Those Pesky Metropasses

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?

54 thoughts on “Those Pesky Metropasses

  1. 75 is a surprisingly high number of average trips. Even accounting for the number of ‘free’ trips induced, and the reduced cost to TTC for fare collection, somewhat-under 75 trips for the price of 51 or 43 seems like a bargain for riders. Metropass users may cost less than other users, but if they are riding at peak times, they are not much cheaper, and they are more expensive if those peak rides are induced by the zero marginal cost. It’s the same problem with road capacity and induced trips on unpriced roads.

    I wonder how many Metropass holder trips are ‘2nd trips’ initiated within 2 hours of the 1st, which would otherwise be covered under a timed transfer. To the extent that this is true, the introduction of timed transfers will represent reduced value for Metropass holders.

    If it can be administered efficiently, I would welcome a move to introduce reduced fares for those on social assistance instead of seniors.

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  2. Senior/student cash fare = $2
    Senior/student ticket = $1.95

    Really no real point in buying tickets in advance – the rate can increase and one has to exchange them, one can lose them etc etc. Why bother? I think I will wait for PRESTO.

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  3. The TTC is a transportation company and they have no business performing welfare service. If the province wishes to subsidize welfare recipients for transit, there is nothing stopping them from paying that cost.

    A 2 hour pass is the easiest to implement for Presto. All the computer needs to do is check the time, if it is 120 minutes over since the last tap, it automatically deducts a new fare. Is it the best method? Not really. Fare by distance is the most logical. The TTC can always set up a rule where if a trip is over 20km, there will be a 20% discount on the fare. This will reduce the impact to the lower income people who have to live farther away from their jobs.

    There are two types of passes. One intended for tourists and one for commuters. The tourist ones should be restricted to foreign passport holders entering the country on visitor’s visas. This type of passes should be subdizied by the likes of Tourism Ontario. It is used to encourage tourists to see more of Toronto. More attractions seen means more money spent.

    Commuters are a different breed. Many people stop by the supermarket, dry cleaners and other stores on their way back from work. This is what a transit pass should encourage. Leave the car at home and use transit. Even with a 2 hour pass, a stop at the supermarket and dry cleaners from work would surely last longer than 2 hours. In this case, the commuter is paying multiple units of fare anyways.

    With Presto, the TTC should be able to calculate how many trips a Metropass holder takes. They can then plot it on a graph. The optimal point should be somewhere around the average trips that 50% of the Metropass holder takes per month. If a typical holder takes 4 trips per business day, it would be much easier to model the cost in providing that pass.

    Region wide passes and fare integration cost money. This is not a case where the TTC or GO have excess capacity that they need to dump. Each additional ride triggers something that cost money. This could be additional buses or in some cases, the construction of a new line (i.e. downtown relief line). This is why no one wants to touch it. If there is excess capacity, someone will make it work to ensure that a vehicle is filled.

    The York metro extension was poorly planned. Had the TTC built office towers and shopping malls on top of the stations, the extra $10 million would not be a problem. Transit operations alone do not make money. They need to be subsidized by something or someone. JR Kyushu is about to go IPO. Based on their filings, they are loosing money on rail operation. In fact, only a few lines makes money. They only survive due to real estate. Real estate contributes 60% of their revenue which is much more than moving people and cargo. The trains are simply used to feed their real estate investments.

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  4. “TTC management has never liked the Metropass and fought hard against its introduction in 1980.”

    Why is this? Monthly/weekly passes seems like a regular feature of many transit systems around the world.

    Steve: “Toronto is different from other cities.” “Passes will never work here.” That’s the sort of thing we heard until Hamilton Ontario introduced a pass. Why couldn’t Toronto have one if Hamilton did? Well, OK, but we will price our pass higher than every other city so that we don’t lose too much money, and with luck, few people will buy it.

    The Metropass bump slid in unannounced, an item completely ignored in the Mayor’s press conference, and it was quite clear the hope was that nobody would notice for as long as possible.

    With apologies to the reasonable folks who work at TTC, I have been listening to this sort of crap for over three decades, and it makes total nonsense of the supposed “customer focus” the organization claims to have.

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  5. The thing about a Metropass, is that the only people who will normally buy it are the frequent users of transit. It is normal for most organizations to give volume or bulk discounts for exactly the reasons you cite.

    The TTC should be focused on how to make better use of the resources they have, not complaining about their best customers. They need to focus on how to actually get to headway management, and provide timely dispatch and a very high level of service reliability.

    Steve: Even the TTC has argued that the cheapest way to get more capacity is to run a reliable service, but this aspect of “efficiency” and “attractiveness” completely eludes the organization.

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  6. I wonder if the TTC’s measurement of foregone revenue associated with a 2 hour pass is anything like their measure of foregone revenue associated with the Metropass.

    Steve: Their estimate is $20m, which is really small change on the scale of $1.1-billion in revenue.

    Speaking from my own experience, the 2 hour pass option means I can do more by making multiple trips and likely stop for a meal (thus contributing to the local economy). I have rarely ever take a short journey and come back within the 2 hour window which means I am still paying 2 fares. Without the option of the 2 hour fare I certainly would have driven.

    I expect there is more diversity of choices among transit users in Toronto … but I expect that with the greater amount of choice available, more people will still pay the 2 fares and spend more time doing more things.

    I realize that getting rid of the children’s fare is easier and cheaper than implementing 2 hour passes, but if the foregone revenue of 2 hour passes is not the projected $20 million, then the gap between the two initiatives is not that great.

    I appreciate the argument that no children’s fare means a small saving for families and ensures no child stuck without a means of transport. However the 2 hour pass could potentially provide more saving for everyone (with or without children) if they can compete their trips within the 2 hour allotted time (thereby saving the cost of an adult fare).

    Cheers, Moaz

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  7. An average of 75 trips a month doesn’t seem realistic.

    I share mine with my wife, and I track usage. It’s rare that it hit’s 70 in a month. 60 to 65 is more typical. And that includes trips where I get off, go to the grocery store at the subway station for milk, and then go back in the subway to get on a bus! Without the Metropass, I’d instead buy my milk somewhere else!

    So for each rider like me averaging 65, someone is 85? And I do have months closer to 50 – so someone else is at 100?

    I really have my doubts on those numbers. Particularly how many are really trips, and how many are jumping on a passing streetcar to go 3 stops to the hardware store I was already walking to.

    The only good news is that for those of us who pay any income tax (which would be most of us), the multiplier is only 43 rather than 50.5. And for those of us who buy the annual MDP pass the multiplier is about 46 without the tax credit and 39 with the tax credit. And those multipliers are a better deal still then the best you could do in 1980 … or even 2004.

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  8. “Really no real point in buying tickets in advance”

    It saves you from carrying exact change. Even a nice round $2 isn’t always something you have.

    Steve: My cousin, who is a senior, carries both tickets and tokens. She uses the latter to avoid big lineups at stations. I too am a senior, and am one of the relatively few who buys a pass on subscription because my usage is high enough to make it worthwhile.

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  9. One thing the TTC seems to forget is that they do not operate in a vacuum. The TTC is a division of the City’s government. If the TTC starts discouraging pass users from not only buying a pass but potentially being a TTC rider at all, then those people will presumably drive instead (either from their current residence in the city, or they’ll move to a suburb to save some money with which to buy a car, and commute), and at that point other City divisions will have trouble–instead of needing to buy more streetcars or add trains or whatnot due to crowding from all those rides we horrible, evil pass buyers are taking, we’ll need to build/widen roads and highways, suffer from higher CO2 levels, etc.

    City Hall–both the TTC and council itself–and the provincial+federal governments should try to get this through their thick skulls: a thriving transit service, not only including but especially pass riders, is better than any of the alternatives. The TTC needs to stop being underfunded, and the TTC’s most frequent passengers need to stop being overcharged.

    On this note, one common complaint about, for example, increasing property tax municipally or HST/other tools provincially+federally in order to fund transit is that it’s unfair because only transit riders will benefit — let’s try shoving the entire 504 streetcar’s worth of passengers into cars, 1 or 2 each, one day and having them drive down King at rush hour, or do the same with the YUS+BD lines on Yonge+Bloor, and see how non-transit riders feel about who benefits from funding transit then.

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  10. It is high time that seniors are charged the same price as adults. It is outrageous that seniors pay less and TTC is unnecessarily wasting money in converting half of the seats on all buses and streetcars and subway trains to blue seats for senior priority. Any fare or tax increase should go to fund the Scarborough subway and other than that, I do NOT support any fare or tax increases. It is time for Scarborough to have same number of dollars per capita spent on it’s transit (retrospective to amalgamation) as Downtown does.

    Steve: I will assume that this is satire. If not, you are totally full of equine effluvia.

    BTW the blue seats are not half of the cars/buses, but only a portion set aside, if needed, for anyone who has difficulty standing. People don’t have to be old to need to sit down.

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  11. I did a few quick comparisons: it looks like a monthly pass costs as much as 33 fares in Vancouver, 31 in Calgary, and 25 in Montréal. An extreme example is Stockholm, where a 30-day pass costs as much as 22 city fares, but covers the whole county (equivalent to being able to go to Barrie on a Metropass).

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  12. Not sure if my post got lost or just not approved yet, but I suggested to keep track of your rides as if the TTC had a 2 hour transfer in place. So say on one day you go to work and back, and then in the evening you take the bus to the grocery store and back in less than 2 hours. Record it as 3 (+1). I’m certain your final number will be significantly less than 75.

    The only way I can even fathom that making sense is if the TTC is counting even standard transfers with the pass twice. The creative accounting to reach that number is stuff I expect from a monopolistic teleco like Rogers, not a public service!

    Finally, the thing that pisses me off the most is that we have had a 2 hour pilot project running for TEN YEARS now! While the $20 million number gets thrown around, I would like to see a FOI request on how they reach that number. And does it include external factors like reduced traffic and more sales for local businesses? At this point, if they are so unsure if they are going to implement it system wide, cancel it until they are! That is what a pilot project is for!

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  13. I did a few quick comparisons: it looks like a monthly pass costs as much as 33 fares in Vancouver, 31 in Calgary, and 25 in Montréal. An extreme example is Stockholm, where a 30-day pass costs as much as 22 city fares, but covers the whole county (equivalent to being able to go to Barrie on a Metropass).

    The comparison to other agencies is definitely a good idea, so I’ve added a bunch within the GTA, primarily based off the Presto website’s list of fares. As a side point, I’ve indicated which have separately loaded monthly passes on Presto vs. which ones, like GO, simply make subsequent trips free after X per month/week (marked pass/auto). So, this list is for Adult Monthly Pass equivalencies in X adult single token/ticket/presto tap, rounded to the nearest whole number:

    GO Transit – 36 (auto, with some nuances, see presto/GO sites, but this is the effective “monthly pass” vs “ticket” number)
    Brampton – 42 (pass)
    Burlington – 35 (auto)
    Durham – 37 (pass)
    Hamilton – 44 (pass), or 48 (auto, based on 11 per week = auto weekly pass)
    Mississauga – 52 (based on 12 per week = auto weekly pass)
    Oakville – 39 (pass), or 37 (auto)
    Ottawa- 36 (pass)
    YRT/Viva – 40 for 1 zone, 38 for 2 zones (both passes)

    Added a few non-presto transit agencies (that are in the greater-GTA/connected to GO):
    Barrie – 32
    Grand River Transit (Kitchener-Waterloo) – 31
    Guelph – 31
    Milton – 27

    And yet the TTC is at 51…only Mississauga is higher, most are well below. Sad.

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  14. The goal should be to get more people to take transit. Currently, a typical commuter will use tokens and not buy a pass because they only take about 40 trips per month (assuming few days off for holidays or sick days). These people will never use the TTC for anything but their daily commute.

    If the metropass was $2.75 for the first 20 trips, $2.25 for the next 20 trips, $1.50 for the next 20 trips and $1 for any additional trips in the month.

    This way, that typical commuter would be much more likely to use the TTC on weekends and evenings (which doesn’t contribute to the problems at peak loading) because their marginal cost would be half price.

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  15. The TTC looks at the Metropass not as a cash cow, but as a cash drain. This is a case of seeing the glass as half empty, instead of half full. This malady extends to the convenience store that won’t sell you a Metropass on your credit card because it will ding them 2%. In that case I will decide not buy my Metropass there. (Who buys a Metropass in cash anyway?) The result is that the convenience store forgoes making a sale. This foolish view of focusing on the costs of sales, rather than the bottom line is not unique.

    Since the Metropass is an “all you can eat” service, at first you’ll want to make sure that you get the maximum return on your investment, so you’ll think of creative ways to milk every ounce of benefit. However, with “all you can eat” propositions, you eventually do settle down into a sane pattern of use. (How many times can you go the Mandarin buffet anyway?)

    I agree with you that the benefits of the Metropass is a two way street. It means faster boarding overall, which reduces idling time, and keeps buses and streetcars on schedule. Keeping transit on schedule means happier customers and drivers, lowers costs, and makes the TTC a more convenient service. A more convenience service means happier customers who will come back.

    It the Metropass was no longer available, then even more people will ride transit by default, and not by choice. More folks will second guess each trip to consider alternatives, or to combine trips. This perpetual drag on the propensity to ride transit will eventually erode the motivation to use transit, leading ultimately to leakage in the existing and future revenue stream.

    Of course there will always be Metropass power users, but that is to be expected. There will always be outliers in any model. But that doesn’t mean that model is flawed. If anything, I believe that the cost to benefit analysis will show that the TTC is still better off.

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  16. Tom West,

    Buying a Metropass is not strictly a breakeven proposition based upon a pass/token price Ratio. There is a “Convenience Premium” that I’m sure many are willing to pay. Fumbling around for change/tokens/paper transfers are a pain, It’s much easier to flash a pass that’s in a clear wallet sleeve. Even better when it’s embedded in your phone or credit card.

    I would be fascinated to see the survey data to infer what % of passholders do so for convenience instead of economics. Having said that, I am suspicious of that data (it’s easy to imagine some folks exaggerating their answers to avoid looking economically “dumb”).

    One of the many nice features of Presto will be the opportunity to translate the real usage data into a much better customer profiles. From that, maybe the Transit Agencies can design better pass options (e.g. Off Peak, Tiered, etc).

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  17. To commenter 2 – Benny Cheung:

    “The tourist ones should be restricted to foreign passport holders entering the country on visitor’s visas.”

    Whaaaaaaaaaaat? This must be satire.

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  18. I have a Metropass subscription and in the recent past never reach the multiplier that is saving me money. In fact many months I take only 20 – 25 trips which means I am essentially paying double. There are two principal reasons for this. First it is convenient for me to always be able to board a transit vehicle. Second, I love the TTC and if I am subsidizing it a bit I can afford to.

    Turning to my commuting and younger years – when I made a huge “profit” on my Metropass, an awful lot of those trips were made on buses, streetcars and subways with lots of spare capacity. The marginal cost to the TTC of having me as an off peak rider was near zero.

    Of course now, when I ride in off peak, there is no spare capacity. However, the TTC still has no additional costs. They simply ignore the fact that Sunday afternoon or weekday evening passengers are squished to death in rush hour equivalence. Despite the discomfort, there is still no marginal cost to the TTC.

    One quibble Steve. You report that the saving from the pass is 15%. However, isn’t the Provincial tax based on a multiplier of the Federal Tax. With an additional Provincial tax at roughly 50% of the Federal Tax, doesn’t that mean that pass holders save 20-22% based on the Federal and Provincial tax calculations.

    Steve: No. The transit tax credit is a deduction from the federal tax payable. It does not affect the provincial calculation.

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  19. @Ben Smith

    Apologies, I was operating off the Presto website’s list of fares – Mississauga has an automatic weekly pass when one makes 12 trips in a week, multiplied by the 4.333… average weeks per month gives 52. For some reason they completely neglected to post the actual monthly pass for MiWay despite having it for most others. Thanks! 43 it is for Mississauga. TTC is indeed well above all others in the GTA, then.

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  20. Pete said:

    “I would be fascinated to see the survey data to infer what % of passholders do so for convenience instead of economics. Having said that, I am suspicious of that data (it’s easy to imagine some folks exaggerating their answers to avoid looking economically “dumb”).”

    Amen, I would also put to you that some will do so to remove the factor of the decision. I know for myself I used to buy one not because it was the cheapest to get to and from work (as given the frequency with which I had to drive to clients in the outskirts it was marginal) but so I would use it for those off peak trips. I would use it instead of the car, because it was paid for. I personally think that the TTC is making a big deal about giving bulk discounts to its best customers and should get over it. If and when they are prepared to approach peak and off peak pricing they can ask for a premium for an on peak Metropass. As noted above I would be very interested to see the reaction of other drivers, if even 20% of current peak riders decided to drive instead.

    The TTC and City traffic (and Toronto Police Services) need to get into their minds the TTC is a service of the city, critical to its operation and get on with fixing its operation problems. This means transit priority and adherence to headway. The idea that transit needs to pay its way at the fare box would be fine, if the city streets that were primarily used for cars also had a positive revenue model. (The cost of plowing, paving, salting etc is offset by what revenue?) One of the key points of transit is to make better use of this extremely expensive asset base, to move people.

    City traffic needs to change its service concept, and focus on moving people, so a full LFLRV gets priority over an Artic, which gets priority over a regular bus, which gets priority over cars, figure out the best proxy to support that and act accordingly. I would argue that keeping transit moving will also attract ridership, reduce driving and hence frustration, and make policing more effective. The police need to get on with being a service to the city, and that includes helping transit move.

    Deliver the service, and stop complaining about having to do so, fix the roads for transit which includes lane exclusions and transit priority. That is part of the job.

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  21. Even with the increase in price, the Metropass is still a good deal. I love using mine. The question I’d love answers to is how (when the TTC switches over to Presto) is a Presto card more efficient/effective/a better deal than my current Metropass? I get the regional travel and declining fare after x trips, but I still don’t see “value” in a Presto card compared to my Metropass. I pay once and I’m done for the month with unlimited travel – that can’t be beat. Maybe I’m wrong?

    Steve: Much depends on the model for a “pass” that is implemented on Presto. One could argue for automatic capping of fares on a weekly or monthly basis based on usage so that everyone gets the benefit of flat pricing even if they didn’t plan it that way in advance.

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  22. Sorry, I miscalculated the multipliers for Vancouver and Montréal – based it on cash fares, not bulk tickets. It’s actually 31 in Montréal, and 39-43 in Vancouver (depending on how many zones you cover).

    A few more:
    Halifax 39
    Winnipeg 38.5
    Victoria 38
    Edmonton 37
    Québec 28.5

    Paris 34
    Budapest 32
    Oslo 23 (for the shortest trips, dropping as low as 16 over longer distances)
    Vienna 22

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  23. Steve said:

    Much depends on the model for a “pass” that is implemented on Presto. One could argue for automatic capping of fares on a weekly or monthly basis based on usage so that everyone gets the benefit of flat pricing even if they didn’t plan it that way in advance.

    Though planning ahead is clearly not the TTC’s forte, I find it surprising that they have not had more (any!) public discussion about what to do about fares and Presto. Presto is coming in the next year or so (already later than initially planned) and it will involve several major decisions like having “automatic capping” (as is done in London with the Oyster) and about whether to program it for the current complex transfer rules or simplifying everyone’s life by having a “timed-pass” (I’m hoping for 2-hours).

    Steve: For the past four years, the TTC has avoided any sort of public consultation that could involve spending money thanks to the combined efforts of Karen Stintz and the Ford crew at Council. This is an important issue that needs debate now, if only to hash out the options and their implications.

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  24. There are many, many trips I did not make on TTC due to quick stopovers necessary enroute. I would have chosen driving, cycling, walking or even nothing (as in no trip made) or save it for another day when I’m driving, instead as options. How is that equated over time as lost revenue? Keep in mind, doing nothing is competitive too on non-essential trips.

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  25. Steve, I wonder how much of the TTC’s institutional aversion to the Metropass is based on managing rider growth.

    Given that the province is shirking its traditional responsibility to fund operations and the city’s own reluctance to boost the TTC subsidy, the TTC realizes it isn’t getting the kind of political support and financial resources to operate an ideal transit system that can accommodate unlimited rider growth.

    Isn’t the hostility to the Metropass a way of cutting down on the “surplus” trips of those users? With every increase in the token multiplier, a Metropass becomes less and less appealing. And so riders start to make the transition to tokens/cash fares, and cut down on those surplus trips they might previously have taken without the Metropass (as you’ve pointed out repeatedly, those “surplus” trips would not often be normally taken in the absence of a Metropass, so it isn’t real lost revenue). With fewer Metropass users, and fewer corresponding surplus trips, the TTC can manage a transit system that is otherwise bursting at the seams. It isn’t a great way to plan a city, nor the optimum philosophy for a transit company, but it makes a certain inherent sense for a transit system that recognizes the lack of institutional political and financial support it will receive.

    Steve: TTC has been averse to the Metropass since it was introduced back in May 1980. I don’t think this is an attempt to constrain ridership, simply a money grab from customers who, like the frog in the slowly boiling pot of water, will put up with fare increases higher then those for other riders.

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  26. You know, looking at this new fare structure, especially the slap in the face regarding senior and student fares, I think once I run out of tokens I will simply pay cash fare. With quarters. I don’t find myself going into the city very often, so the tokens I still have will last me quite a while so I won’t be carrying too much change on me usually.

    To the TTC, I’m sorry for STEALING all those rides by buying my transit fare ahead of time. I thought that by pre-purchasing my rides, I was just receiving an earned discount by buying in bulk, giving you more money now upfront to save in the long run. Not to mention creating convenience for you by giving your staff less change to count, and being rewarded for choosing to regularly use a sustainable mode of transportation. How wrong I was. I just hope my 12 quarters don’t weigh down your vehicles too much.

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  27. Soaking price inelastic customers is the best way to increase revenues. A smart company raises prices on customers who will keep buying at the higher price. Is there any evidence that higher prices have reduced metro pass demand?

    If not, then this is the only smart move the TTC has made in years. They should be applauded for maximizing revenues.

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  28. 51 trips to break even on a Metropass seems crazy. If a person works on average 20 days a month, and only rides transit between home and work, it would never payoff to make a switch from tokens. Even factoring in the federal transit tax credit, the Metropass is money loser for riders. The only people who would gain any benefit are those who never use a car, bicycle, feet, etc. to get anywhere.

    I guess when you have a system bursting at the seams, it’s easy to get complacent and not place any kind of priority on creating more committed riders.

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  29. Ben Smith said:

    To the TTC, I’m sorry for STEALING all those rides by buying my transit fare ahead of time.

    I was living in Malaysia when the TTC introduced the new tokens in 2006. The next time I was in Canada (in December 2006-January 2007) I had a lot of disposable income (at the time I had paid off my student loan and was walking to/from work) so I bought well over 100 tokens over the 2 weeks that I was in Canada.

    I used a few tokens whenever I came to Canada on holiday and had around 100 left in 2010 when I returned to Canada. It turned out to be the best investment I ever made.

    Cheers, Moaz

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  30. This latest fare increase has caused me to rethink whether buying a Metropass is really worthwhile. I’ve decided that starting in April I’ll no longer be buying Metropasses. I’ll be using transit 4x a week to get to work, and then biking to work on Fridays (which I did last summer as well even though I had a Metropass). Since both of the stations I use have Presto, I’ll still get the transit tax credit so I’ll be paying $76/month to get to work after the tax credit.

    Due to the TTC fare increase they’ll actually be making less money from me! Instead of getting $133.75 from me (the current cost of the Metropass), they’ll now be getting $89.60 ($2.80×32 trips), because with the breakeven point being so high, it no longer makes sense to get a Metropass and I’d rather just bike/walk outside of work commuting. Biking is faster than the TTC 90% of the time anyway.

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  31. Gatini said:

    “Soaking price inelastic customers is the best way to increase revenues. A smart company raises prices on customers who will keep buying at the higher price. Is there any evidence that higher prices have reduced metro pass demand?

    If not, then this is the only smart move the TTC has made in years. They should be applauded for maximizing revenues.”

    Yes, clearly the TTC has a partial grasp of a monopolistic pricing model. The real question needs to be is that what we want? I appear to have been laboring under a false impression that the TTC was a public service.

    The next thing of course would be to raise transit rates on those who cannot afford a car (inverse income test), and especially during the exam period when students must attend University/College. Clearly they should also be raising the fare from about 7:30 through about 10:00 to ensure they get maximum revenue for the buses they run. This should also permit the TPA to raise it rates in order to capture additional income. This sort of behaviour, as long as we are not worried about the low income etc, should permit the TTC to actually run at or perhaps even above break even. It may however, have a negative medium and long term impact on property tax revenues.

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  32. Nahid, congratulations on cycling to work. I’m sure the City of Toronto would be pleased to hear you are using a transportation method that is healthy, environmentally friendly and requires a much lower subsidy from the city. If biking is faster you should consider doing it any day that the weather the suitable.

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  33. One last comment from me (I hope).

    For those who buy a Metropass for “convenience” but question if it makes financial sense, have you thought about just buying a ton of tokens while trying not to alter your transit usage? So for example, you are walking down the street and you see a bus coming, so when you hop it to go only a few stops, rather than flashing your pass you just drop a token? Once you get used to it, you may find that this provides the same amount of convenience while also saving you money.

    Hell, didn’t the TTC used to even sell tokens by the BAG as an alternative to buying a pass?

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  34. “Nahid, congratulations on cycling to work. I’m sure the City of Toronto would be pleased to hear you are using a transportation method that is healthy, environmentally friendly and requires a much lower subsidy from the city. If biking is faster you should consider doing it any day that the weather the suitable.”

    Biking is faster for pretty much everywhere I travel except work. I live at Yonge-Bloor and work in a building connected to Finch Station so the subway is significantly faster for getting to work. But last summer I’d bike on Fridays anyway just for the exercise. If I didn’t have to cross the 401 on a bike (which is hell), I’d probably do it everyday.

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  35. I’ll chip in here –

    I’m one of those “economic fools” who buys the Metropass because it kicks-ass to have, not because it saves me money. Some months, I likely pay more-than double – others, I easily make it back. But I buy it anyways because it’s just so damn handy. I don’t like tokens OR change – both of them are things that don’t fit in my wallet, and therefore get lost and are a hassle to deal with. Boarding is way faster, I can skip lines, I never have to worry … the peace of mind is fantastic. I’ve recently converted two friends from the same means – one does a pretty good job of making it back, but the other admits he’s doing it for the convenience.

    I have a car and drive it occasionally, usually only to travel out of town or to transport goods i.e. once a week I grab homebrew supplies and groceries, and again the convenience outweighs things. But living at Queens Quay and Rees, and working at Dundas and Broadview, means the car is almost always a worse way to travel for anything else I’d do than the TTC. My commute is an incredibly strong case for the car – I live literally at the east bound Gardiner on-ramp, and it’s only a few minutes waiting to turn left (or u-turn to Booth) at Carlaw before I’m at work – I commute directly against traffic, on a 4 lane expressway, nearly door to door. There is *never* traffic on the way there. I don’t think there is a quicker possible commute of that length at rush hour anywhere in the city.

    But I have to pay for parking and gas, so economically it’s quite expensive, and I can’t really enjoy the ride or enjoy a coffee on the way to work like I can on the TTC. And going home is a nightmare. Getting from Broadview back to Booth takes a good 5 minutes some days, and then taking either the Gardiner or Lakeshore from ~Jarvis back to Rees can be 15 minutes if traffic is bad. The honking, endless sea of red lights, and total lack of progress do not help one de-stress after a day at work. Meanwhile on the TTC, I get R.O.W. all the way to Dundas Square, at ~2 minute headway. The Dundas car is more hit or miss, it’s usually not more than 2 or 3 but I’ve waited 15 – but going east of Yonge to Broadview there is again relatively little traffic to deal with. The whole commute rarely takes over 30 minutes, compared to 15 to drive there and 30 to drive home … again, luckily going against peak direction in most cases (save the 509/510) so it’s quite pleasant.

    For everything else (going out, going to a friend’s house, running quick errands, going to the gym, etc) the car doesn’t even come close – between parking, traffic, and my good fortune of living right at rail transit, the TTC is *always* the better option, be it economics, convenience, quickness, whatever. So as Michael said, I’m happy to “subsidize from my pocket” the TTC.

    But that leads to the statement that, by making the monopolistic business decision, the TTC has done something smart for once by taking advantage of Metropass users … instead of doing the right thing as a public service. Other statements echo this thought on how it may be a tactic to keep the network from bursting, which is again a good business decision but a poor public services decision. The problem as I see it is that the TTC is being funded more like a business than a public service – it’s oft mentioned that they have one of the highest farebox recovery rates in North America, there is no federal funding, etc. There are tons of issues internally that play a part as well, to be sure … but while I agree the TTC *should* function like a public service, it’s hard to do so when a lack of funding forces you to function more like a business.

    So I really wish the prices went *down*, not up … but the only alternatives are to cut service (which would suck), get funding elsewhere (which so far isn’t happening), or cut operating costs significantly by removing non essential personnel such as fare box staff and the doorman on subways (which the unions would never allow).

    P.S. Nahid, that’s amazing! I can’t imagine riding Yonge from Bloor to Finch is all that enjoyable – are you on Yonge the whole time? I’m planning to bike to work every day once the weather permits it, as I’m on the waterfront trail and the Don trail for >90% of my ride … but how do you bike when it’s winter out, i.e. half the year?

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  36. “P.S. Nahid, that’s amazing! I can’t imagine riding Yonge from Bloor to Finch is all that enjoyable – are you on Yonge the whole time? I’m planning to bike to work every day once the weather permits it, as I’m on the waterfront trail and the Don trail for >90% of my ride … but how do you bike when it’s winter out, i.e. half the year?”

    Haha I actually enjoy the ride quite a bit and stay on Yonge the entire time. I prefer biking on the road to being on trails … trails can be a pretty boring ride while on Yonge there’s all sorts of stuff going on. The only part I hate is crossing the 401, especially when you’re going north and end up in the middle of Yonge St with two lanes of 401 offramp on your right. I don’t really ride in the winter … that’s why I said I won’t stop buying Metropasses until April.

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  37. Steve said:

    “Much depends on the model for a “pass” that is implemented on Presto. One could argue for automatic capping of fares on a weekly or monthly basis based on usage so that everyone gets the benefit of flat pricing even if they didn’t plan it that way in advance.”

    Given their attitude to the Metropass, would not the TTC have a major issue with this. It would deprive them of even more revenue. Once I exceed the magic number the TTC loses revenue, at least with the Metropass I may never get to that number and like those mentioning it above, who buy it purely for convenience, the TTC gets to keep the surplus.

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  38. Steve said:

    “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.”

    I cannot help but think that reliable service requires enough space on the bus to allow boarding and alighting to be quick and predictable. One of the advantages of the lower crowding standard is that should also mean shorter times servicing stops. It also means a little flex when a bus faces slightly higher loading. I would argue Steve that the fleet would need to grow notably in order for even the best management practices to result in truly reliable service, and the TTC has yet to show it can achieve things like 95+% on time dispatch. I believe that a 95% on time dispatch is a reasonable goal, where on time means never more than 1 minute early and no more than 1 minute late 95% of the time. Ideally equipment and drivers should be added until this goal is comfortably met in all but the worst circumstances. If need be they should come with a pilot project on a few routes to provide basic dispatch signaling like they have on the subway. However, this needs to be done on a headway basis.

    Run times need to be adjusted as it would appear they are to reflect reality. Minimum reliably sustainable headway at peak need to scheduled, and the fact that it needs to be longer than desired and why shown (not enough equipment or hours budgeted).

    I cannot help but think many more buses are required to provide the level of reliability and access that Toronto residents appear to want, and the 50 or so they are calling for now will not even begin to touch the demand – given that 40 or so would should be needed each year just to keep up with ridership growth, ignoring the current shortage or longer run times (add 300 and the drivers and you proper dispatching might get you close).

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