have a pass stored on the card (which is what Hamilton has), and then is no administrative need for such users to tap-on. (A checker will see the card has the pass loaded).

    Steve: I prefer the method that avoids the need to tap except at any point where the fare (pass) is actually being validated. “Tap and cap” is the original GO Transit model. A related consideration in all of this is whether there should be a cross-system capability so that frequent users get a discount when they travel on “foreign” systems to their normal riding, not to mention combined volume-sensitive fares for travel between systems such as York, Mississauga and Toronto. Depending on how this works, the permutations of when people have to tap or can just go through their trip tap-free can get a bit complicated, and this can lead to a “tap always” protocol for simplicity.

    I agree about the family/group pass issue. I don’t know of any existing or proposed systems that has neatly solved that one. However, they must surely represent only a tiny proportion of trips made on TTC, and so there is little to be gained or lost.

    Steve: The difference on the TTC is the large proportion of off-peak and discretionary trips as compared to other bus systems and GO. The problem lies in whether entrances are gated or not. If not, then the group pass only needs to be “read” when it is validated by a checker.


  5. It’s possible to get carried away trying to re-implement the Family Pass in exactly the same form on Presto. It hasn’t been around long enough to deserve that reverence.

    In the Presto world, there should be something that allows families to travel more cheaply on weekends, so that the cost of a typical family outing is similar to what a Family Pass costs today. That’s a much more flexible goal than “Make the Family Pass work on Presto” — perhaps saving significantly on implementation costs and reducing the system’s complexity (which can have a big impact over the life of the system).


  6. From my point of view, as one who regularly uses Presto, it seems to me that a huge mountain is being made out of a molehill.

    First, the TTC is going to have to switch to a time-based transfer. YRT made this switch a couple of months before VIVA service started up since it would be a proof of payment system. I spoke with a few operators when they were learning about this ahead of the change-over and they had some concerns, but felt that time expiry would simplify issues concerning whether a transfer was valid or not. Initially, the time-based transfers meant that they had to adjust the tear-off time every 15 minutes along the route, but some operators simply set it for 3-4 hours at the start of a run so they wouldn’t have to do that. Passengers didn’t complain about that!

    When Presto came in, the tear-off transfers were retired and the Presto terminal was used to issue a paper transfer for passengers using cash or tickets. This eliminated the need for the operator to change the tear-off time every 15 minutes. That would be one benefit to implementing both time-based transfers and Presto at the same time.

    Steve: For the TTC, the main problem is subway transfers which can be obtained on demand rather than as, in effect, fare receipts. Also, the new streetcars will not have operators collecting fares, and so it’s not just a case of changing the existing practices for issuing transfers.

    For passes, while it would be nice to not have to tap on all the time, is it really that much of an issue? Take a poll and ask the question: “Would you prefer to not have to tap on but pay for your pass up front OR would you prefer to pay for your pass in installments but would have to tap on where you would pay or show a transfer now?”

    I know that some agencies have you pay for a pass up front on the card, but is this really a good thing? There is no way to validate this unless it is checked, so how many will just flash their Presto card with no monthly pass on it unless extra money is spent placing fare enforcement officers on non-POP vehicles?

    Tap and cap makes everyone the same as far as entering is concerned. For the rider, you don’t need the cash flow to pay for the entire month up front – you only need to have a balance on your card for the next couple of days and can add as little as $10 at a time as you need it. If you have a month where you end up only spending $80, that’s all it will cost you. If you end up needing rides worth more than the price of a monthly pass, the pass price is all it will cost you. What could be simpler?

    Steve: The tap-on issue is bigger when it comes to transfer movements especially at busy stations which are not set up to funnel riders past a fare reader. This does not have any equivalent at other transit systems in the GTA. Metrolinx says that they will have a “free body” transfer between their LRT lines and the TTC system (e.g. at Eglinton and Yonge), but this only works if their contract with the LRT line’s operator is a fee-for-service and does not depend on ridership. The moment the payment requires keeping accurate counts of riders and their relative usage of different systems, that will bring the need for otherwise needless “taps”. Some media coverage has implied that Metrolinx is thinking of dividing revenue based on ridership rather than on service level.

    Given that the new streetcars and LRT lines will be POP and possibly the subway at some point, is this such a hardship? Pass users still have to get out the pass and show it to the operator on buses. Presto users can tap it without taking it out of their wallets. I never even take my wallet out of my pocket when entering a TTC subway station that takes Presto! The reader is at a convenient height for me to bump against it and pay my fare hands free.

    Steve: It’s not a question of hardship, but of the interference with passenger flow through stations. It’s worth pointing out that even GO recognizes the inconvenience by allowing regular riders to define their “standard” trip so that they don’t have to tap off.

    Finally, for family passes, why should this be implemented on Presto at all? You should be able to PURCHASE one at a subway station using the balance on your Presto card. I would suggest that being able to purchase one on board a bus using the balance on a Presto card would be possible as well. A paper pass for groups on weekends is no different than providing a cash fare user with a paper transfer. During the week when it is a Day Pass for a single rider, simply have a daily tap-and-cap set at the price of the Day Pass.

    This is not rocket science, but for some reason it is being made to be that way for using it to ride the rocket.


  7. Steve wrote,

    “For the TTC, the main problem is subway transfers which can be obtained on demand rather than as, in effect, fare receipts.”

    This is a point that I have highlighted often in the past. A time-based transfer system will require the end of the open transfer machine that anyone can access at any time. A transfer can only be received at the time fare is paid.

    How this is physically done is a very minor point. The major issue will be the public outcry over losing the sacred cows that those transfer machines are. Somehow, a good campaign will be needed to get people to want a two-hour transfer over having a machine on TTC property that they can use to get a fresh transfer when they pass through a subway station.


  8. Steve:

    It’s worth pointing out that even GO recognizes the inconvenience by allowing regular riders to define their “standard” trip so that they don’t have to tap off.

    Tapping off is inconvenient but is it more inconvenient than tapping on? My guess is that “standard trips” on Presto are more an extension of the old tickets that were cancelled before you took the trip.

    GO is offering a commuter service that delivers hundreds of passengers into Union Station at one time, I couldn’t imagine trying to make all those riders tap off at once. Whereas, tapping off at the “home” station out in the suburbs is probably not as much of a challenge, as there aren’t that as many people getting off at each station as there are getting off at Union.

    My guess is that most TTC subway stations would not face as much of a challenge of tapping on & tapping off, except for:

    The ones with no/small concourses and no room for expansion
    Large-scale transfer stations where many subway passengers leave for streetcars (like Dundas West … as a U of T student I knew that if I boarded a SRO train at St. George or Yonge I could probably get a seat after Dundas West)
    terminal stations, especially those with major bus interchanges like Finch and Islington

    TTC subway stations are going to have to expand to accommodate Presto, but I don’t think that passengers will be very much against tapping off.

    As for Time Expired Transfers, I don’t see why it should be such a challenge for the TTC to implement. The big question is how much time they want to offer (2 hours seems to be best), as well as changing the organizational rule that “transfers are not good for stopover” … a rule that, in effect, encouraged many people to commit good-natured transfer ‘fraud’ so they could make transfers and enjoy

    a more interesting trip
    a longer trip
    a short stop-over (I remember as a student reading a “That Scatterbrain Booky” by Bernice Thurman Hunter, where she describes transfer ‘fraud’ during the 30s.)

    In Mississauga the time is set at 2 hours from the start of the run, so transfers are only changed at that point. How hard would it be to do something similar in Toronto?

    Cheers, Moaz


  9. Moaz;

    The trouble with timed transfers is that under the current system you can get a new one every time you enter a subway station. When I am in Toronto riding around and checking things out I go up to St. Clair, trade my transfer for a St. Clair one, get lunch at a nice restaurant, then get back on the St. Clair Car to the Subway. Toronto has the most integrated system when it comes to the ability to change vehicles without needing to go through a fare control area. This ease of passage is what will make the tap on tap off system difficult.

    In every system I have ridden on it is impossible to change between between surface vehicles without having to pass an operator unless they have POP. The number of passengers going through Yonge Eglinton or Kennedy Eglinton would make the requirement to tap as you pass onerous and would demand a large number of Presto tap machines. The reason that GO went to the standard trip was to reduce the number of machines needed. People boarding the trains tend to arrive in a wider time period than those who are trying to get off the system. I don’t think Metrolinx or Presto has done an accurate prediction as to how many tap machines will be required for the TTC, especially if you have to also tap as you pass at major transfer stations.

    I know London Transport requires the tap as you pass at certain transfer points but from what I have read about their rules if you fail to tap as you pass they nail you with a hefty surcharge. You also have to tap off when you leave the London subways unless you want to pay for a maximum fare as they still have 6 zones IIRC.

    With the opening of the subway in 1954 the TTC built its transfer facilities to make changing vehicles as easy as possible. This forward thinking in 1954, as well as the large ridership numbers, is what is making the implementation of an electronic system more difficult than in the rest of the systems in Ontario, not impossible but definitely a greater challenge. Especially if Metrolinx is going to demand tapping at interchange points between the red system and the green system.


  10. Moaz Yusuf Ahmad said about time-based transfers,

    “The big question is how much time they want to offer (2 hours seems to be best), as well as changing the organizational rule that ‘transfers are not good for stopover’.”

    By definition, a time-based transfer IS good for stopover. It is also good for a return trip, provided it is not expired upon entry to a pay-upon-boarding vehicle or any time during the trip on a proof-of-payment vehicle.

    My first exposure to time-based transfers was in Vancouver and shortly thereafter in San Francisco. Both of these cities have a 90 minute expiry and I found them wonderful to use. Fast forward to recent years where YRT switched to time-based transfers and had a 2-hour expiry along with some other GTA transit agencies. On my next visit to Vancouver, I found it was such a pain that my transfer only had 90 minutes on it!

    It’s all in one’s point of view. I recall shopping on a Sunday in North Carolina when we couldn’t here and thinking it was great. After Sunday shopping started here, the next time we were in NC, we thought it was primitive that stores did not open until 1 pm on Sundays! Similarly with transfers on the TTC, there will be resistance to time-based transfers when transfer machines in subway stations have to be replaced with collector- and turnstyle-issued transfers that are time-based. Eventually, people will wonder how we ever got by having to think up creative ways to commit transfer fraud.


  11. Presto’s a step in the right direction I guess but all of this tapping just seems like it’s going to be kind of cumbersome. I was in Vienna a while back and, while I actually preferred the TTC to their system in a lot of ways, one of the things they have on us is how easy it is to get onto transit. There’s no collectors or turnstiles anywhere, there’s just some posts marking the barrier of the fare-paid area and if you’re beyond them you’re expected to have a valid ticket or pass. I feel like that’s the kind of experience we should be moving towards here.


  12. I don’t know why I missed this point before, but there may be no need to tap at transfer points even if there is a need for paying a contracted operator based on ridership.

    From my understanding, VIVA buses have a video system that maintains a reasonable count of passengers boarding and leaving a vehicle that allows YRT to analyze ridership numbers. I suspect that there is a margin of error on such a system, but I wonder if it is accurate enough to be used for the purpose on the LRT lines operated by a private contractor.

    Steve: There is also a passenger counter system that the TTC is installing on part of its fleet to collect detailed counts. The problem here is that we would lose the “linked trip” view of a customer near and dear to the hearts of many planners even if getting the information requires an imposition on the travellers.

    Another related issue is the question of a timed fare. If tapping in gives two hours, but there is no need to tap again at a free-body transfer point, then there is more flexibility in the two hour window than if a new tap is required at every entrance, exit and transfer. I am just trying to imagine GO’s policy of refunding fares for late trips expanded to a system with over 2.5-million trip segments per day.

    Finally, there is the debate over whether a contractor is paid per ride or per unit of service. If per service, then detailed riding counts do not form part of the financial calculation, although they are important for deciding how much service should be operated.


  13. Steve wrote,

    “The problem here is that we would lose the “linked trip” view of a customer near and dear to the hearts of many planners even if getting the information requires an imposition on the travellers.”

    How do we lose something that we don’t have at the moment?

    Steve: We would “lose” something that is often cited as a “justification” for detailed passenger tracking.


Comments are closed.