GO Transit Pilots Cut Rate Fare For Short Trips

Today, Metrolinx announced that GO Transit will offer a pilot low-cost fare on its Lake Shore line between Exhibition, Union and Danforth Stations. For $60, riders can buy a monthly sticker that would be added to their Metropass much as the Premium Express stickers for TTC services are today.

This is a substantial discount from the $181.60 that it would cost for the 20 days’ commuting trips based on the fares effective February 1, 2015. ($5.09 for each of rides 1-35, and $0.69 for rides 36-40.) The scheme began with a call for cheaper fares between Liberty Village and downtown Toronto, given that Exhibition Station is at the south end of the neighbourhood. Not to be outdone, east end Councillors jumped on the bandwagon, and Danforth Station was added to the request. GO’s announcement responds to these two “squeaky wheels”, but falls short on a number of other points.

  • Having a Metropass is a pre-requisite to using the lower GO fare. Depending on a rider’s travel pattern, a Metropass may be more expensive than pay-as-you-play token purchases.
  • The further one lives from Exhibition Station, the less attractive a walk to GO will be, especially during off-peak periods when finding space on the King car would be less of an issue.
  • One advantage touted for the scheme is offloading subway demand. In fact, this requires passengers to walk from Main Station to the GO Danforth Station, roughly a seven minute journey from the subway platform, plus the wait time added by the transfer connection. Ironically, many of the peak trains stopping at Danforth will also serve Kennedy Station which would be a much simpler transfer point for many east end riders, but the cheaper fare will not be available there.
  • The fare from Danforth to Union is the same as the fare from Scarborough, Eglinton, Kennedy, Weston, Etobicoke North, Oriole, Old Cummer and York University Stations. It is higher than the fare from Bloor, Long Branch, Mimico and Kipling. However, the cheaper “integrated” fare is offered only to those riders who have the least potential time saving by switching from TTC to GO for their commute trips.

Many peak period trains now run express and skip Danforth and Exhibition Stations. As of January 16, 2015, service is provided only by Lakeshore corridor trains (all Stouffville trains run express).

  • Danforth to Union
    • AM Peak: 6:36, 7:01, 7:16, 7:55, 8:27, 8:55.
  • Union to Danforth
    • PM Peak: 15:43, 16:30, 17:05, 17:20, 17:35, 18:18
  • Exhibition to Union
    • AM Peak: 6:27, 7:00, 7:37, 7:58, 8:24, 8:56, 9:04
  • Union to Exhibition
    • PM Peak: 15:43, 16:13, 16:43, 17:10, 17:43, 18:13

The schedules will change effective February 2:

  • Stouffville line trains will stop inbound at Danforth at: 6:15, 7:36, 7:48, 8:20, 8:46, 9:46
  • Stouffville line trains will stop outbound at Danforth leaving Union at 16:18, 16:48, 18:00

Some counter-peak Lakeshore trips that now run express will stop at Danforth. Details are on the GO website.

No additional trains will stop at Exhibition Station.

At the press conference announcing this pilot project, Metrolinx President & CEO Bruce McCuaig spoke of how this would be a “revenue neutral” undertaking. No additional trains will be operated. Whatever handful of commuters who now pay the full GO fare from Exhibition or Danforth to Union will get a big discount, but any new riders are found money for GO Transit. Whether this would be the case if the arrangement were extended throughout GO’s inner fare zones is another matter.

This is supposed to be a one-year pilot, and riders who originate in, say, Scarborough might reasonably ask why they have been left out in the cold even though there are many GO stations including those in the future SmartTrack corridor. How this pilot will establish much about the actual market for an integrated TTC/GO fare is a mystery, but the announcement provided yet another photo op for the politicians.

As of 1:45 pm on January 16, I await a formal response from Metrolinx to a query about the scope of the pilot and the absence from it of many potential stations.