The TTC Board has approved fare hikes in most categories effective March 1, 2015. [Scroll down in the press release for the details.]
This round included certain changes that attracted debate:
- Children (age 12 and under) will ride free.
- Adult Metropasses will change from the equivalent of 49.5 tokens to 50.5 tokens.
- Cash fares remain at their 2014 level.
Although the “average” increase is advertised as 3.7%, the Metropass holders (who are 40% of the TTC’s customers and account for 53% of all riding) will see an increase of 5.8%.
TTC management has never liked the Metropass and fought hard against its introduction in 1980. Over the years, to encourage use, the TTC reduced the fare multiple (the token equivalent of the pass price) from the original 52 and it eventually dropped to about 48.
Management pushes back, and treats pass holders as people who get too good a deal, also as a captive market who will put up with a larger-than-average fare increase leaving money to offset other fare policies such as free rides for kiddies. They argue that passholders don’t pay their way:
- Since 2010, the price of a pass has gone up by 17%.
- During the same period, based on surveys of pass users, the trips taken per pass have gone up from 70 to 75 per month, on average, or 6%.
- Therefore the price per ride (on average) has stayed at roughly the same level as inflation in Toronto.
- The effective after tax price of the pass is only 43 fares.
From 2010 to 2015, the cost of a token has gone up from $2.50 to $2.80, or 12%, roughly equal to the imputed increase for pass holders, but this assumes that every pass holder actually is making five more rides a month to offset the higher price. As for the tax rebate, this assumes that a buyer has taxable income against which to offset the transit credit, and passes actually cost the poor more than they do those with taxable income.
Management claims that it is “not economically sustainable to carry an ever-increasing number of trips without the associated revenue to cover the cost of providing those trips” [Budget Presentation, Feb. 2, 2015, page 25] What this statement completely misses is the fact that pass holders make many “trips” that they would not take on a pay-as-you-play basis, or they would creatively cheat on their transfers. Those 75 trips/month do not all represent “lost” revenue, nor do they necessarily push up operating costs through a need for increased capacity. Indeed, pass holders get no credit in this calculation for the much lower cost/trip of fare collection — one monthly transaction, an electronic one for the Monthly Discount Program, no handling of cash (other than one monthly payment for in-person transactions), no tokens to distribute and collect, and no transfers.
There has never been an accounting of the so-called cost of Metropass users to the TTC, and especially not one weighed against the benefits in simplified operations and the social benefit of a fixed, monthly fare.
Oddly enough, management has no worries about “sustainability” when it comes to the inevitable demand that free rides for children will bring, but instead spins this as a way to get future customers into a transit habit early in life.
This is a simple grab for $7-million in extra revenue in the guise of better equity.
In fact, Toronto should encourage more people to use passes as an incentive to ride transit. Being able to take “another trip free” is an important change in how a user views transit, and is similar to a motorist’s view of car use — it’s paid for, I might as well drive.
Unfortunately, the 2015 budget was assembled entirely out of view of the Commissioners who nominally should debate and approve these things. Mayor Tory and TTC Chair Colle simply assembled the media in a schoolyard one brisk morning and announced the new fares with no input from the board nominally in charge. The new fares were not even a campaign promise, quite the opposite.
One ray of sunshine in this procedural murk is that the Commission voted that management should bring back a report in May 2015 on a “vigourous” (later amended to “rigourous”) process for future budgets so that the policy issues affecting them can actually be debated. This is a welcome change, but it should not have been necessary in the first place if the Commission had been doing its job and actively developing policies in public view.
Next year, the TTC and Council will have to address key issues such as:
- Whether to implement a “two-hour fare”, in effect a limited time pass in place of the current transfers.
- Whether to implement discounted fares for recipients of social welfare programs.
- What, exactly, “fare integration” with GO and the 905 transit systems would look like, and who will pay for it.
- What will a “monthly pass” be in a regional context, and how should it be priced.
- How will the additional, net, cost of opening the Spadina Extension to Vaughan be absorbed in the budget (an estimated $10m that will have its full effect in 2017).
- The next round of “customer service improvements” beyond those planned for 2015 are off in remote 2019. Is this acceptable, or should Toronto continue to budget for even better service by, for example, fully restoring the crowding standards to the Miller era?
- What does “reliable” service look like, and what steps are required from management and staff to make this a reality.
This is much more complex than the smiling, simplistic, good news, bright-yellow-flower world of the previous administration. Is the TTC, is Toronto up to this challenge, or will the major debates be on the choice of tiles for new subway stations?
This dislike for Metropass use comes as an artifact of the lack of subsidies from upper levels of government. TTC still has among the highest farebox recovery ratios in NA. If there were an operating subsidy than the financial shortfall is lessened and the Commission is able to encourage transit use through Weekly and Monthly passes. Instead the passes are viewed as a drain on scarce funds and the commission tries to cover the shortfall from the weekly and monthly passes instead of the reverse.
That said 50.5 trips per cost of metro pass (meaning 25+ depart/return trips?) seems quite excessive. I remember when the Metropass was the equivalent of 5 work days per week over 4 weeks.
Steve: The Metropass has never been priced at 40 trips.
What is frustrating here is that the pass itself, and later the reduction in the multiple, were both policy acts of Council and the Commission to encourage more riding and to make the marginal cost of the extra rides low. Management has been fighting them ever since, and tries to slide in an increase in the multiple in the guise of fighting rising costs. The fact that they are frustrating the policy and taking advantage of prevailing “tax-fighting” environment to push through the change betrays a lack of openness especially when this aspect of the fare hike was not mentioned in the original announcement.
I thought one of the main reasons the city was pushing metropasses was to get people out of cars…
I own a car and for the past 7 years have been getting a metropass every month. I only use it to get to and from work. Which in the grand scheme of things is probably not the best course of action for me since some months I’m off quite a bit for holidays and vacation. But I still get my metropass every month to get me out of the car since my transit options made it easy for me to get to work.
But this increase is perhaps the breaking point of buying a pass and I’ll just drive to work from now on. With this increase I’m looking at paying $500 more a year than I was when I started buying passes 7 years ago. That’s pretty much my parking pass at work.
All this shows me is the city and the TTC aren’t serious about getting people out of cars.
Responding to the person about a traveller’s pass. There is nothing wrong with offering traveller a pass that is discounted versus a regular pass. It could even come bundle with a book of coupons. The TTC is integral in promoting tourism in this city, but we cannot have everyone buying that traveller’s pass. Tourism support should come relevant government agencies. Many travellers consider a ride in the Queen car from Neville Park and Long Branch as a must do activity. The longer travellers stay in Toronto, the more GDP it generates.
Right now, Toronto bound flights on Air Canada already sell Airport to Downtown bus fares. Imagine the proposition of selling a traveller’s pass in flight. It is an easy sale. Get the pass, use as much as you like, plus get discounts at these attractions. All this for one price. People with the pass can get off the flight, board the 192 bus and go wherever they like. No need to learn about transfer rules, no arguments with the drivers, no searching for change and no need to speak English.
Metropass, despite its price is also very easy to use. Even though it takes 50 rides or so to break even. It eliminates fare disputes, which many people do not want to do. Also, not everyone wants to understand transfers rules either. Many international students purchase a pass by default because they do not need to interact with the driver. It is always a flash or a swipe. This is what they are used to at home. For example, a SUICA card will work when using JR trains, then a Toei bus and then a Tokyu train. This is all done seamlessly even though it is not cheap.
Steve: My only quibble would be with the idea that passes would only be sold to foreigners (passport holders). There is a large element of tourism in Toronto from Canadians.
Even with the fare increase, you can still take advantage of the savings in gas, parking, insurance, maintenance, etc by using transit. But the most economical payment method for you is tokens, not a Metropass.
I was in Ottawa last week and OC Transpo just announced a 2.5% fare increase effective July first. They seem to have the opposite tack to the TTC in that they really soak the cash fare, going from $3.45 to $3.55, while regular adult monthly passes will rise by $2.50 to $103.25, while adult express passes will rise to $127.25, up from $124.25. This is required for their express buses. Single trip fares using Presto’s e-purse will be $2.84, up from $2.77.
Their ridership last year was 97.3 million; this is down from a peak of 103.5 million in 2011. Government employment is down 10.1% while private sector is down by 2.2%. Ottawa still has the third highest ridership per capita in Canada after Montreal and Toronto. From personal observations they seem to have a much higher ratio of peak to off peak ridership than Toronto does. Rideau St. Westbound in the rush hour resembles old pictures of Yonge Street with endless lines of buses instead of Witt trains.
My issue is similar to Steve’s in your (Benny Cheung) saying that *only international travellers* could use day/tourist passes… there are many MANY Canadian tourists (and Ontarians, for that matter!) who come to Toronto as tourists/visitors. Why can’t they use the pass?
Ottawa’s fare structure is based on a transit system designed for peak period commuting that has excess capacity. High single fares and low unlimited pass fares encourage the purchase of unlimited passes, pushing commuters to switch from car to bus every day, as opposed to occasional use on snowy days. The unlimited pass multiple is 29, well below the magic 32 that makes the pass worthwhile for everyday commuters.
Ottawa’s fare structure makes no sense for Toronto, which has no peal period excess capacity. A more expensive metropass makes sense for Toronto.
The issue I have is that it should make sense in Toronto, and the fact that Toronto is not experiencing large on peak growth indicates a fundamental problem. The question should not be around whether the multiple should be low enough to attract people out of their cars, but how we will accommodate them. These people need to be on buses and streetcars and subways for the city to work, so what has to be done in order to ensure this makes sense. I understand the argument and its validity from the TTCs perspective with regards to capacity, however, they should be making in this light. Tell city council, and the public that they do not want to attract more peak ridership because they cannot serve them, and let council and the public deal with the issue in that light. Some of these potential riders are likely drivers or underemployed as is. The TTC clearly needs capacity and this is a far less expensive option than the alternatives.
In 2006 the cash fare was $2.75 and the Metropass cost $99.75 (per James Bow’s Transit Toronto Site), equivalent to 36.27 trips. Even at the bulk discount cost of $2.10 ($21 for 10 tokens) works out to 47.50 trips, 8 trips above the 40 which could easily be made up with 4 weekend excursions.
Steve: The multiple is always quoted relative to the token fare, not the cash fare. A regular TTC user, unless they were feeling particularly spendthrift, would not pay cash for that many trips a month.
When it started, the Metropass was priced at 52 tokens.
It’s a lovely thought, but I doubt it’s true. Most int’l visitors would find the TTC antiquated and sloppy. If they bothered to take the Queen car going from downtown to Long Branch, I doubt their esteem of the city would be improved by getting short-turned up to 3 times.
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The amusing part is that Ottawa has not been a transit system with excess peak capacity for a long time. Hence the ongoing construction of a pre-metro to replace its downtown BRT.
Yes, but they are still taking the approach that it is easier to deal with a few more buses at an overcrowded terminus, than many more cars in the same area.
To refer to the downtown service on Rideau St. as BRT is a joke. The bus lane was so full of turning vehicles that most of the buses used the middle lane instead of the bus lane. BRT without a dedicated and isolated lane is a joke.
Yes this was an issue going way back. The portion between the Rideau Centre and Tunney’s pasture was always an issue even back in the 1980s. It really was a shame, because between the Rideau Centre and the train station it was extremely good (Hurdman which was my closest station a couple of minutes walk from my door was very well served). My own experience was generally good because most of the time I was only going as far as the Rideau Centre or the Hill. However, when I had to ride across downtown it was not nearly as good an experience, and I would agree that portion never qualified (in my mind) as a real BRT, merely really frequent bus. The difference between the areas being an effective study in why the type of BRT can be so important.