Metrolinx Fare Integration Backgrounders

About a month ago, I reported on the Metrolinx Fare Integration Study. At the time of that article, the backgrounders to the Board Meeting presentation had not gone online. They went up a short while later, and now I’m getting around to discussing them.

There are three papers:

These make interesting reading if only to give a sense of what this study has been up to, and the direction it seems to be headed. As I wrote before, Metrolinx has shown a preference for distance-based fares because that is what they know. They are a long-distance carrier compared with any of the “local” transit systems in the GTHA, and developed in an environment where paying more for longer trips was a logical way to do things. (The question of how fairly those “distance based” fares are calculated is a separate matter.)

Existing Fare Structures

At the Board Meeting, one member asked whether there was a table of how fares were charged today throughout the GTHA. The response from Leslie Woo, Chief Planning Officer, was along the lines of “we can get that for you”, even though clearly a backgrounder on this already existed. This information is a basic starting point for any discussion, but it was not included in the Board presentation.


With the exception of York Region’s 2-zone structure, these agencies all have a flat fare, and even for York Region, the fare is “flat” for a large number of its riders. Not included in the table is a breakdown of various pass structures and concession fares, but again these are “flat fare” media where usage does not affect price.

As for GO Transit, the report states:

GO Transit fares are set by the Metrolinx Board of Directors. They are structured in zones, which may contain one or more rail stations or segments of bus routes. Fares are set based on the distance travelled between the zones with provision for trips that require a transfer between GO services. [p 3]

Well, no, they’re not. First off, the Board approves fares that have been set by staff, and the tariff is sufficiently complex that no Board member is ever going to look through it in detail and say “hello, why is the fare from A to B so out of scale with C to D”. Moreover, the basis of GO fares is often cited a a compound value of a flat base fare plus a distance based component. The problem with this is that any attempt to run a basic regression analysis on GO fares fails because such a formula does not, in fact, exist. It would be an interesting exercise for GO to publish a target formula to which it hopes to arrive after many years of adjustments, if only to see (a) what their “ideal” system looks like and (b) how far away we are from it.

Transfers between services are the bane of all travel and not just because of fares. Within the GTHA, as a general rule transfer between outside-Toronto local systems is free, transfer to/from TTC routes requires a separate fare, and transfer to/from GO Transit involves a co-fare. The table has many cells, but the pattern is simple.


The report then delves into the problem of “seamless” travel, or more particularly, the absence of this character in the current arrangement.

  • Cross-boundary trips between the TTC and other local systems are deterred by the double fare.
  • TTC+GO trips are discouraged by the double fare with GO, or more accurately by the absence of a co-fare.
  • The cost of GO for trips inside a municipality (notably Toronto) is high enough on its own to discourage travel.
  • Expansion of cross-boundary services, notably the Spadina subway extension, will further complicate fares for multi-agency travel (much as the expansion of the TTC subway into former “zone 2” did over 40 years ago).

It is worth noting that the problems related to GO and the TTC are not all of the TTC’s making, but arise from both GO’s focus on longer trips and from Queen’s Park’s unwillingness to subsidize TTC travel through a co-fare payment.

Concession fares, passes and pricing vary from agency to agency and make “the customer experience confusing and unwelcoming” according to the report. However, those concessions are funded by local subsidies and reflect the political attitudes and ridership levels of each municipality. It is easy to “give away” rides on a concession basis especially where routes are operating policy headways with capacity to spare.

A troubling aspect of this backgrounder is that it gives no information on the history of GTHA fare systems and why they take the format (and level) they do from one agency to another.

Looking Around the World

This is less of a report than a quick overview of selected parts of the world: Toronto and the GTHA, Montréal, London (UK), Amsterdam, Hamburg, Cologne/Bonn/Düsseldorf, and Melbourne.

It includes basic information about each system, although in all cases we are dealing with a mix of “local” and “regional” travel where better clarity is needed. For example, a network may have zones, but these may apply only to longer distance “commuter” type travel (as on GO) while the bulk of “local” transit travel takes place for a flat fare. Some of the zone structure maps are dauntingly complex, but this masks what may be a simple structure achieved through consolidation of zones for the purpose of typical trips within sections of the network. (By analogy, GO Transit has a complex zone structure including higher cost rail zones and lower cost bus zones, but this map appears nowhere that a hapless traveler might encounter. It is ironic that the GO map is not included in this report.)

There are fundamental problems with this report:

  • There is no indication that this represents all of the fare structures and collection methods one might find world wide with notable gaps in Asia and the Americas beyond eastern Canada.
  • The prevalence of zones is overemphasized, and the existence of underlying flat fares, passes, etc., is left to the careful reader.
  • The history of fare evolution in each network is missing especially including any funding strategies from governments that could have smoothed the implementation of fare integration on a region-wide scale.

It is pointless to say “look at London” without understanding how its transit networks and fare structure evolved over past centuries, if only as guidance regarding the hurdles a move to a similar system might face in the GTHA.

This is very much a Google-based tour, and not much of a one at that. One would hope our transit policy is based on something a tad more extensive in breadth and depth of analysis.

GTHA Fare Structure Evaluation

This report is a triumph of bad graphic design over content. Someone at the consultant, Steer Davies Gleave, was obviously very fond of a chart showing all of the possible permutations of fare systems.


This shows up in various permutations throughout the report. The basic problem is that at the end of the day, almost all of the fare systems examined have no relevance to the GTHA situation, certainly not as “one system to rule them all”.

All of this is fed into a Business Case Evaluation (something we have seen from SDG in another form for many studies of individual rapid transit projects).


The caveat about “revenue neutral scenario” is the fatal flaw at the heart of this study and of much work done on a new fare structure. If we presume that the total fare revenue is unchanged, then some fares must go up while others go down to achieve whatever the goal might be of the new setup. There is no guarantee that revenues for individual agencies will remain the same, and this would trigger subsidy changes by each municipality and even (gasp, horrors) by Queen’s Park who, I am sure, would be happy for any new fare structure to reduce their costs.

At the September Metrolinx Board Meeting, Chair Robert Prichard observed that the goal of a revenue neutral structure may not be workable, and that future work should include looking at other scenarios. Quite bluntly, the study should have included this from day one. It is easy to float balloons about something where there is no cost impact, but this avoids major decisions about transit financing and about the effect any new structure would have on transit riders. Nobody wants to publish a report saying “most transit fares will go up by 25%”.

As we see in the bottom note, this process “should not be used as estimates or projections”. Well, folks, why exactly are you conducting this study anyhow if not to determine what a new system would look like, how it would affect ridership, and how the financial effects would percolate through the riders, agencies and governments affected? From a rider’s perspective, the broad conclusions are summarized in the following charts.


Scenario 1 is a flat fare for the entire network, including GO Transit. It is self-evident that such a scheme would shift costs from long haul trips to the relatively short local ones. The latter are more numerous, but even so they must absorb the cost now borne by long haul fares. It is worth noting that even some “long” (defined here as 20km or more) trips would see higher fares.

Scenario 3 is zone-based, and its effects vary broadly depending on the nature of a trip. Moreover, there must be some assumption about zone size in this model to produce a range of lower fares for local travel, probably by the division of a large area such as Toronto into zones where short trips would be cheaper than today.

Scenario 4 is distance-based and it self-evidently aids short trips but hurts long ones taken within one municipality. Shorter cross-boundary trips get a break, although not as much as one might expect, while longer ones cost more because the distance factor overwhelms the elimination of the zone boundary.

Scenario 5-Flat is a flat fare for local travel and zoned fares on regional trips (e.g. GO). This shows almost no change for the simple reason that this is the system now in use. A Hybrid variant shows savings for many at the expense of longer trips within one municipality.

A common problem with all of these projections is that they are not quantified: how many rides does each group (the four coloured bars in each scenario) represent? Do the large changes affect a few users on the periphery of the network, or the half-billion TTC riders who represent the overwhelming majority of GTHA transit travel?


Ridership is understandably affected as well, although it is intriguing to see a positive effect from scenarios 3 and 4 on short-distance trips within one municipality. This would almost certainly be the effect of GO’s fare structure being forced into the same grid as the local transit system and GO becoming much more an integral part of local service.

There is a more extensive discussion of the scenarios starting on page 38.

Next the report turns to the question of the value of a trip in the context of a “business case” with the underlying premise that “value” can be measured by service type or by length of trip. This is an oversimplification because it treats different legs of a journey separately. The fastest, cheapest journey on a rail corridor is useless if riders cannot reach it. A rail station in the middle of industrial lands cannot provide direct service either as an origin (residential) or high density destination (jobs, school, etc) and the feeder/distributor services are an integral part of the whole. It is amusing that a study on “fare integration” persists in viewing the transit network as individual pieces.

Fares based on time are dismissed right off-the-top because they will be inconsistent, and indeed would penalize riders using the slowest services and routes with many transfers. “Time based fares” have not been discussed in that context in Toronto, and to most people beyond the blinkered world of this study, they mean “time based transfers”. This whole idea is hived off to a separate topic “transfer policy” which includes issues such as co-fares and discounts for travel via multiple service providers. This creates a situation where possible flexibility in what is meant by a “flat fare” is shoved aside.

“Service type” is shorthand for “faster services, notably GO, should cost more” and is a mechanism for preserving the differential between GO fare levels and everything else, with the possible exception of the rapid transit network. Again this perpetuates the idea of a fragmented system and ignores the fact that speed of the GO trip segment is not the only component in a journey, nor is an alternative route necessarily available. If one translates the arguments in favour of GO pricing to the subway system, they quickly fall apart because the subway is truly integrated into the TTC’s service design and fare structure.

One might reasonably ask whether an improvement from peak hour, peak direction service to all day operation on a close headway (e.g. the RER network) constitutes an improved service type for which a higher fare should be charged. Do headways, and hence wait times, form part of this discussion? This illustrates the difficulties to which a simplistic description of factors affecting fares can lead.

Distance Based Fares

The study [p44] lists various pros and cons of distance-based vs flat fares and ties these to various scenarios under consideration.


  • Length based pricing may be used to support demand distribution policies
  • Allows for flexible fares that can enable a variety of pricing strategies
  • Zones/distance can be used to allow seamless pricing with limited use of transfers
  • Impact on revenue can be managed with zone/distance pricing strategies
  • Impact on ridership can be managed with zone/distance pricing strategies
  • Zones/distance can be used to ensure length based equity
  • Provides high quality travel data
  • Supports future services, fare media, and common fare management

“Demand distribution policies” is not used anywhere else in this report but a few tables, and would appear to refer to “discouraging riding when/where we don’t want it”. That really is not a function of “length” but rather of “time of day” as in off-peak fares to encourage shoulder-peak travel.

“Length based equity” is a wonderful term because it presumes that trip length should produce an “equitable” cost. However, in many cases longer trips also involve considerably lower density of demand and the cost of providing a service may not rise linearly with distance. Conversely, what do we say to someone whose complaint is that they “cannot afford to live downtown”? The suburbs contain both rich (by choice, larger homes) and poor (by economic necessity, smaller homes). For one group, cheaper fares could be seen as a subsidy (waste), for the other, an essential part of enabling city-wide travel.

Quite bluntly, I do not give a damn about “high quality travel data” as this is used as an excuse to complicate fare policy with no quantification of the cost/benefit as seen by a rider. It does not take a new fare system and back end data crunching to tell us that buses are full.


  • Length based options require tap on/tap off, or fare evasion prevention, which increases costs
  • May require new costs above and beyond current Presto implementation

Flat Fares


  • May be readily communicated
  • Limited cost impacts (tap on/tap off not required)


  • Flat fares do not represent value of length
  • Flat fares do not support demand distribution policies and may limit adaptation of services to changing needs
  • Limited ability to manage revenue impacts.
  • To maintain existing revenue, higher fares are needed which may impact ridership in short distance markets.
  • Limited ability to manage ridership impacts – model estimates reduction in ridership and increased auto VKT
  • No ability to ensure length based trip equity
  • Provides limited data
  • Does not allow flexibility for pricing future services

Quite obviously, if fares are “flat” for any trip, especially for those that are considerably beyond a typical “local” trip, there will be revenue issues for trips that now cross agency boundaries. An attempt to retain the same total revenue will obviously hurt short-haul riders while benefiting the long-hauls. The benefits will flow disproportionately to those making the longest trip.

This is a worst-case presentation of “flat fares” as it throws all travel, be it from Riverdale to downtown, or Hamilton to Oshawa, in one bucket. Moreover, all trip kilometres are considered equal regardless of service quality, crowding, headways and travel time.

The section concludes with some “lessons to carry forward” [p 46] including:

  • New structures will require a change in messaging and management. Build upon existing distance fares (GO, YRT zones) to develop effective communication.
  • Transfer policies may be used to approximate the benefits of flat fares while still ensuring fares reflect value.
  • The advantage of flat fares is simplicity. Options should be developed to aim for a similar level of simplicity.
  • Flat fares may be a useful sub-structure as part of a hybrid scenario.

It’s a tad rich to talk of building on existing distance fares when this only applies to two of the many agencies within the GTHA and a minority of today’s travel.

Transfer policies creep in here, and are an effective recognition that some aspects of flat fares might be needed. However, this gets into a complex problem of differentials in charging depending on how many segments a trip has and what type of service it uses. Also, we see mention of a “hybrid scenario” about which more later.

Service Based Fares

The next section [p 49] addresses fares by service type. This has an underlying presumption about what a better “type” of service might be.


  • Customer pays for improved speed and reliability
  • Can readily support demand distribution policies
  • Readily understandable
  • Supports future services to have fares in line with service provided
  • Allows for fares to be more strongly aligned with cost of providing service, allowing a variety of revenue capture tools
  • Allows for fare system to be more strongly aligned/consistent with trip taken and value received, leading to equitable pricing


  • None

There are two big issues here. First is the question of the “service provided” which may not directly match to the cost of that service if modes are taken as a whole. A simple example is the relative cost of travel (per ride) on the well-used downtown subway network versus the Sheppard line. Similarly, parts of GO’s network are more expensive, per service consumed, than others. At some point averaging is necessary. Second is the question of where lines are drawn between different services. If the subway becomes a separate class of service with its own fare scheme (or even worse, a gradually expanding network of Metrolinx LRT lines), a system that was designed and is viewed by its riders as an integrated service would be balkanized. How happy will riders in Scarborough be to find that their brand new subway costs more to ride than the bus (or the RT) that it replaced?

Another important point is that the cost of service could well include a policy component: a minimum headway or standard hours of service. When GO expands a line from peak to all day service, there is no possible way this can be done at the same per-passenger cost of existing operations. Should all riders pay a premium to cover off this cost? Should riders on lightly-used bus routes pay more because a service policy dictates that the route will exist at a minimum quality to be credible?

Again, the matter of “equitable pricing” gets us into questions of just whose “equity” we are trying to promote. On a per rider basis, some bus routes are more expensive to operate than subway services, and yet riders would pay presumably a lower fare in recognition of not the cost of service, but its speed and (lack of) reliability.

If fares do not vary with service type, this raises several issues:


  • Readily understandable
  • Allows for consistency based on length, but not service; limited equity


  • Customer does not pay for improved speed and reliability
  • Limits flexibility for future services
  • Does not support demand distribution policies and may limit adaptation of services to changing needs
  • Limits ability to set fares based on service type – impacting revenue and recovery
  • Raises average fare for local services, which will impact short distance markets. This would reduce average fare for regional services, which may increase ridership

The problem here, needless to say, is that this scenario would involve the collapse of the existing differential between regional GO services and local transit with a huge hit to GO revenues that could compromise the business case for system expansion. On a zero-sum basis, this would also transfer a large subsidy between the short haul and long haul riders.

These are “straw man” arguments set up to bolster the option Metrolinx prefers: fare by distance that preserves their scheme and revenues while saying to hell with the vast majority of riders who now enjoy flat fares. Present the alternatives in terms that simply don’t work, and of course the one you want, for all its warts, comes out ahead.

A Combination of Distance and Service Type

Now we come to a hybrid view of fare structures to determine whether there is a workable combination of both the distance based and service class fare structures. [p 53]

In this evaluation, zone structures fare better because they allow quasi-distance based fares without the fine-grained complexity of actually measuring trip length. A related problem is that the more finely-grained the zone system is, the more complex the fare structure. Moreover, there is the problem of having special “zones” for travel that passes through a premium service such as local bus to GO to TTC, or TTC bus to TTC subway.

Two caveats about distance-based fares in this context are noteworthy:

  • Local services require uniform or near uniform stop spacing. Specialized route information is also a requirement for each route. These preconditions do not exist in the GTHA.
  • Use on-vehicle fare collection, which makes tap-on/tap-off more costly and likely to impact operations.

The idea that stops should be uniformly spaced implies that this model does not actually count distance at all, but rather stops. This is a ludicrous way to charge fares, and it ignores the very real need for transit systems to have variable stop spacing. It also presumes that a rider should pay for the privilege of travelling over a meandering route with more stops.

This section ends with a number of observations that will not surprise anyone:



Yes, gentle reader, we have come through a long study that has diligently avoided talking about the actual dollar effects of a new fare structure on riders on on system revenues, only to find ourselves at a “hybrid structure” that would probably look rather like what we have today: flat fares on local services and distance based fares on regional ones.


We are right back at two basic questions:

  • What is a “higher order service”, and
  • How do we deal with 416/905 cross-border fares?

For the next stage of the study, the recommendations have a very different flavour, and keep more options alive. This suggests that despite the text above, Metrolinx and its consultants are not yet willing to accept this conclusion.


Concluding Thoughts

Metrolinx owes riders in the GTHA, and especially those in Toronto who will be by far the most affected by any new fare structure, a clear explanation of what is going on. I have no sympathy for an organization that substitutes meandering analysis for confrontation of the hard questions about fare structure and the inevitably related topic of subsidy distribution.

We still do not know what Metrolinx is actually considering, nor its effect on riders. The entire exercise has the impression of avoiding the difficult questions while messing about with endless theory just to arrive more or less where we are today. Options that might appear to be screened out are still on the table, and a new one (charging for transfers) has appeared without any previous discussion.

The “fare integration study” has wasted a great deal of time and does little to enhance Metrolinx’ reputation as a credible “regional planning” agency.

20 thoughts on “Metrolinx Fare Integration Backgrounders

  1. Steve said:

    The report then delves into the problem of “seamless” travel, or more particularly, the absence of this character in the current arrangement.

    This is the kind of writing that keeps me coming back for more.

    “one system to rule them all”.

    As I read this, I noticed that A Journey in the Dark, my favourite track from The Fellowship of the Ring, is playing in the background.

    OK, 79 more paragraphs to go.

    Steve: We writers have to work to keep our audience interested!


  2. Unless you just chose to omit it from your article, it sure seems like Metrolinx hasn’t bothered to look into the customer experience one bit, outside of whether or not we will ride (elasticity).

    There were a number of comical moments in this report, notably the “None” for the Cons of Service-Based Fares. Like retrofitting a huge number of TTC stations isn’t a big deal, let alone the adverse affect on the rider, among other things.

    Steve: Metrolinx’ inability to think beyond their own immediate goal is one of their major shortcomings. I never get the sense that there is any critical voice at the table saying “but …”, probably because it’s more than their job is worth.


  3. It’s sad that in all of their reports, there doesn’t seem to be much consideration for the idea of using transit fares as a means to encourage transit use.

    The primary focus of the fare integration reports seem to be how can Metrolinx rationalize collecting more money from passengers.

    It seems like the goal of the agency is to build new transit provided that the province doesn’t have to pay more money to subsidize it. I had, mistakenly, believed that the goal of The Big Move was to convert as many drivers as possible into public transit riders. I thought the plan was to spend enough money on both new infrastructure and operations so that transit could be priced in a way to lure people out of their cars.

    I really want each Metrolinx board member to answer this question. “What is the purpose of public transit?” I think their answers, more than any of these fare integration reports, would be helpful in letting us know what kind of transit system they’re building for us.


  4. I think the “Approach to Fares Around the World” a very narrow and biased survey since mainly focuses on countries where English or German are spoken and only in the western half of the developed world. Sure language is very related to the way of thinking of people, so a wider approach would result in more diversity. Why there’s no analysis of fare structures in cities like Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon, Tokyo, Barcelona or Madrid?


  5. This is just another example of bad over-management from Metrolinx. Rather than setting the criteria and letting the consultants form their own educated conclusions, the conclusions are given and the defining criteria are formed in order to reach the pre-determined end point.

    The inequality of time-based fares could be overcome by changing the time/cost according to point of entry (start on a bus and get 90 minutes, start at a subway station and get 60 minutes).

    I don’t like the idea of paying for transfers, as it penalizes users for the way the system is set-up. However, if you had a flat time-based fare, I wouldn’t mind having an option to pay for a time extension while having a lower base fare (instead of $3.00 for 2-hour transfer, base is $1.60 for 1-hour transfer and $0.75 for each extra half hour).


  6. I have to confess by being a bit in awe at the carelessness of a number of portions of this study.

    First, Their surveys of systems around the world is indeed a very superficial Google-level survey. I’ve lived or traveled to all of the cities compared, so I have some sense of their systems. One very notable bit of data missing here (and across the study) is cost of several typical travellers, e.g. a downtown resident that works downtown, a suburban resident that commutes downtown, and say, a suburb-to-suburb commuter.

    Examine Köln-Bonn. In the context of this study, it’s probably easiest to compare monthly passes. The downtown commuter only pays a little under 80 Euros per month for a monthly pass subscription. Between Köln and Bonn or moderately close suburbs it rises to 100 Euros. Same for suburb-to-suburb commuters. Only when we’re to commute from Aachen (~80 km) to Köln does one get closer to the 200 Euro/month mark, distances that are unlikely for a daily commute. This is a system that works quite effectively and equitably for a variety of commuting patterns.

    The second major shortcoming is the constraints over which they perform their individual optimization studies. For example, I doubt that anyone can reasonably justify that the same flat fare should apply for a Hamilton-Oshawa trip, as a trip from Bloor and Ossington to Union Station. Optimizing flat fares in this context is silly. Conversely, their distance based optimization seems to be purely linear in distance. Should someone traveling from Hamilton to Oshawa pay 25 times what the local trip costs? If we price the local trip at $2, then the long-distance one would be $50 one way. Currently that’s $14.81 with Presto. So it’s obvious that these exercises are silly.

    Perhaps they should start a little more clearly with goals. For example, I imagine most players agree that one should not be penalized for short trips crossing zone boundaries, e.g., Toronto/York. Also if RER is ever to work as intended, there can’t be a huge type-of-service penalty. Perhaps a better starting point?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. From Wikipedia:

    “Before the introduction of fare zones, tickets for rail travel in Greater London were purchased on a ‘point-to-point’ basis between two stations, either as a single, return or season ticket; and were priced according to distance travelled. During the early 1980s the London Transport Executive of the Greater London Council made a series of revisions to fares which introduced the fare zones. The purpose of creating zones was to simplify fares, in order to speed up the process of buying tickets…. The first zones were introduced on 4 October 1981.”

    Transitioning from the current mess in Ontario to something sane and comprehensible calls for a zone system — one with big zones. Bluntly, given current arrangements, “Toronto” should probably be one zone, though I suppose you could make a case for “inner” and “outer” zones, or for a special “airport zone”. Each of York Region, Durham Region, and Peel Region could be a zone, or they could all be one zone.

    Actually, I’d split Toronto into “inner” and “outer” zones, make each one of York, Durham, and Peel into a zone, and then set up a zone system a bit like Denver’s new (2016) system: any trip in one or two zones costs the same amount, but cross three zones and your price goes up. This maintains flat fares for people who are used to them, eliminates the artificial “I just crossed a boundary” issue, while retaining higher fares for really long distances.


  8. @Nathanael, Why would you flatten YRT from the current two zone system? What “flat fares” are you maintaining as either Toronto will increase prices to match everyone else or Toronto will be paying more to subside fares in other Regions. If it’s equal fare zones pricing, does that mean equal levels of service and loading standards?


  9. How come the Waterloo region can use its own smart card. See this article in Waterloo newspaper. This will create all sorts of untold chaos. How will people be able to ride the Ion LRT to the GO train and ride into Toronto. They will need TWO fare cards in southern Ontario. Oh the agony of it.

    Steve: From the FAQ for Grand River Transit’s EasyGo card:

    8. Why wasn’t Presto selected?

    Presto could not be selected because they did not respond to a Request for Proposals, which is a Regional requirement. Also, Presto could not provide many of the functionalities that the Region deemed essential for our system including the ability to accept payment on MobilityPLUS vehicles, the ability to integrate a U-Pass program and the ability to issue machine readable paper tickets from Ticket Vending Machines. Having our own system allows us to ensure our fare products meet our unique customer needs.

    The report including the authorization for the purchase notes that KW is using the same vendor as Presto, but Presto is not listed as a bidder.


  10. Mapleson says:

    “The inequality of time-based fares could be overcome by changing the time/cost according to point of entry (start on a bus and get 90 minutes, start at a subway station and get 60 minutes).”

    What happens when you go home and get on the subway first or are you assuming that you would get on to your bus before the 60 minutes expired? Theoretically it would be possible to take two buses to the subway in 40 minutes and spend 35 minutes on the subway. Going home you could get onto the first bus but your transfer would expire before you got on the second. There are very few plans that can meet all eventualities and be “fare” for everyone.


  11. @Robert Wightman,

    I agree that few, if any, plans are going to be ideal for everyone. It can only be minimized. In your hypothetical scenario (or is it real?), the time of the transfer between buses would be key. If it’s 15-25-35, then they’d be OK, but pressing the limit on the return trip.

    I’m looked at a slower connection (73 minutes) between 1325 Neilson Rd to Lawrence Station

    This is a 8+10-46-3 (bus+transfer-bus-subway) trip.
    The faster connection (62 minutes) is: 9+5-35-9.

    What can be done rather than pulling random numbers out of my butt, is an analysis of origin-destination times to see which trips are achievable. Still, in your scenario, the individual only has to pay 3 fares per day instead of 4 based on a straight 60 minute transfer. And furthermore, the idea of extendable fares might bring this down from 3 to 2.5 (or whatever multiple is used) and the base fare of two one-hour transfers should be approximately equal to one two-hour transfer

    $3 – 2 hour transfer
    $1.5 – 1/1.5 hour transfer (subway/bus)

    2*$3 = $6.00
    3*$1.5 = $4.50


  12. Time based fares can mean that, on the same commute, you may be under the time limit one day, and over the limit another day. Imagine the complaints that “I got dinged for another fare because your #%*&! streetcar short-turned on me!”

    For a while, I travelled daily between Long Branch loop and Seneca College at Finch and 404. Mornings were invariable under two hours, but evenings could be two and a half hours or more. Furthermore, my routing varied depending on circumstances. Maybe I took the Queen car to/from the Yonge subway, instead of 110 or 123 to the Bloor line (it was much nicer transferring at Queen than at Bloor/Yonge at the height of rush hour). Sometimes when the turnback at Finch was backed up, I’d take the Sheppard subway and the 139 bus, instead of the plain old 39C/E/F/G (as it was in those days).

    Metrolinx operates a system where there generally aren’t multiple reasonable routings, whereas on the TTC, there can be many different options. While this is increasingly the case the longer your journey (and the less oriented to downtown core travel), even apparently straightforward trips can vary surprisingly. Sometimes I travel from Brentwood Library (just west of Royal York station) to Long Branch loop. In the evenings, the TTC trip planner invariable recommends 15 Evans, transferring to 123 Shorncliffe–and I have used this with success. Just now, mid-morning, the options are:

    1. Subway to Kipling, 123 Shorncliffe
    2. 76 Royal York south to Lake Shore, 501 west
    3. Subway to Islington, 110 Islington South

    Add in “what will minimize my fare, and what will most risk me an extra fare”, and the problem becomes much more complicated!


  13. @Ed,
    It’s all a matter of perspective and possibly billing. If you assume your trip will be double fares and can actually get it done in one, that would represent a savings. A possible solution is that you are charged a “full”/double fare and if you tap-off in the first half, you get a half rebate.

    The same issues exist, but just changing how the problem is presented.

    Steve: Also remember that there are benefits in the free stopover and double-back provisions of time-based fares. At some point a “long” trip has to be considered as worth more than a base fare whether this is by time, or distance or zones. We should not be judging the idea by extremely long trips especially if the “basic” time allocation is two hours.

    Also, we have to avoid making the system too complex particularly with requirements where “tap off” only applies to certain types of trips as part of the fare scheme.


  14. Mapleson:

    The inequality of time-based fares could be overcome by changing the time/cost according to point of entry (start on a bus and get 90 minutes, start at a subway station and get 60 minutes).

    This doesn’t make sense to me, perhaps because my travel is not a simple commute from the suburbs to the inner city.

    My house is near two subway stations, a bus line, and a streetcar line. Why should the fare be valid for different times depending on the mode I choose?

    When I take a long trip to the outer part of the city, I am likely to start out on the subway, then connect to a bus to get to my destination. Why should I get less time to do that than someone making exactly the same trip in reverse?

    One of the subway stations nearest my house offers behind-the-turnstiles connections to several bus routes. Should those boarding buses there get a different fare-validity period than those boarding the subway through the same turnstiles, or should behind-the-turnstiles transfers be eliminated just to deal with the alleged inequality?

    I am typing this in a cafe in Vancouver, where I am visiting for a day. Transfers here are valid for 90 minutes, whether one’s first boarding is on a bus or on SkyTrain. So far as I know there has been no fuss about that.


  15. Steve said:

    Also, we have to avoid making the system too complex particularly with requirements where “tap off” only applies to certain types of trips as part of the fare scheme.

    I prefer avoiding “tap off” where possible. GO had trouble with it and implemented the “standard ride” which doesn’t need a “tap off”. This is applying the same concept to time-based fares.

    For me, the ideal system would encourage both very long and very short trips by the median trip paying a bit more. How this might work in reality is another question.

    Steve said:

    Why should the fare be valid for different times depending on the mode I choose?

    Mainly because those boarding a bus first generally have a longer trip time due to average speeds and possibly an extra transfer. I would say if you are boarding at a station, you’d get the lower limit regardless of what you take, as if you are taking a local bus rather than the subway, you probably aren’t travelling far enough to need the extra time.

    Steve: Actually someone else said that, but I agree. The problem is that you are talking about a model in which someone makes a single-link trip. However, a typical ride in Toronto is bus-to-subway or subway-to-bus or even bus-to-subway-to-bus. The first two are simply the mirror images of each other (am vs pm commute, for example), while the third is both typical and one where your scheme would always yield the longer period of fare validity.

    A further problem, as others have pointed out, is that if I walk into Broadview Station, the turnstile does not know whether I am going to board the subway, a streetcar or a bus. Should I have to tap onto the surface vehicle as well to get a cheaper fare? This simply does not make sense.

    GO Transit is very much oriented to trips that do not involve transfers (at least within their own network), and so could “think” about the originating mode as determining the fare on the assumption that the going and return journeys use the same mode. This does not work for multi-mode trips.


  16. Steve said:

    Actually someone else said that, but I agree.

    Yes, I copy/paste the HTML tags and forgot to change the name. My model was for multi-vehicle trips (1 or 2 hour transfer, rather than 1 or 2 hour trip), whether that’s bus-bus, bus-subway, subway-bus, bus-subway-bus, or bus-bus-subway (here I’m using bus as all surface transport). Really, there needs to be a detailed modelling on specific changes impacting who and where, rather than the pie-in-the-sky generics we’ve seen so far.

    In regards to Broadview Station and similar, my solution was that it would be the shorter time regardless.

    Steve: And that really shows how your plan is flawed. If I board at the streetcar stop on Erindale at Broadview, just outside of the station, I get 30 minutes more travel time. Same for any bus route leaving Broadview Station, although the first northbound stop is farther away. The basic problem is that you would charge me a “higher” fare just to use the station. Note that the surface stop on Broadview southbound at Danforth is not available during peak periods (and has been out of service generally for months due to watermain work).


  17. Every plan has its flaws. If you need that time extension and boarding outside the station is a viable option for you, then it’s a benefit. If you don’t need that time extension, then there is no need to bother taking the bus one stop.

    A variation on type-variable transfers is that of a tap-off transfer.

    Tap-on to start your trip.
    Tap-off if you need an extended transfer or had a short trip.
    Tap-on to start your transfer trip within the given time.

    Steve: You are making a “virtue” of the limitations of your plan, in the best tradition of professional planners everywhere.


  18. Mapleson says

    “I prefer avoiding “tap off” where possible. GO had trouble with it and implemented the “standard ride” which doesn’t need a “tap off”. This is applying the same concept to time-based fares.”

    GO only does this on the rail service and that was because they didn’t want to put in a lot more Presto machines at all the train stations, especially Union, to handle the large number of passengers disgorging at the same time from a train. All the bus trips and the rest of the train trips require tap on and tap off.

    WRT to 90 min. for bus to subway and 60 min. for subway to bus you said:

    What can be done rather than pulling random numbers out of my butt, is an analysis of origin-destination times to see which trips are achievable. Still, in your scenario, the individual only has to pay 3 fares per day instead of 4 based on a straight 60 minute transfer. And furthermore, the idea of extendable fares might bring this down from 3 to 2.5 (or whatever multiple is used) and the base fare of two one-hour transfers should be approximately equal to one two-hour transfer.

    But I still want to know why its cheaper one way than the other for the same trip? Most people aren’t going to say I saved a fare on the first trip. They are going to say I got ripped off on the second trip for the same distance. I would walk one block from the subway and get on a surface vehicle to get a 90 minute travel window. The system has to appear to be fair and consistent. This does not.

    Steve says

    “GO Transit is very much oriented to trips that do not involve transfers (at least within their own network), and so could “think” about the originating mode as determining the fare on the assumption that the going and return journeys use the same mode. This does not work for multi-mode trips.”

    Actually GO is making more use of transfers between GO buses and Trains and different GO buses. True it is a minuscule amount compared to their total service but it is increasing.


  19. Another point that Mapleson seems to have missed with his dual-time fares is that a trip that involves both subway and buses will on average be longer in the direction starting at the subway than starting with the bus. What has been ignored is the transfer time.

    Because you will tap on only when you get on the bus, any time waiting for it is not counted against the permissible travel time. You will get penalized for the wait time when you enter the subway, but this will average less than 3 minutes depending on time of day (given an maximum 6 minute headway).

    For a trip requiring 2 buses plus subway the inbound trip would be:
    0 min wait (since the rider has not tapped on yet) + Bus 1 + B2 transfer time + Bus 2 + subway transfer + Subway
    The outbound trip would be:
    subway transfer (wait time on entry) + Subway + B2 transfer time + Bus 2 + B1 transfer time + Bus 1
    As you can see all times cancel out except the transfer time to Bus 1. If this route is on a 30 minute headway not synchronized with the other bus route, the average time of the outbound trip will be 15 minutes more than the inbound, yet the proposal would allot 30 minutes less.


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