TTC Contemplates Fare Option Principles

Updated on September 24, 2015 at 1:45 pm: The TTC has clarified a few points about its table of fare policies. The text of this article was updated to reflect this.

At its meeting on September 28, 2015, the TTC Board will receive a staff presentation on the principles to be used for evaluation of possible fare systems. At this point, specific changes to fares are not up for debate, but staff seek direction from the Board on where to focus their analytical efforts.

An important table comparing fare options across the GTHA is included in the report. Pass-based fares including the monthly discount program fall into a separate category of “loyalty programs”.

GTHAPolicies1 GTHAPolicies2

This chart drives home the fact that 2 hour time-based transfers are common in the GTHA while distance-based or zone-based fares are comparatively rare. Such a chart should have been part of the recent Metrolinx Fare Integration report, but it was not, potentially misleading the Metrolinx Board about the relative prevalence of GO’s world-view on fare structures.

Within Toronto, the TTC flags three challenges for any fare system:

  • Demand exceeds peak period capacity on some routes. By implication any fare structure that drives up demand will only worsen this situation.
  • Revenue control. The TTC does not entirely trust that any new fare system will yield the same revenue.
  • Complex fare and transfer rules. Within Toronto, the transfer rules make integration with other fare systems difficult if not impossible.

However, these may be offset somewhat through other improvements such as system-wide proof-of-payment and Presto rollout.

A timeline shows how various features of a new fare system would be implemented.

Timeline

Note that a move to support a wider range of cards beyond Presto is timed for 2017. This date is part of the Presto plans, as reported at the recent Metrolinx Board meeting. An essential change in the Presto model is that all of the fare handling logic moves to the “back end” of the system and the card (or some equivalent such as a SmartPhone app) merely provides a rider’s “credential” saying “this is me” to the system. Such a change makes possible a much richer set of fare integration and loyalty programs because a rider’s travel can be accumulated over time (much as a phone bill is) and the appropriate rates and discounts applied after the fact based on usage.

Underlying the analysis will be the assumption that new fare policies would not be implemented until 2018 when the technology underpinning would be in place. There is an expectation that the price gap between cash fares and Presto would widen relative to current practice as this is already the case in other parts of the GTHA.

There are seven principles proposed for the analysis:

  1. Improve the customer experience
  2. Meet the needs of our different customer groups
  3. Increase ridership
  4. Optimize TTC fare revenue
  5. Optimize TTC operations
  6. Embrace new technology to modernize our fare offering
  7. Support fare integration initiatives across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

The analysis will review:

  1. Cash fares and single ride options
  2. Loyalty programs
  3. Peak and off-peak fares
  4. 2hr time-based transfers
  5. Fare by distance/zone
  6. All-door boarding on buses
  7. Proof-of-Payment (POP) system wide including buses and subway
  8. “Tap on” to all buses and streetcars
  9. “Tap on and off” at all subway stations

Notable by their absence in this list is a discussion of service classes such as premium express fares and any scheme in which the “rapid transit” network would be a separate fare tier.

Also included on a regional basis will be considerations of low income discounts and fare equity as well as co-fares.

The analysis will come back for debate and endorsement by the TTC Board at its December meeting.

43 thoughts on “TTC Contemplates Fare Option Principles

  1. There is only one fare for me which is POP; Priceless Option Plan – good luck hiring more unionised enforcement officers with gold plated salaries, pensions, and benefits.

    This comment posted with a brand new Samsung Tablet purchased with savings from POP. If TTC really wants to play hard ball, then POP should be abandoned even on new streetcars otherwise I will be buying another high tech gadget in a few months.

    If TTC puts more resources into POP enforcement, then it just means easier access to subway stations (accessibility is very important and hence the low floor streetcars and elevators).

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  2. I’m not sure what they possibly hope to gain by considering tap-offs at subway stations, but not when exiting buses/streetcars. I understand the rationale on why tap-offs can cause problems on the surface system, but a partial tap-off requirement really gets you nothing.

    I also note that there’s no explicit consideration of fare classes, whether existing (children, students, post-secondary, seniors) or other oft-mooted ideas (ODSP, low-income, etc).

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  3. The TTC needs to rethink its fares. For years I have been saying that there needs to be more fare co-operation between cities and regional governments.

    In order for transit to be successful more than it already it is, we need to integrate fares across borders. People need to be able to go from Oakville to Toronto via transit without paying 3 different fares.

    One of the great things about York Region is that I can go from Markham all the way to Thornhill on one fare. You could not do that in Toronto, if you could people would use it more than GO.

    I understand the implications of Metrolinx taking over the TTC but there are days like today where I think it would be beneficial for streamlining things.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That first slide is wrong. You can use your Durham transfer on other 905 systems if you get there within the 2-hour window. The second slide is also wrong – U-Passes exist in Durham (UOIT) and Hamilton (McMaster and Brock university Hamilton campus). GO also permits U-pass use on certain services.

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  5. Does this mean there is no hope of expanding the 512 “pilot project” until at least 2018 at least? Since apparently the thought of just expanding the paper transfers used on the 512 to all vehicles has never crossed their mind, and it has absolutely nothing to do with gouging on overpriced passes and short return trips…

    Is there a world record for longest pilot project? 10 tears and counting certainly has to come close.

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  6. I assume they realise there is a typo in Table 2. Hamilton offers discount fares to over 65 (NOT over 85!) and the TTC does so too.

    Steve: Hamilton has a super “Golden Age” over 85 fare. That’s what this refers to.

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  7. “One of the great things about York Region is that I can go from Markham all the way to Thornhill on one fare. You could not do that in Toronto, if you could people would use it more than GO.”

    I’m not really sure what your point is here, since that’s not that far compared to many trips people take on the TTC. You can go way farther than that on the TTC for one fare; for example, from most locations in Markham that is a closer trip than Scarborough Town Centre to downtown.

    I am assuming your point is about municipal government boundaries, but if so, there is no contrast between YRT and the TTC here. Thornhill is in the same government as Markham, and as someone who took the Markham Highway 7 bus many a time in high school, I can confirm that was also true for the eastern half pre-YRT.

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  8. “Complex fare and transfer rules. Within Toronto, the transfer rules make integration with other fare systems difficult if not impossible.”

    What is complex about fares? Cash or ticket adult or senior/student and kids free. Pretty straight forward.

    As for complex transfer rules, well, CHANGE the stupid rules! KISS

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  9. Mississauga has a $1.00 fair for Seniors which was approved by council in the spring as a pilot program.

    Steve: Yes, but it’s a “standard” fare in that it applies to all over 65 as opposed to Hamilton’s over 80 fare.

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  10. Steve wrote:

    “Demand exceeds peak period capacity on some routes. By implication any fare structure that drives up demand will only worsen this situation.”

    This is not a red flag to me as it relates to revenue, but to service level. If the demand is there, then that is where the TTC needs to add capacity, in one form or another. It’s plain and simple.

    And in Hamilton, seniors aged 80 and over are eligible for a “Golden Age Bus Pass” which is free.

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  11. Users should be concerned about this whole exercise. RFID (the tech in Presto) takes more time to be read by the reader than a magnetic strip, this will slow down operations everywhere. This adds costs. But Presto is on the roll.

    Which leads me to my second concern: Integration

    The word has two very different and opposite meanings depending on who you are. If you are a user, fare integration between different systems means you want to pay less than current while also have less hassles (using one fare media instead of getting two passes or other fare media).

    If you are a politician (which mostly do not use transit) integration means higher farebox recovery through higher fares.

    Third concern which is linked to integration is fare-by-distance. Fare-by-distance is often thought of as an opportunity to raise revenue while making it difficult for users to determine how they will pay for an occasional trip. Obviously for your Monday-to-Friday commute you will quickly know exactly how much you will pay. But the occasional trip not quite so.

    Presto is meant to meet the politicians’ objectives not the users’, but the users will get one fare media and be able to leave home on their home system and connect with the TTC. For that is the whole point — it’s not about what TTC users need.

    That’s why there’s the option to tap in and out of the subway, because this exercise is driven with how to deal with the Monday-to-Friday commuters. And it is thought (I would say mistakenly) that those commuters are essentially coming from outside the TTC territory by bus and will only use the subway once in TTC territory. Hence why there is a discrepancy between subway and surface vehicles on the tapping of Presto in this study. Because it doesn’t matter to the powers that be. You are not supposed to take the bus or the streetcar when you leave the subway you walk to your office.

    It’s really sad, as one of the consequences might be to reduce the number of users who use the system (which is why most European cities abandon complicated strict fare by distance systems and move to large zones which make it irrelevant to most users) by making transit be the system you use to go to work from the suburbs to downtown but never for your everyday life.

    The politicians cannot fathom why anyone would subject themselves to transit outside of going to work. If you do not have a car, you are dangerous. It is sad.

    In the end of this exercise, most users will pay more than before and be saddled with a complicated system.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Edward Brain said:

    Steve wrote:

    “Demand exceeds peak period capacity on some routes. By implication any fare structure that drives up demand will only worsen this situation.”

    This is not a red flag to me as it relates to revenue, but to service level. If the demand is there, then that is where the TTC needs to add capacity, in one form or another. It’s plain and simple”

    The issue I suspect is that with the chronic lack of capital funding, how do you add this capacity? If we had been doing what we should have, the switches on Yonge would have long ago been replaced, and we would have additional turn capacity on Yonge (and it would likely run to Steeles),and would be installing new switches on Bloor Danforth. We would have a Finch and Eglinton LRT that ran from the airport to the eastern edges of Scarborough and a DRL already under construction (with a route protected for the future western side). There are routes that we simply could not add enough buses to make up for what we have not build (even if we had buses) I suspect trying to use buses to meet demand on King would make a huge mess. Elsewhere the requirement for basic infrastructure, to not simply have the transit caught in gridlock, needs to be built.

    While I agree, that we should not have to be concerned that an attractive fare will draw more people out of their cars, we have created a situation where, frankly riders would have nowhere to sit (or stand), and even if we buy buses, they will likely be stuck in traffic.

    Steve: I think you mean “signals”, not “switches”. The latter have been replaced many times over the life of both subways.

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  13. Steve said:

    “I think you mean “signals”, not “switches”. The latter have been replaced many times over the life of both subways”

    Sorry Steve – yes you are correct.

    Like

  14. Chronically Honest said:

    This comment posted with a brand new Samsung Tablet purchased with savings from POP.

    Fare evasion is like gambling, you have to quit while your ahead. The fine is up to $435, so you’d have to ride ten times a week for 16 weeks without being caught in order to be ahead, if/when you are finally caught. There was a short period when they couldn’t detain/arrest you, but they once again have Police Powers.

    Using the 2012 numbers of 520M riders and 3215 fines, assuming that they inspectors only find 1 in 8 people to ticket, then your chances of coming out ahead are 1 in 7.5.

    Richard White said:

    One of the great things about York Region is that I can go from Markham all the way to Thornhill on one fare. You could not do that in Toronto, if you could people would use it more than GO.

    I understand the implications of Metrolinx taking over the TTC but there are days like today where I think it would be beneficial for streamlining things.

    You realise that the TTC has about 9 times the ridership of GO, right? Markham to Thornhill is around 15-20km. You can go about twice as far on the TTC from Scarborough to Etobicoke. Plus YRT has zones, while the TTC is completely integrated. Do you want fare zones or not?

    That said, I’m in favour of transit upload to the province under a Metrolinx umbrella. Cities/Regions would be allowed to supplement a regional base standard within their own zones. The main benefits would be: eventual integration of design standards; flexibility in location of depots; savings on “bulk” equipment orders; and, a regional approach to expansion. Basically, Metrolinx would be to the GTA what the TTC was to Metro Toronto.

    Steve: There is one important difference, in 1954 the TTC was already a mature transit system that was comparatively untainted by politics. Metrolinx is all about politics, and yet this is all done behind the scenes. Do you honestly want such an agency to be in charge of Toronto’s transit system?

    Steve said:

    Hamilton has a super “Golden Age” over 85 fare. That’s what this refers to.

    I’d actually like this idea to spread. They are 1.3% of the general population of Ontario.

    Steve: And a correction. The Golden Age fare kicks in at 80, and that increases the population who benefit.

    Raymond said:

    What is complex about fares? Cash or ticket adult or senior/student and kids free.

    Kids 5-12 are free in Toronto, but pay everywhere else. University students pay an adult fare in Toronto, but a reduced fare in Mississauga. Adults ride free after 11 weekly trips in Hamilton, but after 12 weekly trips in Mississauga. In Brampton, passes have to purchased in advance of use and don’t allow inter-city travel, but single fares do.

    Everyone has to agree on a common operating procedure or else it’s horridly complex.

    Edward Brian said:

    This is not a red flag to me as it relates to revenue, but to service level. If the demand is there, then that is where the TTC needs to add capacity, in one form or another. It’s plain and simple.

    If the TTC needs to add capacity, then the fare changes aren’t revenue neutral, but require a higher City subsidy. Beyond this, there is little capacity for additional peak service, just cannibalizing weaker routes.

    Erick said:

    RFID (the tech in Presto) takes more time to be read by the reader than a magnetic strip, this will slow down operations everywhere.

    Technically speaking, RFID is faster than manual operations, it is the designed wait period that pads out the response (likewise they use a short-range detection field). For a comparison, look at the 407 transponders.

    Erick said:

    Fare-by-distance is often thought of as an opportunity to raise revenue while making it difficult for users to determine how they will pay for an occasional trip.

    Assuming you are an occasional user, you normally go online and find out what routes to take to get where you need to go. The same tool could easily give you the fare cost.

    Erick said:

    Presto is meant to meet the politicians’ objectives not the users’, but the users will get one fare media and be able to leave home on their home system and connect with the TTC. For that is the whole point — it’s not about what TTC users need.

    Presto has the flexibility to fit whatever fare structure the transit provider wants to implement. It’s not Presto’s fault if the TTC implementation doesn’t mean TTC user needs.

    Steve: The question is whether Metrolinx will let the TTC have a fare structure that suits Toronto, or will force a completely uniform scheme on all of the GTHA. This cuts both ways, of course, because making the TTC “match” the 905 systems means that there will have to be a GO co-fare in the 416. Of course GO may refuse to actually fund this and try to make TTC eat the cost of all those reduced-fare GO-TTC transfers. That’s the sort of political and organizational game playing that lurks behind these discussions.

    Erick said:

    which is why most European cities abandon complicated strict fare by distance systems and move to large zones which make it irrelevant to most users

    Fare by distance is the standard in the UK, with London Overground being the main exception due to historical factors.

    Steve: And that fare by distance is itself “standard” by virtue of historical factors, just as Toronto has been a single zone for over 40 years. Does anyone honestly expect politicians who are terrified by the “no new taxes” brigade to grasp the nettle and force up fares for long trips within the 416 while lowering them for 905/406 travel?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. In view of my long comment I didn’t want to add more. I am thinking along the same lines as Steve.

    Mapleson | September 25, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Technically speaking, RFID is faster than manual operations, it is the designed wait period that pads out the response (likewise they use a short-range detection field). For a comparison, look at the 407 transponders.

    I am not sure what manual operations you mean. Also in RFID there’s vicinity and proximity. It’s not quite the same between Presto and the 407 transponders.

    I am also comparing a Presto pass with a magnetic strip pass or worse from my Ottawa perspective, a paper card which you merely show to the driver or not even as our articulated buses and double deckers are POP you just board by the back doors and show occasionally to the fare inspectors. When I started working in Ottawa in 2006 everyone had a monthly pass.

    The Presto debacle (not just the technical side but the policy side) made people look more into fares and their needs. More and more users car pool, couples use their cars and park downtown and I have seen an uptake in paper tickets (we don’t have tokens). Also in Ottawa we can buy from the driver a daypass. What’s troubling about the paper tickets is that OC Transpo deliberately made them more expensive than using Presto pay per use, but buying paper tickets and passes is convenient compared to Presto. That’s not quite what we need. While carpooling is nice, it still put pressure on our road network. We need less cars in downtown not more. I would argue that it is the same thing in Toronto.

    Assuming you are an occasional user, you normally go online and find out what routes to take to get where you need to go. The same tool could easily give you the fare cost.

    You would be surprised at how many people do not have easy access to the web or have a smartphone. Nor should they have to. A transit system is supposed to be for its users not a hassle to use. Show up at the stop and board the next bus should be the goal, not having to plan an expedition.

    Steve: There is an astounding arrogance at Metrolinx about this sort of thing as if people who don’t have the technology to access their system are not worthy of their consideration. That’s what comes of serving a clientele of affluent suburban commuters for years.

    Presto has the flexibility to fit whatever fare structure the transit provider wants to implement. It’s not Presto’s fault if the TTC implementation doesn’t mean TTC user needs.

    Steve: The question is whether Metrolinx will let the TTC have a fare structure that suits Toronto, or will force a completely uniform scheme on all of the GTHA. This cuts both ways, of course, because making the TTC “match” the 905 systems means that there will have to be a GO co-fare in the 416. Of course GO may refuse to actually fund this and try to make TTC eat the cost of all those reduced-fare GO-TTC transfers. That’s the sort of political and organizational game playing that lurks behind these discussions.

    I agree with Steve. Our experience in Ottawa was that Metrolinx was totally uninterested in listening to our city, didn’t care that for us access to Gatineau in Québec (which has their own version of RFID) is more important than us being able to use our Presto card once in a blue moon in the GTHA. It delayed the introduction of Presto in Ottawa for 2 years while Metrolinx finally admitted that they needed to make our cards usable on the STO. Metrolinx put a lot of pressure on Ottawa to use the GO model. But that was not interesting to us and would not have allowed us to use the bus in Gatineau; we need monthly passes. That was just policy, then the tech problems started between the STO system and Metrolinx system.

    So I would not be confident at all that Metrolinx will listen to the concerns of the systems operators in the GTHA. And remember at the end of the process users must pay more, this is what motivates the whole thing (Integration fare study and Presto).

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Chronically Honest said:

    “There is only one fare for me which is POP; Priceless Option Plan – good luck hiring more unionised enforcement officers with gold plated salaries, pensions, and benefits.”

    Oddly – you are admitting to being a thief, and justifying it by the fact that wallet was left in a car, which happened to have a window open far enough that you could reach in!! You are saying nonetheless that you are proud of stealing because you have been getting away with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Steve:

    And a correction. The Golden Age fare kicks in at 80, and that increases the population who benefit.

    I’d taken the 85 from the chart. For the Toronto CMA 80+ is 3.5% of the population and for Ontario is 4.0%. In perspective, it’s the same quantity as children 10-12.

    Steve:

    The question is whether Metrolinx will let the TTC have a fare structure that suits Toronto, or will force a completely uniform scheme on all of the GTHA.

    Of course, but the politics of the fare structure is independent of the fare media used (Presto).

    Steve: But you can count on Metrolinx to trot out “the computer can’t do that” as an excuse to limit the fare options thereby undermining the credibility of their own product.

    Steve:

    And that fare by distance is itself “standard” by virtue of historical factors, just as Toronto has been a single zone for over 40 years. Does anyone honestly expect politicians who are terrified by the “no new taxes” brigade to grasp the nettle and force up fares for long trips within the 416 while lowering them for 905/406 travel?

    Politically, it’s more palatable to increase fares while changing the standard, because it’s not a direct comparison. Instead of universal dislike for higher fares, it’s diluted by some people benefitting.

    The interesting thing is in a distance-based fare system, how do you calculate the monthly pass multiple?

    Erick said:

    I am not sure what manual operations you mean. Also in RFID there’s vicinity and proximity. It’s not quite the same between Presto and the 407 transponders.

    Manual operations is the human factor. Just like vehicle braking times are limited by human reactions. The current Presto implementation of RFID is very poor, but RFID as a whole is more flexible.

    Erick said:

    not just the technical side but the policy side

    Policy wise, Presto implementation has been horrid, no argument. Technical wise, Presto 2.0, which we have now is much more flexible than what Ottawa was exposed to originally. The decision to not have a Presto DayPass is stupid.

    Steve: In 2017 when Presto moves to back end processing of all fare calculations with the card/device of your choice simply being a “credential”, the limitations of how many different fare structures will fit on a card will disappear. This should allow a much more robust fare structure including daily, weekly and monthly caps (or pass equivalents) because the appropriate fare can be calculated based on accumulated usage. Whether they will actually do this is quite another matter.

    Erick said:

    You would be surprised at how many people do not have easy access to the web or have a smartphone. Nor should they have to. A transit system is supposed to be for its users not a hassle to use. Show up at the stop and board the next bus should be the goal, not having to plan an expedition.

    From StatsCan, in 2012 84% of Ontarians had internet access. The largest proportion of these were poor, rural with only 58% having access. With multiple routes running parallel, just showing up at a stop is very challenging. Do I take the 85, 85A, 85E, etc.? Also, you might have just missed the hourly bus, and now waiting on the street for 55 minutes. Planning a journey makes sense, whether you do it electronically or with paper maps and timetables.

    Steve: Be careful what stat you cite. Many people have mobile phones, but not devices that can call up “Nextbus”, for example, or interact with RFID based systems. Some people have “access to the internet” via their library or school, not from a personal device. I often see people using the Nextbus text-to-number function on their phone when I just look up the info on my smartphone.

    Erick said:

    So I would not be confident at all that Metrolinx will listen to the concerns of the systems operators in the GTHA. And remember at the end of the process users must pay more, this is what motivates the whole thing (Integration fare study and Presto).

    It seems like most of your problems with Presto are from the first generation technology, which was awful. It was forced on Ottawa to be a showcase of the technology, just like the SRT was forced on Toronto. They had a lot of growing pains, but the technology is now more robust. Politically, fares go up because no one else wants to lose out as they make regional travel easier. The motivation for Presto was cost savings on the money collection side, but then it’s been hi-jacked by the political agenda.

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  18. Erick wrote:

    Users should be concerned about this whole exercise. RFID (the tech in Presto) takes more time to be read by the reader than a magnetic strip, this will slow down operations everywhere.

    Which one is faster is a moot point. RFID is used because top-ups and refunds (used on GO when the initial deduction is greater than the fare) have to be sent to the card where the balance is actually stored.

    Presto is meant to be as easy as using a Tim’s card, but while your coffee is being poured and doughnut is being put in a bag, the terminal can communicate with the back end to approve the transaction and let you know what your balance is.

    All that balance updating stuff must be done on the card itself in order to complete one’s transaction in the time it takes one to tap and proceed past the terminal. Quite frankly from a few years of personal experience, in most situations Presto users are faster to board than those using other media, particularly because the average person has to fart and fumble around to get out the right change, tear off a ticket, or find a token all at the last moment instead of doing so before the vehicle makes a stop or before they get to a collector’s booth.

    Presto does not even require it to be taken out of a wallet for use. With the current readers at subway turnstiles, I don’t even need to remove my wallet from my pocket to tap. Sadly, they are talking about new fare gates with higher readers.

    Steve: Of course those of us with Metropasses don’t fumble for anything.

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  19. Off topic a bit, but since you mentioned Metropass Steve, I have lost mine only once in 25 years. Of course I was stuck to buy a new one … you have probably answered this somewhere else but what’s the deal if you lose Presto cards which will happen to people? Are you out of luck for the month?

    Steve: If you lost your card, and you have registered it, the use of the old card can be block and the balance transferred to a new card.

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  20. Mapleson writes writes

    With multiple routes running parallel, just showing up at a stop is very challenging. Do I take the 85, 85A, 85E, etc.

    That’s what the desto is for. There’s also usually some information posted on the bus post itself and, if you’re lucky, a next bus sign at the stop. For everything else there’s a route map.

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  21. Note that if you lose your Presto card, or it stops working, you pay another $6 for a new card whether it’s registered or not. My (unregistered) Presto card has stopped working for some reason or another. I haven’t lost it, it’s just stopped working. Unlike a Metropass, which you can still use even if the mag stripe is bad, this makes the Presto card useless. I haven’t gotten another one because I don’t see any reason to pay them $6 for a new card at this point. As a result, I have not taken GO on a few occasions where I might have otherwise.

    I think that charging six dollars for a card will be very unpopular. They’ll have to do something about that. Charge a symbolic amount (one or two dollars), maybe. Not six. Not when the cards can stop working.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. London (England) has a 5 pound DEPOSIT on an Oyster Card – you can get it back if you no longer need the card. New York charges a $1 fee for a card so this encourages people to refill them. Washington DC charges $2. Clearly a fee is necessary but $5 does seem excessive and certainly not good for visitors.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Steve:

    If you lost your card, and you have registered it, the use of the old card can be block and the balance transferred to a new card.

    Just a note that while the current system can transfer forward your balance to a new card, after a mandatory 24 hour delay, it cannot transfer forward your “loyalty trip record”.

    If you lose and replace a presto card near a month end where you are about to enter the “free ride” loyalty level, you don’t get the number of trips carried forward.

    Having lost a card a few times, and having a card crack in half twice, I have found that if GO is in a good mood, they will indulge you, as a “customer service gesture,” and provide a refund for trips you would otherwise have taken for free.

    I do wonder about the response by other transit agencies with grumpier customer service.

    Steve: Yet another of the problems of the way Presto was implemented with trip tracking on the card, not in the back end. This should be fixed in a few years (ever the optimist) when Presto moves all of the trip tracking to the back end system and uses a card (or whatever) simply as a means of identification.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. One of the key benefits of fare by distance it’s is flexibility; it gives a transit operator two levers with which they can use adjust their revenues. First, through the zone definitions themselves, and second the fare structure that riders pay to travel through various combinations of zone.

    On the zone definition side, a hypothetical Zone 1 could include only a narrow definition of the downtown core – say Union station plus parts of the subway facing peak demand (i.e., Line 1 between Bloor-Yonge and St. George). Zone 2 could cover inner suburbs within around 10km of the downtown core, ending around Main GO/subway, the Humber River or Yonge/Lawrence. Zone 3 could include the rest of Toronto, Zone 4 inner 905 suburbs, and so on up to as many zones as you like. As a comparison point, Transport for London has 9 zones plus a handful of special exceptions. Zones can be redrawn over time as ridership patterns changes.

    On the fare side there are any number of ways to make specific trips more or less expensive to match costs or other objectives. You can have a low base fare for trips within a single zone. You can create discounted multi-zone fares that exclude trips to the downtown core (e.g., zone 2-3 or 2-4) so that those who don’t contribute to peak capacity get a discount. You can also vary the relative spread between similar fares, such as keeping the price of zone 1-2 and zone 1-3 fares nearly identical so that those in the outer suburbs don’t feel overly penalized. Once you layer on peak and off-peak fares the possibilities are endless…

    Steve: Yes, the possibilities are endless, but there was a political “deal” in Toronto over 40 years ago that gave the suburbs the same fare to ride all the way downtown (or across town) as people in the “old” City of Toronto in exchange for their tax subsidy of TTC operations and capital. Again today at TTC we heard about how the poor are increasingly forced to locate in the suburbs far from their jobs and other amenities. And you would make them pay more? Which party did you say you were running for as a sacrificial lamb?

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  25. Erick said:

    “RFID (the tech in Presto) takes more time to be read by the reader than a magnetic strip, this will slow down operations everywhere.”

    Not true. Oyster (in London) is an RFID system. One of the main motivations was that it was *quicker* than the old magnetic stripe system, which meant more passengers/hour through each faregate, reducing capacity issues.

    Steve said:

    “Yet another of the problems of the way Presto was implemented with trip tracking on the card, not in the back end”

    Well, kind of true and not true. Some trip-tracking has to be done by the card, for those systems with loyalty programs. However, whenever you tap on/off, the terminal records all the details, which then get sent to the back-end (when the bus returns to the garage, or right away for off-vehicle terminals). So the back-end system knows about everything, even if your card gets lost. (This serves as anti-fraud measure, among other things).

    Also: Presto is unusual (globally) in that a registered card is allowed to have a negative balance. That’s why there’s a $6 fee. If cards were free, people could get a card, put on $10, and then get $10 of travel plus one free ride, then throw away the card.

    Steve: The distinction I was making is that all of the fare logic has to be at the card and the reader and this limited the implementation, as opposed to having all of the logic in the back end. When your “credential” is a debit card, nothing will be stored locally.

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  26. I must say I am surprised about the defence of RFID. Problem is no manufacturer has made the claim that it is faster than magnetic strip because it’s not possible. Transit organisations (or politicians) including London have claimed before deployment that Oyster would help. But despite many requests TfL simply refuses to release any info on how fast it is. The old commercial confidentiality excuse came out. Watch for this as well here in Ontario… oh wait it already did. That’s why we cannot know the results here in Ottawa of how long it takes to board a bus. I will take a wild guess that if it was faster the contractor would be really happy to let us know.

    While having the back end do the reconciliation helps it’s still not as fast as PoP and keeping your monthly pass in your pocket.

    RFID in it’s current form is simply the latest form of tech that dates back to the late 1950’s and that companies have invested too much money to let go. It was never fast and never secure then and still not to this day. That’s why I am usually sceptical of claims that it is fast. RFID cards can do a lot of things, I will grant this. But the positive aspects have to be balanced with the inconvenience.

    Also I am beyond scared of the idea that I will get my debit card out to get on a bus or subway. There are significant ID Theft issues beyond simply the physical theft of the card itself. For me RFID has too many downsides, it’s really a dead-end. If forced to I hope we will be allowed to get an RFID card that acts as a token with the back end system.

    Again another problem with politicians refusing to let go of the idea that because once upon a time there were private transit corporations that used to provide this service, that means that today’s passengers must always pay a fare. Transit in cities is a public good and as such should be paid out of general revenues. It would simplify many things. I mention this only to reiterate that there are many costs related to fare collection beyond getting the money.

    Steve: The Presto card will be the surviving RFID card acting as a token. It would still be possible to snoop on transactions, but only your Presto account would be at risk.

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  27. The current generation of RFID uses AES-128 encryption as a standard, so there is some technical insider information needed to exploit any phished information. If you are still worried, wrap it in aluminium foil.

    Generally, transit is a small part of the total RFID market, so there isn’t a large effort to convert the publically available processing times (90-250 ms), plus there is a difference between the system capacity and system implementation.

    As for going user cost-free, I support the idea, but it’ll never be a reality. From a Toronto perspective, property taxes were $3849M and fares were $1149M, so taxes would need to rise by 30% to make the transition. Then residents would complain that non-residents are getting a “free ride”. From an Ontario perspective, income taxes would need to increase by 4% or Corporate taxes by 11% just to pay for the TTC.

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  28. That comment about aluminium foil was uncalled for. I am beginning to understand that for some the tech side is exciting and shows promise.

    I am trying to explain that here in the real world tech is only as good as the humans in charge and those humans are not tech inclined people.

    Metrolinx knew that for Ottawa it would need version 2.0. It really was the policy side which was a problem.

    I am talking of a world where the previous Minister of Transport confirmed to the Legislative Assembly that because of the contract the Presto card is not and will not be encrypted.

    I am talking of a world where all the federally regulated banks were busted several times (so the lies several times) using unencrypted cards. It’s cheaper and more flexible for them. If anything happens thanks to the bank act they are not on the hook. And you don’t need to be good in IT to have access to a bank just pay an employee for access. Organized crimes does it and every month banks have to fire and file charges against employees.

    All this to say that at the end of the day the specs and tech don’t really matter when the people in charge don’t care about us users and citizens.

    It’s all about making a quick buck.

    With all the recent history I have no reason to believe or trust the powers that be. They cannot do the right thing for us users as it’s not about us.

    Steve: As someone who spent my entire career in the IT business, I am deeply suspicious of technology advocates.

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  29. Steve said:

    “As someone who spent my entire career in the IT business, I am deeply suspicious of technology advocates.”

    Yes, there is far too much push to adopt systems based on something that will solve all your ills, and present unrealistic sales pitches, and excessive attempts to create custom solutions, rather than going out in the world and see who has already really solved the same or similar problems.

    Why did it take billions to build a system for gun registry – when it should be a similar problem to automotive registration? Why do we need a made in Ontario solution for fare media? If pushed by a higher power, there is a tendency to make the business fit the software, not the software fit the business.

    PS – We need to stay off the bleeding edge!! Which in IT is usually whoever tries to solve an issue which he is driven to look at by a sales person for a software development firm.

    Steve: See also Scarborough RT, Natural Gas Buses.

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  30. Steve I am hoping you can help clarify how the new Presto cards will work on TTC surface routes when the tokens and paper transfers are phased out? I kinda understand the cards would work by magnetic strip. What I don’t grasp or fully understand is how they will replace the paper transfer(s). When first using TTC at point of payment or boarding vehicle/station how will the Presto card or system know later on when rider is transferring to surface route/vehicle? By this I mean or am trying to ask as an example: Rider boards surface route bus (35 Jane) at corner of Jane & Trethewey Dr. heading southbound to Jane subway station. (Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) Rider then travels on subway to Queen subway station (Line 1 (Yonge-University) and then must transfer to surface route (501 Streetcar) to Sumach St. & Queen. Also need to factor in everyday delays of service for any number or reasons as they are inevitable on the currently overtaxed TTC system. How in the world will the Presto system know or be able to distinguish if said rider is first boarding vehicle or just transferring along the way to reach final destination? It seems like a cash grab to constantly charge riders each and every time they board a surface route after a set / fixed time limit of some sort.

    Steve: When Presto is fully implemented (i.e. it is on all vehicles and routes), then the actual operation will depend on the transfer rules, but the basics will be the same. The TTC has already said that riders would “tap on” to any vehicle, although this may not happen for simple reasons of passenger flow at major transfer points between surface and subway. I will come back to that issue in a bit.

    The first time you tap on in your journey, the card “knows” where and when you are at a point (the location is picked up by GPS). Depending on which rules the TTC adopts for fares, from that point onward you are carrying either a valid fare or one that has expired based on the rules. These could be based on routing, elapsed time, zones, or who knows what — it’s not decided yet. If a fare inspector checks your card, their reader will tell them if your fare has expired (although even that may depend on whether “expiry” does not kick in until you change vehicles on a journey).

    The intent of having you tap at each transfer is to update info about whether your “fare” has expired (time based), or if your journey has gone into a new fare area (zone based), or if your transfer move constitutes a new “trip” (existing TTC transfer rules). Current plans are to have riders “tap out” of the subway, a move that could be used to implement a different fare scheme for the subway portion of a journey.

    There is a big problem with transfers between surface and subway because many stations were built for free flow of passengers, and the TTC would need many more turnstiles (and therefore potential choke points) just to keep track of the transfers. Think of how congested Spadina Station streetcar loop is today, and then add a bunch of turnstiles. I am not sure how the TTC would distinguish between riders who enter at street level bound for the subway and those bound for the streetcars, although they may force people to “tap on” to the streetcars (and buses) to undo what would otherwise be treated as a subway trip. Nothing like using your fare collection system to slow down service!

    Now let’s back up a bit on two counts. First, not all fares will be paid with Presto, and for some riders there will have to be some type of fare receipt. How this will be handled remains to be seen.

    Second, there will be a problem for the roughly year-long period of co-existence between the old system (still in use on buses) and the new one. If you use Presto to enter the system, but intend to transfer to a bus along the way, you need something to show the operator on routes that are not yet operating without paper transfers. This means that Presto users will have to get a transfer just as ticket/token/cash users do today. It will be simpler to keep using the existing Metropass.

    It’s going to be a very confusing year, and the situation is not helped by the fact that the TTC and Metrolinx have been locked in a debate about fare policies that should have been settled at least a year ago, but for the political upheaval any new fare scheme will bring.

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  31. Erick | October 2, 2015 at 7:30 am

    “That comment about aluminium foil was uncalled for. I am beginning to understand that for some the tech side is exciting and shows promise.”

    Why? It is a problem when people with RFID readers can get information off credit cards in your wallet. Many wallets are being made with fine wires in them to act as a Faraday cage and block radio frequencies; wrapping it in aluminum foil does the same thing for a lot less money. This is a real problem and should not be confused with people wrapping their heads in aluminum foil to protect against aliens, but I have never been abducted by them so I should not make fun of those who have.

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  32. PRESTO is slower from my experience simply because people like to stare at the screen for a few seconds to check their balance.

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  33. A couple of points:

    1. “Demand exceeds peak period capacity on some routes. By implication any fare structure that drives up demand will only worsen this situation.”

    This just goes to show that the system needs expansion and improvement, as demand will only increase over time, unless the TTC continues to adopt a fare system designed to reduce/kill demand.

    Example: the TTC’s monthly pass is the highest rate for the GTHA, when the value is reduced to the number of “tickets/tokens” required to pay for the pass. ($141.50/2.8=50.5 or $129.75/2.8=46.3) This means that you have to make a return trip 24 days out of the calendar month, or a single return trip 6 days a week, just to make the pass pay for itself, assuming you have the discounted plan, which requires a commitment for 12 months. (Without the discount plan, you need to make 26 return trips to make it pay, which is a single return trip a day, for 13 days, every two weeks.)

    (I’ve defined a return trip to reflect one trip to work/extended entertainment such as a sporting event/fair/expo/etc. in which you will have budgeted the single fare twice for the single trip: one to get there, another to get back.)

    In Hamilton, it’s $94.60/2.15=44, or 22 return trips. This also works out to a single return trip every weekday, and two return trips on a weekend. (This is assuming a commuter who’s traveling for work, and therefore will expire their 2hr transfer before beginning their return trip.)

    For comparison, assuming that a month is exactly 4 weeks, the commuter will make 40 paid trips, or 20 paid return trips, traveling every weekday, barring holidays.

    (As mentioned, in Hamilton, the 11+ paid trip for the calendar week is free, therefore you cannot make more than 44 paid trips in a calendar month. Presto is cheaper than purchasing a bus pass.)

    “Revenue control. The TTC does not entirely trust that any new fare system will yield the same revenue.”

    If by that, they’re concerned about a more fair fare system would result in a loss in revenue, they are correct.

    “Complex fare and transfer rules. Within Toronto, the transfer rules make integration with other fare systems difficult if not impossible.”

    This is by design, because the TTC doesn’t want to increase ridership nor reduce revenue.

    “Note that a move to support a wider range of cards beyond Presto is timed for 2017. This date is part of the Presto plans, as reported at the recent Metrolinx Board meeting. An essential change in the Presto model is that all of the fare handling logic moves to the “back end” of the system and the card (or some equivalent such as a SmartPhone app) merely provides a rider’s “credential” saying “this is me” to the system. Such a change makes possible a much richer set of fare integration and loyalty programs because a rider’s travel can be accumulated over time (much as a phone bill is) and the appropriate rates and discounts applied after the fact based on usage.”

    This is already available since initial planning stages. My card is registered to me, my daughter’s card is registered to her. (She’s registered as a minor, and therefore gets discounted rates I cannot.) However, even though both cards use the same login information on the website, they’re tracked separately throughout the system.

    This information can be used, without invading privacy, to improve transit by tracking overall patterns, particularly in GO, where riders are required to tap off, as well. Routes connecting Square One to both McMaster University and York University are just an example. (Express buses were added to these routes in the last year, due to the demand and demographics produced.)

    Steve: Actually it’s not available in the original system because of processing limitations based on interaction between the card and the on-board reader.

    “There is an expectation that the price gap between cash fares and Presto would widen relative to current practice as this is already the case in other parts of the GTHA.”

    Fares are currently determined by the individual systems, unless we want to integrate them all into a single oversight organization. Therefore, it’s the individual systems that are increasing this gap, Presto has no effect.

    Steve: That “unless” is important because Metrolinx may be unable or unwilling to conceive of a system with different “local” fare structures.

    In regards to the stripe vs. RFID chip, Hamilton used to use a magnetic system on their monthly passes when boarding buses. The machines proved unreliable, as their intended function was to transmit the information and receive a signal as part of a fraud prevention/demographic collection initiative. The machines almost never worked, and drivers stopped letting passengers from even attempting to swipe their cards. Instead, they presented them as a TTC passenger would present their Metropass when boarding a bus.

    The RFID chip has proven to be more reliable, efficient and sufficiently quick in normal operation. However, the system is still being developed, tested, and tweaked, and issues have cropped up in isolated circumstances.

    I’m concerned with the idea of using third party cards/systems.

    When Metrolinx contacted Toronto about the Presto system, the TTC balked due to the cost they were expected to contribute. They shopped around and a bank offered to put in their own machines, free of charge to the TTC, onto every vehicle and in every subway station. This meant that anyone using a RFID equipped credit card/debit card could “tap onto” the TTC.

    However, they would charge a service fee for each transaction. The TTC could either: absorb the charge, increase fares to reflect this new cost, or pass on the charge (recommended) to the passenger using the device. (The latter would be popular with the Conservative ‘user fee’ funding model.)

    Because Metrolinx is a part of the Provincial Government, there are no additional costs to the city’s transit system as its operating budget is not dependent upon ridership within a given community. In fact, the money is held by the province and dispensed to the individual system, when a rider uses that system, at whatever fare rate that system requires.

    Steve: In fact, Presto is charging TTC a percentage for collecting fares. Part of the contract is that this charge cannot exceed the TTC’s historic rate of fare collection costs. It is quite likely that the charges from Presto will roughly equal what TTC is now paying to collect fares itself.

    But, it does present a problem for transfers within the TTC because their transfer system is far stricter than anywhere else in the GTHA, which uses the 2hr unlimited travel. (Transfers expire at exactly 2hr on Presto, whereas drivers often would allow a discrepancy for paper transfers depending upon vehicle frequency for that route/time of day.)

    In short, Presto isn’t the devil the TTC and Toronto politicians want to make it out to be, except that commuters, like myself, will stop purchasing overpriced passes. Instead, we’ve discovered that Presto, by nature of it’s integration and better loyalty programs, is more affordable than passes, and always assumes we would pay the lowest fare possible, as if we had pre-planned our month’s travel. (I cannot be billed more than a pass within a given month, even though I have not purchased a pass. This is not the case within most systems, including the TTC, until full integration with Presto has been achieved.) (It should also be noted that you can put your monthly pass onto your Presto card, thus all trips are free for that transit system.)

    Steve: You are making a big assumption that Presto will extend the lower-cost “loyalty program” of capping monthly costs at GO-type levels to TTC riders. In fact Toronto wants a higher cap to avoid revenue loss.

    However, as commuters re-evaluate the cost/benefit ratio of using Presto to travel between municipalities and within Toronto, ridership will increase, generating revenue, which hopefully will gap the loss in revenue as people take advantage of the better fare structure.

    Steve: The likelihood of new revenue from 905-416 commuters is small compared to the loss the TTC faces from inside-416 riders who take many more rides/month.

    This, in turn, will increase demand, which the TTC is operating over its capacity and further break the system. Thus, the TTC needs a cash influx to expand the infrastructure to handle this projected increased load. However, the conservatives at City Hall are not willing to put any more money into the transit/road infrastructure, even though the Liberal Party at Queen’s Park has already identified and set aside funds for such projects, through Metrolinx. (Note: not all improvements come with increase operating costs. Replacing buses with articulated buses allows for more capacity with the same number of operators. Same for the new streetcars and connecting LRT trains together. I remember when the Sunday/holiday subway train on the Bloor/Danforth was only four cars long. Now, it’s six, and they’ve reduced the distance/time between trains down to comparable distances as the weekday trains.)

    P.S. In addition to the Golden Pass (passengers 80+ years of age), It should also be noted that Hamilton has a half-priced monthly pass for people on social assistance who don’t earn enough (there’s a chart based on family size/income), but who are working. These individuals must also not be receiving the transit allowance – either for work or medical reasons – through social assistance, to qualify.

    The purpose of the Golden Pass has a multiple effect on our community of promoting independence for our seniors, reducing demand upon the more costly wheel-trans system (DARTS), and the safety of our roads as driving ability/health drops off significantly around this age.

    P.P.S. If your card stops working, and you had the foresight to register it, Presto/GO Transit has excellent customer service and can waive the cost of a replacement card, if it’s their system at fault. (If you damaged the card through misuse/abuse, obviously they’re not obligated to waive a replacement fee.)

    Same goes for lost cards; just like a credit/debit card, simply report it’s loss and they will discontinue use of your old card, reissue a replacement card, and transfer the funds to the new card and no extra charge. (There may be a fee in acquiring a replacement card, because there is a $6 issuance/activation fee for all cards. Sometimes, however, there are promotions where certain systems waive this issuance/activation fee in order to draw riders to the Presto system.)

    Steve: Your enthusiasm for Presto appears to be based on false assumptions about how it will be implemented in Toronto. The problem is less with the technology per se than with how a new fare system will be implemented. If this is compromised to give commuters from the 905 a cheaper ride at the expense of the much more numerous inside-416 riders (or equally, 416 taxpayers), then we have every reason to complain. Metrolinx’ view of fares is too strongly coloured by their own experience with GO, by existing 905 fare systems (and ridership levels), and by Queen’s Park’s strong-arming the TTC to accept Presto no matter what.

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  34. I have a fear that going to “Tap On and Tap Off” on the subways is a precursor to some form of fare by distance or premium fare on the subway. If one didn’t tap off then the TTC would charge the maximum possible fare from the boarding station. After a few of those everyone would soon learn to tap off.

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  35. robertwightman said:

    “It is a problem when people with RFID readers can get information off credit cards in your wallet. Many wallets are being made with fine wires in them to act as a Faraday cage and block radio frequencies; wrapping it in aluminum foil does the same thing for a lot less money.”

    Of course the problem become immediately – that we cannot make best use of the potential for RFID. That is instead of tap on/off a walk/wave past for choke points. This would be faster than tap, but if your card is in a protected wallet (or aluminum foil) cannot be made to work.

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  36. Malcolm N said

    “Of course the problem become immediately – that we cannot make best use of the potential for RFID. That is instead of tap on/off a walk/wave past for choke points. This would be faster than tap, but if your card is in a protected wallet (or aluminum foil) cannot be made to work.”

    This is true but hopefully with a Presto Card that is only used for one purpose you would not need to keep it in a Faraday cage as there is limited information on it that would be of use to an e-thief. That is the one reason why I would keep using Presto after other media are allowed; I would not need to worry about protection.

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  37. I have a Presto card but I’m considering looking for it. How is the Presto Card Steve compared to that of the GTA Weekly Pass? I guess its gonna cost me $61 to get the WP. Can you do the comparsions between Presto, Metropass, and Weekly Pass Steve?

    With that said, I think the weekly pass could disappear when Presto rolls out.

    Steve: What happens to weekly passes and “GTA” fares depends a lot on what the “fare integration” decision comes down to, including possibly increased subsidy for cross-border trips.

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  38. robertwightman said:

    “This is true but hopefully with a Presto Card that is only used for one purpose you would not need to keep it in a Faraday cage as there is limited information on it that would be of use to an e-thief. That is the one reason why I would keep using Presto after other media are allowed; I would not need to worry about protection.”

    I wonder if they will develop wallets, with protection on a card by card basis, with a place to put your presto card, so that it can be read on the way by.

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  39. Steve:

    Actually it’s not available in the original system because of processing limitations based on interaction between the card and the on-board reader.

    When I tap on, I’m already communicating with the data server. Same when I tap off a GO bus/train. This is necessary in order to calculate the fare to deduct from my card.

    Steve: That is not true. Note that I said “original system”, and on that system there was a problem because many areas served by GO buses did not have reliable Wifi links back to the central system. This required that the fare processing be done on board, not at a central site. The transactions were uploaded to the central system when the bus returned to the garage. This problem is resolved in Presto’s second version.

    A major issue for Toronto and for Ottawa was that the “Mark I” system had severe limitations by virtue of the need to do all of this processing locally, and Ottawa demanded that a better version be implemented. Unlike Toronto, the folks in Ottawa do not bend over meekly whenever some Poobah in the Metrolinx says “you take what we give you”.

    This information can also be added to a pool of all of the other passengers who boarded my bus/train. Or all buses/trains from my start point. Or end point. Or gender. Or age range. Etc.

    There is no need for additional communication, as it’s already stored on their servers. All they have to do is generate the reports necessary based on whatever demographic filters they wish to apply.

    Steve:

    That “unless” is important because Metrolinx may be unable or unwilling to conceive of a system with different “local” fare structures.

    If you’re creating a massive single transit overseeing both regional and local travel, then you would also create a simple single fare system, eliminating the confusion and restrictions of current local systems. That comes with a number of issues, and isn’t likely, unless the province wants to accept all responsibility for funding transit systems and stop downloading it to the individual municipalities. (However, improvements, such as ordering new vehicles would be made easier. In the last few years, smaller municipalities like Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, etc. combined their bus orders into a single order, which dropped the price per vehicle, making it more affordable and each city could order more vehicles. However, there was still some customization to the order, as the demands on what the bus requires differs from city to city. Hamilton buses are not similar in comfort or seating style as Burlington buses, for example.

    Steve:

    In fact, Presto is charging TTC a percentage for collecting fares. Part of the contract is that this charge cannot exceed the TTC’s historic rate of fare collection costs. It is quite likely that the charges from Presto will roughly equal what TTC is now paying to collect fares itself.

    Which means no additional loss to the TTC, except for the shared cost of implementation due to the size of their vehicle fleet.

    Steve: No, not true. This deals with the cost of doing business, not with the actual fare revenue. If a new structure causes revenue to be “shared” between agencies and the net revenue to the TTC per rider goes down, then this is a cost. You are mixing two different parts of the financial question.

    Steve:

    You are making a big assumption that Presto will extend the lower-cost “loyalty program” of capping monthly costs at GO-type levels to TTC riders. In fact Toronto wants a higher cap to avoid revenue loss.

    That’s what was promised when they announced that Presto would be integrated throughout the GTHA and Ottawa. I first researched the proposed concept of Presto, and the more I read about how it’s expected to work, the more excited I became as I realized the financial benefit to myself, even though I’m not a regular commuter who will ever earn free rides on any transit system. (I’m disabled and don’t travel enough for the loyalty programs, but I’m paying no more than I was before, and now I don’t need to stock tickets — which expire — for each system, in case I may need them. Thus, I’m paying less because I always pay the ticket/token price, not the cash fare, and get to take advantage of cross-system discounts I didn’t know about.)

    The “loyalty program” is the original intent of the bus pass, which was to get people to purchase their trips in advance. Same with discounted fares by buying tickets/tokens verses paying cash.

    Also, your use of “GO-type levels” is a misnomer. It’s already happening in every transit system that has been integrated with Presto, not just GO Transit, as I outlined in my last comment.

    Steve: And reducing the monthly cap for local fares within Toronto, the equivalent of a Metropass, will cost the TTC money. You may love having a lower multiple, but if Presto were to force this onto the TTC, then either fares overall would have to go up, or the TTC would get less revenue.

    Steve:

    The likelihood of new revenue from 905-416 commuters is small compared to the loss the TTC faces from inside-416 riders who take many more rides/month.

    Have you been to Islington Station lately? Or Union Station? Or Finch Station? Or Scarborough Town Centre? These are major hubs for people coming into Toronto from other transit systems, and they’re operating at or above capacity. A better fare system will encourage more people to use these hubs, rather than using the QEW/Gardner, the 404, 401, or 427 to enter the city for work.

    Likewise, I used to live in Toronto, going through these hubs in reverse, working outside the city. These buses are full going both directions during rush hour.

    You’re not going to be losing ridership by making a more fair fare system, even for those staying within the Toronto city limits. In fact, you’ll be making it easier for the Rob Ford’s to leave their gas guzzling smog producing SUVs at home, rather than on the over congested highways/surface routes. Particularly when you factor in the percentage of Torontonians living at or below the living wage, who would benefit by a true loyalty program, and cannot afford the “discount plan” currently offered.

    Oh, and visit Union Station on a game/concert night. You’ll quickly see that the majority of people coming in for the game are from the 905 area, not the 416 area. They’re already taking advantage of transit without the benefit of a loyalty program. (Leafs fans are coming from all over the GTHA, and judging by their confusion over how to use Presto/buy GO tickets, they’re not regular commuters, except for game nights. This improves Toronto’s tourist economy.)

    Steve: Sorry, but the numbers don’t support your claim. Inside-416 riders account for over 80% of TTC travel, and if TTC fares go down (for example by reducing the capping level for Metropasses) that affects all of those riders as well as any existing 905-416 riders. Many, many more new riders from the 905 would be needed (and at no net cost in new service) to make up for the lost revenue.

    Steve:

    Your enthusiasm for Presto appears to be based on false assumptions about how it will be implemented in Toronto.

    My enthusiasm came after I read the material detailing how the Presto card would work and their integration with the various transit systems. Promises like you can never be charged more than a bus pass for that transit system. (I didn’t break out the cost of a bus pass for GO Transit, as it’s cost is based on the cost between two points within it’s system, compared to the per trip cost assuming you purchased a 10-ride ticket for those same two points; the 10-ride ticket is now no longer available.)

    Steve: That’s a big difference from the effects I was discussing and about which the TTC has serious concerns.

    Steve:

    The problem is less with the technology per se than with how a new fare system will be implemented. If this is compromised to give commuters from the 905 a cheaper ride at the expense of the much more numerous inside-416 riders (or equally, 416 taxpayers), then we have every reason to complain.

    Metrolinx is not introducing a new fare system, they’re letting the TTC determine the cost per token verses the cost of a Metropass. All Presto is guaranteeing is that a rider cannot exceed the cost of a Metropass, even if they didn’t have the foresight to purchase one at the beginning of the month.

    Steve: Actually, Metrolinx has been strong-arming the TTC to accept their view of how fares should work, and is only now being beaten back because they recognize that the effect of moving fully to distance-based fares would have horrendous effects (not to mention political fallout) on many current TTC riders. And, contrary to your opinion, Metrolinx is clearly moving toward a new fare system, but has recognized that a “zero sum” situation in which total fare revenue for every agency is kept intact is not compatible with “integration” of cross-border fares. In turn that raises the need for better subsidies. This is a quite recent change, but we have no idea of whether Queen’s Park will be ready with their chequebook.

    Steve:

    Metrolinx’ view of fares is too strongly coloured by their own experience with GO, by existing 905 fare systems (and ridership levels), and by Queen’s Park’s strong-arming the TTC to accept Presto no matter what.

    How very Torontocentric of you. First, Metrolinx is an agency of the Provincial Government (Queen’s Park), not Toronto City Hall.

    Steve: Toronto has been repeatedly screwed by Queen’s Park in order to give breaks to people in the 905. Why should we have to increase taxes or fares within Toronto to offset a subsidy to riders from the 905? That’s a big issue as I am sure it would be were the shoe on the other foot. When there was an idea for a regional sale tax to pay for transit improvements, there were screams of outrage from people who refused to “pay for Toronto’s transit”.

    Second, it’s focus is on moving people throughout the entire GTHA, not just Toronto. So, no surprise that they’re not as focused as you think they should be on Torontonian specific issues.

    However, it also benefits Torontonians, like you, who only travel within the 416 area.

    Steve: No it will not if it results in a revenue loss to the TTC. This requires either higher fares or higher taxes to offset. I and many other would love lower fares, but they cost money that nobody offering us. Meanwhile, folks like you have an attitude that Presto can only be good and wonderful. Cue the glitter and magic wands!

    Travel the other systems and you’ll see how little Metrolinx has changed how these systems operate. Control has been maintained by each individual system; they made Presto conform to those system’s fare systems as evidenced by the very charts you included in your original post. The side-effect is that the loyalty program will eventually, but not entirely replace the individual bus passes. (I can think of a couple of scenarios off the top of my head where people will still demand being able to purchase the individualized system bus pass, despite it being a little costlier.)

    In other words, the TTC can decide to raise the cost of a single token and freeze the cost of their Metropass, thus making it easier for people to reach the free trips offered by a Metropass, without the TTC actually losing money. (They’ll make more money off of me, because I cannot earn a free ride as I don’t use Toronto Transit enough.) But, the TTC won’t, just like the other systems haven’t, because it would undervalue the Metropass, which it can still sell to Presto users. (Imagine purchasing your Metropass online, putting it on your Presto account. No physical pass was created, saving the TTC money. The user only carries the one card, even when they visit relatives in a nearby city, using that city’s transit system, and all rides on the TTC are free.Postal strikes won’t interfere with getting your discounted Metropass, as you’ll be using a digital version.)

    Remember the small problem of Toronto’s road infrastructure being at overcapacity, and there’s no room for expansion? Presto encourages those already commuting into and out of Toronto to get out of their car, and into transit. This is not only better for the economy, but also for the general health of the average Torontonian.

    But, as someone who’s lived in Toronto, cannot/has never operated a personal vehicle, I can attest that Toronto’s system is sometimes better, and sometimes worse, than other transit systems.

    I’ve grown up on the TTC and seen it grow/expand over several decades. I never got a license, because I could go most places in Toronto just as fast, without the cost of gas, insurance, maintenance, or parking. (Which was important, as I was barely above the living wage; owning a car would’ve put me far below the living wage.)

    My marker was the time it took to get from any start point and end at the Eaton Centre. The only time I could move about faster, was if I cycled.

    The changes required for the system are a timed transfer rather than the current system. Why? The current system doesn’t take into account that the Weston Road (89) northbound bus crosses both the east-west Eglinton bus (32) and the north-south Jane Street bus (35). Technically, according to the rules printed on the transfer, you cannot alight from the northbound 89 and board a southbound 35, but you can alight from the same 89, board a westbound 32, and then board a northbound 35; you’re traveling in the same direction without backtracking, even though it would take you longer to do so. (The rules also say you have to take the quickest route, which then requires that you backtrack.)

    In short, a timed transfer is easier for the local commuter, the 905 commuter and the tourist to understand; unlimited travel on any TTC vehicle for up to 2hrs, regardless if you’re at a transfer point. (This also makes it easier for the elderly to maintain independence as they can now do their grocery shopping daily, rather than waiting for someone to take them in a car once a week.)

    But, as users figure out that the Metropass is overpriced, they’ll switch to paying per use, which will save the daily commuter (who still owns a car and drives for groceries and entertainment, such as those living in Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough) an average of ten paid trips a month for a cost of $28, assuming they weren’t buying the discount plan. (For the calculations, see my first post.)

    Steve: Once again, after a long rant about how Presto won’t dictate rules to the TTC, you assume that the effective price of a monthly pass will be capped at a much lower level than it is today. Lots of people want this, but it doesn’t come free of charge.

    Malcolm:

    That is instead of tap on/off a walk/wave past for choke points. This would be faster than tap, but if your card is in a protected wallet (or aluminum foil) cannot be made to work.

    My wallet came with a separate card wallet with a plastic window; this houses my Presto card (and TTC tokens). I simply wave this wallet, with the window towards the sensor, and pass through the turnstiles at Union Station just as efficiently as the person who swiped their Metropass. Although, not as efficiently as the person who waived their forged Metropass at the fare collector sitting between the turnstiles. (With the volume of traffic passing by the fare collector, it’s impossible for them to scrutinize even a small fraction of the passes waived. However, I believe that the instance of forgery to be small enough as to be considered insignificant compared to the cost of trying to police it.)

    I’ve even toyed with the idea of slipping my Presto card in between my cell phone and a silicone case, thus I would just tap my phone against the sensor to gain admittance to the vehicle/station. (The RFID is just barely powerful enough to do that.)

    Jelo:

    With that said, I think the weekly pass could disappear when Presto rolls out.

    Currently, when I alight from a GO bus and board the Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) bus, I only pay $0.50 to the HSR. Similarly, in reverse, I pay a reduced fare on GO Transit.

    For comparison, in Mississauga I pay $0.75 when switching from GO to MiWay.

    If I go from Mississauga Transit to Brampton Transit within the 2hr transfer time limit, I pay $0.00.

    In short, there’s no reason why the weekly pass cannot be incorporated into the calculations when switching from one fare system to another. In fact, it’ll make it easier, should demographics show a demand, for Metrolinx to introduce additional integrated fare models into the database. Particularly, when you consider the cost of maintaining a high traffic corridor/road for individual cars verses a few buses. (If there was an LRT station at Sherway Gardens and another at Union Station, I believe it would remove a significant number of personal vehicles from the Gardner. However, I do not have any studies to that affect.)

    Steve: This lower co-fare provides a subsidy to the local systems from Metrolinx. They are happy to pay it because it is cheaper than building more parking. However, they have refused to implement a Toronto co-fare because of the volume of GO-TTC riders and the hit their budget would take. The question of preserving revenue is not just one the TTC cares about.

    P.S. I noticed that Steve mentioned something about a “fare receipt”:

    Now let’s back up a bit on two counts. First, not all fares will be paid with Presto, and for some riders there will have to be some type of fare receipt. How this will be handled remains to be seen.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “fare receipt”.

    The Presto card is your transfer. If you’re tapping the card within the 2hr limit, no fare is deducted ($0.00). (Source: Every transit system with the exception of the TTC. Paper transfers are still required because full integration has not yet been achieved.)

    Thus, when exiting the bus at Jane Station and entering the subway, simply tapping at the turnstile will deduct $0.00 funds, and allow you to pass. (All other passengers are required to present a transfer, thus there’s already a choke point, as they can only enter through one single turnstile next to the fare collector, unless they have a Metropass, which they can swipe.)

    Similarly, they would have to do the same in reverse, tapping onto the bus instead of showing their transfer. (Everyone has to board at the front of the bus, already, which is another choke point.) I’m not certain as to the requirement of having to tap off the subway, unless the system isn’t capable of recognizing someone boarding at Queen Station and exiting at Jane Station as having transferred/paid because they’re two separate lines/routes.

    But, if you’re talking about proof of purchase (POP) routes, the Special Constables on the GO Trains (POP) have handheld units, which you tap your card against and it verifies the paid fare.

    Steve: This is already well known. The problem with fare receipts for Presto comes during the implementation period when Presto co-exists with standard fares on routes and vehicles where Presto has not been implemented. If I get on the subway at Broadview with my Presto card, I need a paper transfer to get on the Jane bus and will for the next year. Moreover, I cannot pay with Presto on the return trip and so cannot get the monthly discount (however it is provided) from trips that originate on non-Presto routes. For that reason, it makes no sense for me to convert to Presto until it can handle all of my fares.

    Or, if you’re talking about receipts for tax purposes, you can get those from your online account. (The system assumes you have internet access as you’re required to use the website to register your card, which is necessary step for producing the information for the CRA.)

    Steve: No I wasn’t talking about that, and yes, I know that these are available. How uninformed do you think I am anyhow?

    P.P.S. I am a strong advocate for those sitting on the Board of a transit system to be required to use their complimentary Metropasses, at least three weekdays a week, and one weekend a month. After all, you cannot make informed decisions about the infrastructure if you don’t actually use it, yourself, to understand the challenges/benefits your customers face.

    Steve: This was a very long comment, and I took the time to work through it all and reply, even though I think your view of Presto is unduly rosy. Please do not leave another epic post repeating the same arguments as I will simply delete it.

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  40. Ben Bowring says

    “Or, if you’re talking about receipts for tax purposes, you can get those from your online account. (The system assumes you have internet access as you’re required to use the website to register your card, which is necessary step for producing the information for the CRA.)”

    Unfortunately CRA are not accepting these as official receipts for income tax when they ask you mail in the originals. Check the “Ride This Crazy Train” website and search “CRA tax receipts”.

    Steve: I notice that the threads about these problems do not have anything recent. What experiences have Presto users had over the past two tax years?

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