Metrolinx Fare Integration Background Study: February 2016 Update

Recently, I reported on a staff presentation to the February 10, 2016, Metrolinx Board meeting in which it was quite clear that the provincial agency is moving inexorably toward some form of fare-by-distance not just for its GO Trains, but for all rail modes that operate on their own right-of-way including subways and LRT. Bus Rapid Transit, although a common part of The Big Move as a “solution” in the 905, is not included as “rapid transit” in their proposals.

Metrolinx has now published the background technical paper to this presentation. This is the second installment in the fare integration review. Part 1 came out in September 2015.

For background information, see:

In previous articles, I noted a strong inclination by Metrolinx toward distance or zone-based fares, and this continues into the most recent paper. What is also troubling, however, is the difference between the backgrounders which have some detail about the workings and effects of a new fare structure, and the staff summary reports where this is all treated as a complex issue to be reported on at some future date. “Have patience”, the Board is told by staff, even though answers to some of their questions can be found in the detailed reports.

A chart from the September 2015 report is worth looking at again.


It is self-evident that any tests of fare effects, of the various sub-markets which might see higher or lower fares, and of revenue distribution models, could not possibly be conducted without an actual model with real numbers of riders and real fares attached to each type of trip they would make. However, even by February 2016, the staff presentation studiously avoids specifics and gives no hint of the degree by which fares might rise or fall. A related issue is that the tests used a “revenue neutral scenario”, one in which any reduction in one part if the revenue pie must be counterbalanced by an increase somewhere else.

This is the “we don’t want to pay more subsidy” view of fare integration where the “winners” are those who now face multiple fares, typically to use the TTC plus any other GTHA system, while those who now pay single fares within a system will be the “losers”. This fact has been hidden from public view throughout the exercise. We hear a lot about “fair” fares, but absent specifics, there is no way to decide which elements of “fairness” are included in the new formula.

An element that emerged from the 2015 study and now forms an important part of the 2016 update is the concept of “service class”. This is a simplistic division of all transit services into three groups and three trip lengths. The groups such as “local” and “rapid” transit are defined by mode (bus or rail), not by the actual quality of service they provide. Indeed one might argue that the higher speed of “rapid” transit can be offset by the severe overcrowding and unreliability of the service. For the purpose of the fare model, only the nominal speed and presumed comfort of rail services counts. This is very much a GO-centric view of transit service.

Even GO is having its problems with comfort and crowding. For some time, the goals for service quality included the idea that 80% of peak period riders would get a seat. GO never attained this and the metric sat at 66% the last time it was reported, September 2015. This goal appears to have quietly fallen off the service targets GO seeks to hit for the obvious reason that it is not attainable without massive expansion of service beyond the point where latent demand always backfills any new capacity GO provides.

The overall fare integration study is expected to stretch into late 2016 according to the chart below. It is hard to ignore the absence of “rider effects” in the topics listed here.


However, a more detailed chart (Fig. 1.4) clearly shows that a “Preferred Option” would be recommended by Spring/Summer with the implication that any chance to debate and influence the choice has a limited window of the next few months. The Metrolinx Board is not scheduled to meet again until June 2016. Will they be faced with a fait accompli where staff have made all the decisions and the Board’s role is merely to nod in agreement? When will local Councils and transit agency boards have their chance to be heard? In the rush to get a new fare structure, will Metrolinx management do an end run around meaningful consultation at both the general public and political levels?

The January 2016 Report

The January report starts off with the findings of the previous round, the September 2015 Stage 1 report.


That report concluded that a common fare structure across multiple “service” types should not be pursued further, and moreover than fares based on travel time should also be omitted. In a network ranging all the way from truly local buses  pushing their way through traffic up to commuter rail lines stretching far beyond the City of Toronto, it is self-evident that a one-size-fits-all fare model will not work. However, this opens up the discussion of distinct “service” types within urban areas, notably the inclusion of subways and LRT as a “rapid transit” class separate from the surrounding bus network. Ironically, Bus Rapid Transit, although a major part of The Big Move, is lumped into the “local” bus service class despite its higher speed compared to truly “local” operations.

“Sense Making”

The most important part of any fare study is to understand how the transit market behaves today and how it might evolve in the future. Although this information was not included in the staff report, there is a considerable breakdown of existing travel information in the backgrounder.

To develop an understanding of how transit customers travel in the GTHA and the customer travel impacts of fares, sense making analysis was conducted. This included both quantitative analysis of travel behaviour along with stakeholder engagement through a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) that included representation of all municipal (transit) service providers (MSPs) in the GTHA.

This approach combined descriptive statistics (included in transportation data sets) with stakeholder insights, issues, and opportunities from an operational lens to ensure the sense making analysis included a wide array of factors. [p. 7]

Quite clearly, the sort of detailed breakdown of new fare structures and effects on riders already exists because this analysis would be impossible without it. However, the details are not in any published report. This begs the question of how any public consultation can answer the question “how will my transit costs change”.

For the purpose of analysis, the transit market was subdivided.


The caveat about “distance bands” is important because it will appear later in the discussion of zones. True fare-by-distance would be free of zones and only use measured travel, but it is the most complex to implement and operate, especially for high turnover local services.

The subdivision of service types is based on the following distinctions.


The criterion that “rapid transit” be 90% or more on a separated right-of-way might explain the absence of BRT from this class because it is common for bus routes to have a combination of mixed traffic and separate right-of-way. However, this shows how arbitrary subdivisions can skew a policy. For example, if a bus route goes from 75% to 90% “separated” thanks to the opening of a new section of BRT roadway, should the fares go up to reflect a different “service class”? Subway and commuter rail services do not face this problem because they are, by definition, totally segregated, but LRT, like BRT, can fall into a medium range of segregation from traffic.

The report notes:

The data used in this analysis was drawn from the 2011 TTS data and therefore predates the opening of dedicated bus rights of way in York Region and Mississauga. As fare structure design advances, the appropriate classification of these bus services for the purposes of applying fares is an area of ongoing examination.

Specific services not clearly positioned in the service typology will need to be considered at a later stage of analysis. These include: express bus services, rural services, and specialized services. [p. 11] [“TTS” is the “Transportation Tomorrow Survey” conducted every five years by the University of Toronto on behalf of government agencies in the GTHA.]

A related policy question will be the potential for a higher fare where “rapid transit” replaces bus routes. This is not a component of current public debates about LRT services, not to mention future subway extensions.

As commuter rail services evolve, trips on the GO network will increasingly depend on feeder services and co-fare arrangements (or some equivalent).

The role of regional services is expected to evolve as RER is implemented. More medium distance trips are intended to be served by RER as frequencies increase.

In addition, the existing mode split for those accessing regional stations is unlikely to be sustainable as ridership grows faster than park and ride capacity can be affordably or feasibly supplied. Attractive feeder local and RT service is critical to RER’s success, which has significant implications for fare structure design. [p. 11]

The market subdivision problem is more complex than the staff summary implies.

Trip Distribution

Having defined the markets and services, the report turns to the actual distribution of trips.


An important point in this and following charts is the definition of “Downtown Toronto”. The study uses the city’s Planning District 1.


From the chart above, it is quite clear that travel within PD1 (“downtown”) is a comparatively small part of the overall transit market, geographically speaking. Trips to and from downtown, and trips between areas outside of PD1 are a huge majority of travel. In the former case, the subway (“rapid transit”) is either the sole mode or is part of a local+rapid transit trip. A very limited amount of travel occurs on the GO regional system within Toronto.

In the case of trips that are not to or within downtown, local service takes a stronger role, but rapid transit is still an important component. The big difference lies in the proportion of trips that do not use rapid transit for the simple reason that this network does not serve large parts of Toronto.

A further subdivision gives the breakdown in numeric form (click to expand).


This breakdown reveals important facts about the travel market:

  • Of the total GTHA travel, slightly less than half, 46.4%, of trips involve “downtown” defined as PD1.
  • Within Toronto, almost as many trips are “non-downtown”, 31.9%, as are within or to/from “downtown”, 33.3%.
  • Travel from the 905 to locations within Toronto accounts for 20.5% of all trips of which about 40% are to areas outside of “downtown”.
  • Of the 1,209,500 trips within Toronto, only 285,800 (23.6%) are “rapid transit” only and the remainder are either entirely on “local” (i.e. surface) transit (449,100) or use both modes (474,600). This shows the vital role of surface transit in the TTC network, one which is repeatedly overlooked in transit planning.
  • The role of transfers between modes is quite evident in the numbers for compound trips, but transfers within a mode (e.g. bus to bus) do not show up here.

Slightly less than 10% of all trips involve a double fare with the TTC either from a local 905 system or from GO Transit. This proportion could grow were it not for the absence of a co-fare or some other integration mechanism.

Trip Lengths

Another important issue is the distance travelled in various types of journeys.


It is self-evident that trips within downtown cannot be long because the geographic area itself is small. Trips between downtown and the rest of Toronto tend to be longer, especially if GO is involved. (Note that these are trip length averages, not a count of trips.) That said, a 10km radius from downtown (Queen & Yonge) takes in roughly the old City of Toronto, also known as TTC Zone 1. It is also self-evident that there must be a lot of local+rapid transit trips to downtown that are longer than 10km or the subway would be nowhere near as busy in the former suburbs as it actually is.

This distribution of trip lengths is an important factor. If we are to believe these charts, on average, trips inside Toronto, but outside of downtown tend to lie in the 5-10km range, especially for users of surface routes. This is not the typical experience of a rider originating in the outer 416 and making a long journey to just about anywhere. Any fare policy must take this into account, not simply the relatively large number of short trips taken in the older, denser part of the city on surface routes.

Also intriguing is the much long average for trips by cross-border riders. Comparing the lengths of the averages, one might argue that only charging them a double fare is still a bargain, except for those who have atypically short trips, compared with the riders who travel within Toronto.

This shows up in when the average cost/kilometre is calculated.


The cost per kilometre is much lower for cross-boundary trips than it is for trips within the City of Toronto, and especially for short trips downtown. To be fair, the cost of the trips is all set at the cash fare, but many short-trip riders are going to use passes and their actual cost per trip will be much lower. The study has not taken that factor into account.

Next, the study looks at trip lengths by service class.


The upper part of the chart is interesting because it shows the distribution of trip lengths, not the averages. Trips that use only surface routes (“local”) drop off quickly after a peak at under 5km. This shows how a very large number of “quick hops” can mask the presence of longer trips in the average. “Rapid transit” (which means subway in the 2011 stats) falls off quickly after about 14km (why there is a peak at this distance I do not know, although this could represent a large demand with a common trip length such as Finch Station to central downtown).

Another intriguing number is the indication that the vast majority of trips have no competition in their market. In other words, riders do not have the option of making the trip in another way via a competing, possibly cheaper, service. This is a direct result of Toronto’s network design and transfer policy.

From earlier charts we know that there are many riders who use more than one type of service in a typical trip, and so the subdivision of trip length by individual services (rather than the combinations) could make the “market” appear to have distinct chunks when in fact these service classes are symbiotic. For example, the hordes arriving at Finch Station do not simply materialize there, but come on local TTC and York Region services, GO buses, and by private auto.

Indeed, autos are a “missing mode” in this analysis, and we do not know how long the trip link providing access to transit is for, say, auto+regional or auto+rapid transit travel. This is an important component when considering how or whether local transit can take over the “last mile” function.

The report reviews “local” trips noting how many of them are 7km or less. If a zone (or more accurately the distance over which a single zone’s fare would apply) were slightly larger than 7km, then it would encompass the lion’s share of “local” travel just like a flat fare system. The corollary here is that, at least for “local” trips, it may not be worth the extra complexity of zones because most trips would only pay for one zone’s travel anyhow. The longer trips would be carried at the same price because it was simpler to do so.

However, this ignores the role of the rapid transit system as an integral and growing part of much travel. Having a flat fare for surface modes discriminates against riders for whom an all-surface trip is either impractical (time considerations) or impossible (network design). The problem will only get worse as “rapid transit” spreads beyond the Toronto subway system. This shows the inherent folly of attempting to treat surface and rapid transit operations separately in an integrated network.

This leaves us with a flawed model going into the discussion of actual fare structures.

Fare Structure Design

This section of the report brings us to the same territory covered in the staff presentation, namely the principles for a tariff design and alternative schemes for reconciliation of fares by service class. As already described here and in the previous article, some problems directly arise from the attempt to treat “rapid transit” and “local” classes as distinct entities in a network where they are designed to operated as an integrated whole. A related problem is the concept that each tier, each type of service is inherently “better” and more valuable than the one below it.

However, service quality is not just a question of vehicle speed, but of overall trip comfort and other sources of delay such as the inability to board crowded vehicles at peak times. Such delays can contribute a substantial portion of the overall trip time slowing the effective travel speed, while overcrowding can reduce the presumed “premium” of faster rapid transit or regional service to cattle-car conditions. Some of these are locational and time-of-day effects and it is impossible to account for them all in a fare structure. Riders will make their own selections by avoiding the worst periods to the degree that they can.

As a quick review, here are the five principles behind the would-be fare structures:

  • Fare continuity ensures customers will pay a comparable fare for services that provide travel over the same distance market so that customers do not pay more because a transit service type is not available. [p. 32]
  • Fare structures should be developed based on how far customers travel and the parameters and should be aligned with service type constraints. [p. 34]
  • For the fare strategy to enable use of the complete GTHA transit network, it should not penalize trips that require the use of multiple service types. [p. 36]
  • When travel times vary between two services that provide transport over similar journeys, fares should be lower for slower service types than for faster service types in order to ensure overall generalized costs are comparable. [p. 37]
  • Fares should use small increments and gradual changes to ensure pricing is not a disincentive for passengers to access transit services. [p. 38]

Some of these principles contradict each other, especially the fourth one which argues, in brief, that a bus trip should be cheaper than a subway trip which should be cheaper than a GO trip. This directly opposes the premise in the first two points, and probably in part the third.

The fifth principle implies granularity in any zone or distance system so that large jumps as one crosses from zone to zone do not deter travel.

All of this is consolidated as per the table below.


The principle of “continuity” – that fares for different service types would be the same where they overlap in trip lengths served – is a rather large piece of duct tape covering some basic inconsistencies arising from arbitrary segmentation of the market.  Note that this overlap is not necessarily geographic, but simply by trip length. This begs the question of what would happen to “regional” fares once “rapid transit” becomes more prevalent in the 905. Following the model, “mid-length” journeys should be comparably priced, but this might force a downward shift in GO fares if a region (say, Mississauga) gets an LRT line.

One might construct a logically consistent fare model with a “continuity” principle based on today’s network, but as new services in various classes are added, what gyrations must the tariff card go through?


The design tree above has several “features” its creators might not appreciate:

  • If local fares use zones with a 7km radius, then we will have effectively reinstated the old “Zone 1” used by the TTC before Toronto fares were integrated four decades ago. Additional zones would cover the suburban areas (probably three would be needed with some spillover into the 905. It is unclear how this structure would eliminate the cross-border complaints. Indeed, it would recreate a border that is only a distant memory for most riders.
  • It is unclear just how the “short trip” equivalence between rapid transit and local fares would work, and specifically how they would avoid large increments at the boundary between a “short” and a “medium” length rapid transit trip.
  • Regional fares are already “by distance” nominally, but in fact are considerably cheaper for the longest trips on the network. Reconciling GO fares to actual distances would involve some upheaval in the current tariff.

Now we come to the actual fare models, and these were reviewed in my article a few days ago. I will not reiterate the descriptions, and leave this to the reader for review [pp. 40-51]

The basic problem with all of these proposals is that no dollar values are attached, nor are there worked examples of how various origin-destination pairs would price out in each model. This comes in the “Next Steps” even though some type of definitive modelling must have been run to produce the charts and conclusions in the Stage 1 report last September.

What is troubling is that there does not appear to be a feedback mechanism whereby someone might say “hey, this model really doesn’t work, and we need a new one”. The generic models are locked in before we actually understand how they would behave.

Next Steps

Each concept identified in this study will undergo further development. This concept refinement process will include:

  • Calibrating each concept with priced fares and co-fares to model the impact on ridership and revenue for various scenarios, creating one or more options from each concept prepared for full business case evaluation
  • Scoping/prototyping potential methods for delivering the options or implementing the options in the GTHA, including cost estimates.

This work will consider further data analysis in the GTHA as well as a review from other jurisdictions that have successfully applied fare by distance and zone structures, or have differentiated fares by service type. [p. 52]

Among the factors to be considered is a “Barrier Analysis”:

Assessment of how the structure removes fare barriers (cost, complexity, captivity) including assessment of changes to fares for each market/sub market, representative origins and destinations, and trip lengths. [p. 53]

There appears to be no concept that the new structure might create barriers, and that this is equally deserving of review.

Another factor is “Equity Analysis”:

Review and clarification of potential impact of fare structure options on economically disadvantaged communities

Assessment of:

  • Change in fare for economically disadvantaged communities
  • Change in fare to access low income employment centres [p. 53]

An important issue in “equity” analysis is that one cannot simply throw a few discounts in the direction of the most severely disadvantaged, but Metrolinx and their political masters must acknowledge that the working poor are a large group in their own right for whom a significant fare increase in the name of “regional fairness” will not sit well. This is particularly important for long trips and for “trip chaining” which could benefit from time-limited transfer privileges (a.k.a. “the two hour transfer”).

Metrolinx, together with the City of Toronto and TTC, is about to launch a new rounds of public consultation session. Without the ability to discuss specifics of implementation such as zone sizes and price points, “consultation” will be difficult on a meaningful basis.

“Fare integration” has for years been code for “your fares will go down”, but that is not necessarily what the new options will bring. SmartTrack has been sold on the basis that riders will have “TTC” fares on trains running over the GO corridors, but “TTC” fares tomorrow may work quite differently from these fares today.

Toronto politicians have been silent on this issue most likely because the implications of Metrolinx’ work are only now apparent. The many consultation sessions should smoke out Councillors’ positions on what they consider to be reasonable, fair fares for their constituents.

16 thoughts on “Metrolinx Fare Integration Background Study: February 2016 Update

  1. They should investigate fare by overcrowding.

    If the service provided is oversubscribed then fares on that route are raised by an appropriate amount (recalculated every month with fares published on the presto tap machine).

    All extra fares on a line go to improving service on that line until the line is no longer oversubscribed.

    Use presto to calculate appropriate fares if you are transferring from high demand to low demand routes.

    This would have the side benefit of forcing politicians to face realities when lines get busy (a large number of users paying more will make a lot of noise). It also allows for rebalancing the fare system to encourage more usage on less used lines.

    Steve: Somehow the idea of paying more because the TTC can’t/won’t run better service, so that some riders will be discouraged and free up space, all this is truly bizarre.


  2. Holy smokes Metrolinx created a lot of incomprehensible gobbledigook on fare integration. Seems like a justification smokescreen for higher fares on the right of way separated rail lines, which Metrolinx finds itself in because the Province isn’t funding operations sufficiently. If they really want to get people out of cars and to use transit, the fare subsidy has to be higher. Both GO Transit’s and TTC’s farebox recovery is greater than 75%, much higher than in any other city in North America.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rapidtransitman, as I finished reading Steve’s most excellent commentary, I was saying to myself “My head is spinning I don’t understand all these fancy Metrolinx GTA Fare Integration graphics… they’re “Gobbledygook”! I then read your comment and grinned…it is nice to see another reality based human being is totally confused by Metrolinx’s vague ivory tower fare principles masquerading as a “fare strategy” when there is no illustration or understanding of how they will impact the actual fares (as Steve rightly points out many times).

    I’m reminded of an experience with my Ralston Purina Dog Chow Ad Agency Scali McCabe Sloves in the early 80’s. I was GPM on Dog Chow the company’s largest pet food brand. Over 3 years of SMS presenting the Dog Chow media plan, they started off presenting a media “strategy”, which distressed me, as the media strategy was different each year, and, I thought strategies were supposed to be more enduring, with tactics changing more frequently. To me, an ever-changing strategy is a sign of an ill-thought out strategy, that hasn’t sweated the details of what it would mean in individual markets, provinces, cities, on brands and their SKUs.

    I asked questions how the year’s new media strategy would impact the provincial media weighting across the country and asked to see the % spending by province and by media type and have the proposed strategy changes compared to the old media strategy splits. The SMS Media Director, an icon in the industry, asked me “Why, are you asking for those EXECUTIONAL details, Bob (like most engineers I’m detailed oriented by education and by nature as well!), don’t you support the media STRATEGY?” I replied “Well, Peggy, I can’t support a media strategy on faith, without first understanding its executional detail, to see if it makes sense and understand the magnitude of the changes it would result in.” That’s so I could check that media spending under the new media strategy was proportional to the business volume in each market. If it wasn’t in proportion to the market, or represented a significant change from previous media GRP allocation…so identify if it was a business risk of lost volume or the opposite, a deliberate market building tactic in an undeveloped, growing market?

    It turned out SMS’s media strategy changes (1. Spend to Dry DF SOM; 2. Spend to 50% Dry/50% Canned DF market index; 3. Spend to Total DF Market index) had huge impact on the regional/provincial media allocations from prior years. So, when you’re pricing a product, don’t be afraid to ask? Why? Explain to me why you’re making this strategic change and what will be its impact on the actual wholesale & retail prices by market?

    That’s exactly what Steve is pointing out that Metrolinx is NOT doing… and I know neither of us is willing to trust Metrolinx to recommend an optimal GTA fare integration strategy, given not only their twin fare fiasco’s on UPExpress & GO/TTC Twin Fares (the former also with Steer Davies Gleave assistance, I believe), but also given the complete lack of appreciation and outright misrepresentation of the superiority of the TTC’s flat fare (on all metrics), the lack of a representative fare matrix with real fares, comparisons to old fares, so their Staff, Board, Stakeholders, Press, Public can understand the magnitude of the changes they will individually & collectively face once the new fare strategy is implemented. The best fare strategy is often the simplest one, that seeks to fill just fill the vehicles/stores/parking lots/planes 24/7/364 much like pioneering airline pricing does: selling each seat, side by side for different prices, based on demand, occupancy, time of booking, cancellation or change rights and other conditions.

    The Metrolinx GTA Fare Integration reports have done the exact opposite… cloaking their fare designs in fancy-pancy graphics that have people nodding, without really understanding what they’re agreeing to! Metrolinx engaged the London, UK based Steer Davies Gleave as the Consultant to assist Metrolinx CPO, Leslie Woo, and it seems they’re being faithful to their client’s fare biases and preferences in recommending Metrolinx adopt a TfL-mirroring fare strategy in Toronto (local flat fares and subway fare-by-distance), without any understanding of how it will devastate TTC rides/ride revenue, the TTC’s P&L or knowledge, let alone understanding that the TTC’s flat fare results in better per capita use, better vehicle loadings/hour, a lower average fare, lower operating costs/ride, higher public transit modal share than GOTransit’s fare-by-distance—these are all fact- or evidence-based conclusions you can fact-check yourself…see my TTC v. GOTransit 2014 Comparison Factsheet*

    To see how the GTA Berlin Wall, double fare penalty punishes & impoverished 905 PT, vis-a-vis TTC’s Flat fare see the full GTHA 2014 Factsheet, with all GTHA PT properties listed, paying particular attention to Avg.Fare, Per Capita Rides, R/C % Cost/ride, Avg.Rev (per ride), Pass/Cash… % of mix:

    My head literally spins trying to understand Metrolinx fare principles, despite my BASc, MBA, ICD.D and almost 40 years of pretty sophisticated and varied consumer pricing experience on many consumer packaged goods company brands (GF coffees, Ralston Purina Pet Foods, Pizza Hut & Taco Bell (69¢/79¢/89¢ Value Menu), Hunt-Wesson snack & tomato products, 3 years on the Green P/TPA’s Pricing committee, as well as my 4 year tenure as TTC CMO during which I drove growth by focusing on driving Metropass/MDP value & sales (it’s now over 50% of TTC fare revenue and ~375K passes/month) with Metrolinx looking to recover “underpriced fare media” Oy, isn’t the purpose of the exercise to make public transit MORE competitive against the car, get people adopting public transit as their preferred transportation mode?

    *There is one error in your last sentence, however, that is worth correcting: Using latest CUTA 2014 Data (above link), the TTC’s flat fare strategy (ruled out by Metrolinx Fare Planning gurus as not sustainable across the GTA) outperforms GO Transit’s fare-by-distance fare strategy. How do I know? Simple, the Public Transit industry standard metric the “R/C” ratio (Revenue/Cost) shows TTC’s “unsustainable” flat fare generates a 73.4% R/C ratio; while GOTransit’s supposedly superior fare-by-distance fares only a 67.1% R/C ratio.

    Steve: Sorry, I’m not sure what you refer to as an error in “my last sentence”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When the Toronto Street Railway was operating, its fare was 5¢. However, it didn’t extend into newer annexed areas of Toronto. There were nine separate fares. While the Toronto Civic Railway had adult fares of 2¢, there were no transfers (except between St. Clair and Lansdowne). It could cost 25¢ to get across the city. When the Toronto Transportation Commission was formed (integrated, amalgamated, whatever), they set the fare at 7¢, with free transfers.

    Could we integrate all the fares in the GTA? Maybe if they increase the fares above the current TTC fare. They better have a two hour transfer, if they do.


  5. Sure looks like a lot of bureaucratic bafflegab only a bunch of pencil pushers who don’t use transit would come up with. I am a firm believer in the KISS principle. Now that Presto is here and tap on/tap off is a viable method I say 2 hours ride for one fare. 30 minute ride, get off, shop 30 minutes, get back on in any direction and ride 30 minutes. Grand total 1 hour 30 minutes pay one fare. Tap off over 2 hours and pay another fare. Valid over borders immediately next i.e. Mississauga/Toronto. Toronto/VIVA etc. etc. Two borders = two full fares. KISS

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I had the exact same reaction as Raymond (down to the KISS reference), plus a double take at the report’s reference (presumably in seriousness) to assessing “how the structure removes fare barriers ([…] complexity […])” They’re ignoring the easiest way to reduce complexity (the two-hour or 90-minute transfer) while seeming to focus on convoluted payment and policy schemes that ignore the way that the TTC network is designed and used. And that doesn’t just apply to this report… it applies to PRESTO itself. (Calvin had a comment on another post that talked about the convoluted policies that would be required to allow a cross-boundary trip to York University, that had my head spinning.)

    One of the TTC’s real strengths is the relative simplicity of its network, scheduling and fare payment, especially considering the size of the network. The flat fare is part of this, along with seamless transfers at subway stations, the high frequency of service and relatively simple route structure, etc. The ability to just flash a Metropass for unlimited travel anywhere in the network, without thinking about is incredibly freeing. This simplicity is critical for a network like the TTC, partly due to its size but especially because of the wide range of users including many that are infrequent or unfamiliar users. It’s also critical in allowing regular users to easily make a variety of trips beyond just a regular home/work or home/school trip. Yes, there is lots TTC could do better, but these are still strengths compared to most other networks in North America.

    Conversely, GO’s system and fare policy is very complex (especially trying to plan a trip via bus, but even trips via rail need careful planning to make sure your train is stopping at your station, and to see whether the trains are running when you are making your return trip). This only works because most riders are traveling to the same place every day (easy to implement different fares; riders are familiar with the quirks of the schedule).

    It seems like everything that Metrolinx has touched lately has gone in the wrong direction in terms of making it easier or more complex for trips that encompass a wide range of user types. The fare policy debate is one. Presto is another. Tap on and off. Even getting to the absurd names for the new Eglinton stations that mean nothing to a non-regular traveler that only knows the name of the cross street where they want to get off.


  7. If Metrolinx has eliminated the time-based transfer as a potential alternative, then presumably the 905 systems that currently offer 2-hour transfers will no longer do so?

    Steve: Metrolinx, for reasons best known to them, deliberately misinterprets the phrase “time base fare” to mean “you pay for how long the trip takes”, when everyone else means a time limited transfer, in effect a two hour pass. They then treat the transfer as a local rule that an operator like the TTC might implement rather than as an integral part of the regional fare structure.


  8. When I looked at Figure 1.1 – GTHA Fare Structure Development Stages, my immediate reaction was that they had omitted the real Stage 1. What type of fare structure(s) best meet vision/goal/objective? can not be answered until you know what the vision/goal/objective is.

    The correct procedure is always to create a clear, concise, concrete statement of your objective in writing so that it can be referred to and measured against. “Regional fare integration” is far to nebulous a term.

    On another note, I think that, given the “downtown vs. suburbs” rhetoric over the past few years, any attempt to split the 416 into zones will be political suicide at both City Hall and Queen’s Park. I believe this may be true even if the system will not allow crossing a single boundary for the base fare, as it will be viewed as a setup to allow a extra charge later.


  9. Why do they insist on reinventing the wheel instead of looking at fare systems in other countries for comparison? For example, many German cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Düsseldorf) have public transit with regional trains, subways, LRTs and buses all operating in a single fare system. This is always zone-based, with no differentiation of modes of travel. So the idea that you would pay more to travel the same distance by GO train than if you were to travel by bus is downright bizarre to me. This seems like a huge waste of resources — by giving people an incentive to take a long bus-ride, you’re keeping them in the system much longer than necessary, and you’re not using the driver’s labour well either.

    Yes, GO train (and UPX) riders should be able to transfer to the TTC at no additional cost, but this should be covered by raised subsidies, not by increasing TTC prices.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. When I worked in Amsterdam, they had a delightfully simple system that (at least I think) worked pretty well to cover a wide range of use cases. As I remember, you paid (via presto-like farecard) a base fare to board any bus, streetcar or metro of about 1 Euro, then you paid by distance travelled. If you boarded another vehicle within 35 minutes (essentially the max wait time of 30 minutes plus a couple minutes to walk between stops,) it was considered a transfer and you didn’t have to pay another base fare, only the extra distance. My average fare was almost always around 1.5-2 Euro.

    The transfer rule made it extremely easy to do errands around the city, as most trams (and even buses) arrived every few minutes, while the regional/national trains used almost the same system, just with higher base fares.


  11. A while back I used a time-based ticket in Rome. Once the ticket expired, you could finish your trip on the current route you were on, but you couldn’t transfer to another route or mode. I believe all fares were time-based fares at the time. Today I don’t know.

    I also know that there was loophole at the time that has since been plugged. There are two heavy rail routes serving Rome International Airport (FCO — Fiumicino). One is like our own “boutique service” connecting the Airport to Roma Termini (the central rail station). The other is a much cheaper commuter service (but there are places for luggage) that travels right across Rome stopping at several stations along the way. The loophole applied to the second service. If you bought the ticket from FS (the state railway company) it cost approx 8 euros, while if you bought it from the regional agency (Rome is in the region of Latium) it was about the half price of 4 euros.

    The problem is I see with funding transit from the fare box, is a chicken and egg situation. If transit were efficient and reliable, lots of people would use it and fares would be cheap. A transit system in its intial stages though is relatively expensive, infrequent, and unreliable which discourages demand. This is why for transit to be successful it needs a heavy public subsidy.

    Wouldn’t car drivers be willing to pay for transit if it would reduce congestion?

    Steve: I agree with the general premise, but with two important caveats. First, good usage might reduce subsidy requirements for better service, but there is no guarantee especially where adding customers requires substantial investment in rolling stock and more frequent service. That’s not an issue for UPX, but it is for a large chunk of the TTC and GO system. Second, the idea that transit will reduce congestion, and that this is a marketing tool to motorists, is a myth. There is always a backlog of motoring demand and it will simply fill up space vacated by new transit riders. Moreover, ongoing population growth in the GTHA will add new demand on top of what is there today. Transit at best can keep congestion from getting worse, but it certainly won’t disappear.

    I think that Metrolinx and many politicians make a grave mistake in talking about lower congestion. Even “The Big Move” is intended only to keep things from getting much worse, not to reduce existing road congestion. The real place where we can do this is on the transit network which is undersized relative to what it might carry. However, as long as the preference is for boutique services and politically driven extensions at high cost, we won’t be building the extra capacity where it is most needed.


  12. I’m again appreciating Steve’s post and the sophisticated comments. Yet in keeping with KISS, we (metrolinx/province/city) once again are not willing to tackle the high degree of subsidies, usually occluded, for the private car. These add up: one old figure from Vancouver was $2700 per car per year, about 7x what was used to help transit. (Jan. 10, 1996 Globe). The math from 1M cars = $2.7B annually in Caronto. So rather than having a complex and perhaps stinkingly bad set of tweaks and beyond to complete reformulatings on transit fares, though some fare by distance seems kinda appealing, given cost of transit in the core for value), why not put a 5 cent a litre fuel tax in place with three cents going to health care and two cents to transit, one cent to capital, one to operating? Aaah, it’s political will, and the suburbs have the broad power to keep outvoting the core.


  13. It’s TL;DR for me — I just skimmed Steve’s summary.

    Steve: Thanks! I write the summaries so that people don’t have to plough through the long versions. Not just to tweak Metrolinx’ nose.

    Unless this gets diverted via public outcry and political pressure, it will be like the Crosstown station naming: an opaque overcomplicated process (but with beautiful powerpoint boxes and arrows and clipart that purport to explain the process … except the powerpoints don’t make sense either), resulting in unsatisfactory names.

    How a commuter is supposed to understand distance bands and all the other consultant bafflegab is beyond me. (I suspect the consultant doesn’t really need to understand it either, just provide something that looks scientific enough that Board members don’t have to really pay attention or ask awkward questions.) The real answer is “Presto will charge you whatever, and good luck figuring out why it charged what it did. Please set your card on autoreload and don’t ask us nothin'”


  14. I reformatted the ridership table to show who is paying “extra” fares.

    The vast majority currently don’t pay more: 79.2% pay local-fare only (including 1.1% using the 2-hr inter-system transfers) and 9.9% pay GO-fare only;

    7.0% might pay a GTA fare or 905+TTC fare; 2.2% pay GO+TTC; and 1.7% might pay GO+co-fare.

    The “might” here depends on the actual trips (Local-Regional trips could be 905-GO which has co-fares, while TTC-GO pays ‘double’).

    The GTA weekly fare is $61 vs $42.25 (TTC only) for a premium of 44%.
    In comparison a GO-905 co-fare is around a premium of 10% to 15%.
    A GO-TTC double fare is a premium of 19% (Kitchener-Union) to 62% (Exhibition-Union).

    Thus, Fare Integration is aimed at the 12% that use multiple systems, of which only a total of 9.2% pay substantially more.

    Thus the 11% of subway using trips considered ‘long’ will pay more so that the 9.2% who use GO+something else can pay less.

    Basically, this is a complex system to get the TTC to raise prices to subsidize GO fares.

    The section on Pricing and Transfer Strategy is interesting…

    The co-fare between local to subway may be lower than the co-fare between subway to local.

    Local to GO transfers are free or the same regardless of operators (thus, co-fare of $1 with a $1.90 subsidy on TTC, a $2.00 subsidy on Durham Transit, $1.60 subsidy on Barrie Transit, $2.40-3.40 subsidy on YRT).

    Interestingly, this report was written by a Doctor of Philosophy from Calgary working for an US-based international firm. He graduated in 2013 and this is his first major project.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow. This is the biggest bunch of academic BS I’ve seen in a while come out of a transit agency. Metrolinx spends so much money paying PhD’s to do ultimately useless, but self-aggrandizing analyses, they forget what it is they are supposed to be accomplishing, and for whom. At the end of the day, the fare system has to actually work, and for that to happen, the designers have to understand how the various transit systems work at the level of the paying customer. The fact that all of Metrolinx’s efforts, like owning new transit lines entirely within Toronto or developing new fare policy, seem to be geared to how best to break-apart the fully-integrated TTC network indicates that they are either ignorant of how transit actually works, or they are empire-building. I suspect it’s both.

    They should be moving towards greater integration of both fares and service. Instead, by focusing only on fares and ignoring service and budgets (revenues, costs and subsidies) across transit agencies, they are doing the complete opposite, and are creating greater complexity and new boundaries where none currently exist. The only way that fare integration can be revenue neutral is to make a whole lot of TTC riders pay more so that the smaller number of cross-boundary riders can pay less. Maybe Metrolinx is hoping that their analysis will be so baffling that everyone will just nod in admiration and not ask any difficult questions.

    Steve: And the fascinating part is that cross-boundary riders, on average, already pay less per km than those within the 416.


  16. With LRT being classified as rapid transit and priced as such, it raises important questions for the 905 cities like Mississauga and Hamilton where LRTs are going to be built but currently have no rapid transit and therefore have never had to consider what rapid transit pricing should look like. This was settled in Toronto in the early 50s when the subway was a zone 1 fare. Was there a debate about what rapid transit fares should have been back in the early 1950s when the Yonge subway was being designed and built or was it always accepted that it would be a zone 1 fare from the outset?

    Steve: Always the subway was to be integrated with the rest of zone 1. It replaced a huge amount of streetcar service and became the only way to get downtown for many riders, just as the BD line did in 1966. Zone 2 disappeared as a political compromise because suburban voters in Metro objected to paying an extra fare to ride on a system which, by that time, they helped to finance. A unified surface/subway fare is a key element of the TTC, and it is one that other cities envy because of its simplicity and encouragement for transit use.

    Anyways, very few people riding buses in Mississauga or Hamilton are choice riders. They’re slogging it out on the bus because they have to. What happens when these LRT lines are built and opened – is Metrolinx going to drop a steep fare increase on people who can least afford it simply because the bus has been replaced with an LRT and that changes the line’s classification and where it fits into this fare structure? I honestly don’t think most of the people riding the 1 King or B line buses in Hamilton, for example, can absorb a big fare increase when those are replaced with the LRT line because someone at Metrolinx earning over $100,000 a year at Bay and Front in Toronto says it’s rapid transit so expect to be charged more.

    Steve: It is intriguing that the background study tells us that they didn’t have any 905 services beyond local buses in their model because that’s all that was in the 2011 TTS data. This doesn’t say much for a consultant, that they can grind through a bunch of stats without incorporating fixes for the network we all know will exist within a decade. When I use the word “incompetent” to describe this work, that is only one of many examples.


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