GO/TTC Co-Fares: A Glass Half Full

Today, October 6, 2017, the Government of Ontario announced that there would be a $1.50 co-fare between GO Transit and the TTC. This long-overdue change begins, but does not fully address, problems faced by transit riders who cross the City’s border and faced a full extra fare to ride on two separate transit systems.

Ontario is lowering the cost of commuting for people in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) by introducing a 50 per cent discount for PRESTO card users who transfer between GO Transit or the Union Pearson Express (UP Express) and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), in both directions.

Premier Kathleen Wynne was at Union Station in Toronto today to announce that adult, senior and youth/student TTC riders will pay a TTC fare of just $1.50 when they use a PRESTO card to transfer to or from GO Transit or the UP Express. The discount will launch in January 2018, shortly after the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension will begin service to six new stations. For people whose regular commute includes GO/UP Express-TTC transfers, this step towards regional fare integration and more affordable transit options will save about $720 per year. [Ontario government press release]

For some types of trips, this is “good news”, but it is far from the panacea some, notably Mayor Tory, touts:

“Thanks to bold leadership at City Hall and Queen’s Park, we have found a way to give a discount to those who use a mix of our transit systems. Transit will now be more affordable for Toronto residents who ride a mix of the TTC, UP Express and GO Transit to get around the city. This agreement also moves us a step closer to make sure that SmartTrack will cost Toronto residents the same as the TTC. We need to make sure that the transit we are building and maintaining remains affordable.” [From the press release]

The primary beneficiaries of this change will be GO Transit commuters who can now use the TTC to and from a Toronto GO station (most likely Union) for the “city” end of their journeys. That $720/year saving translates to 240 round trips at $3 each. That’s 48 weeks’ worth of travel taking into account at least two weeks of vacation plus an equal number of statutory holidays.

To put this into context, the annual cost of commuting by GO from Oakville to Union is about $3,400. Someone who now uses TTC for their city trip (say from Union to Queen’s Park) would pay $1,440 in TTC fares at $3 each making a total of $4,840 for both systems. The new discount will save about 15%. Conversely someone who now walks from Union has the TTC option at a lower marginal cost than before.

This is a good deal, as far as it goes, for GO Transit riders, but the story is much different for other travellers.

Cross-boundary Travel on Local Bus Systems

Riders from Mississauga, Brampton, York Region and Durham Region transit systems will still pay two fares to cross the boundary to or from Toronto.

This will apply to riders entering the new Spadina subway extension, even if they travel to stops north of Steeles Avenue or to York University, now served directly by YRT buses.

Metropass Users

The discount only applies to riders who pay the full TTC adult fare via Presto ($3.00). Passholders will not receive any discount. This is a benefit to those who use GO a lot, and the TTC less so.

  • Cost of a monthly pass (on discount program): $134
  • Cost of 40 co-fare trips at $1.50 each: $60
  • Cost of 20 full fare trips at $3.00 each: $60
  • Total cost: $120

If the number of TTC-only trips goes up, say to 25, the combined cost ($135) would exceed the value of a Metropass.

Students and Seniors

This group of riders already travels at a reduced fare of $2.05 if they are using Presto. The discount to a $1.50 co-fare does not represent as much of a saving to them as it does to “adult” riders. This will also be true for any new group to whom reduced fares are offered such as ODSP recipients.

TTC-GO Trips Within Toronto

For riders who now attempt to make trips using both services inside Toronto, the co-fare will represent a discount over their current pricing. However, the high cost of travelling by GO will remain a large barrier to people who might move from an all-TTC route to a TTC-GO route.

For example, the monthly cost of travel using Presto from Agincourt to Union Station is $223.25 (based on 40 trips/month). Assuming that a rider will save $60 per month on TTC fares, this would still be an increase of over $160/month to commute from Scarborough to downtown via TTC and GO. That is not exactly the “equal to TTC fare” goal of John Tory’s SmartTrack, and it is unclear just who will step up to pay the subsidy needed to make it so.

Moreover, someone who is already a frequent TTC rider is also likely a passholder, and it may not be worth their while to trade in the capped price of a Metropass to “enjoy” the co-fare available on GO.

Because of inconsistencies in GO fares, the situation at Mimico is different because the monthly GO cost is only $177.70. Even so, this remains a substantial premium over a pure TTC fare, and  puts this option well beyond the means of many TTC riders.

Finally, many GO stations in Toronto are difficult to reach by transit or have only limited service. This is another barrier to “integrated” travel on GO and the TTC.

This co-fare and its subsidy are a beginning, but only a small one, toward the dual goals of reducing cross-border fare premiums and making GO more affordable within Toronto. A small cake and a few balloons may be an appropriate celebration, but hold the champagne.


23 thoughts on “GO/TTC Co-Fares: A Glass Half Full

  1. Hi Steve,

    Could you clarify your calculation regarding the cost for a GO and TTC user who has TTC-only trips? It seems you are fixating on an arbitrary (25 or higher) number to justify using the TTC Metropass.

    This co-fare is better than the status quo so wouldn’t Metropass users make the switch to using this discount if their monthly aggregate costs are lower than $134?

    Steve: That is my point, if someone is below the $134 level, then they are better using Presto fares. However, if they have a lot of non-GO travel, then they are better off with a Metropass because of the discount (and fixed cost) it provides for TTC travel.

    The premium to ride GO, even with the TTC discount, is a huge extra cost for the supposed benefit of a faster trip to downtown. The aggregate cost to change from TTC-only to TTC+GO for the commute trips would roughly double a rider’s monthly outlay. We hear a lot about how people don’t like any fare increases, and yet switching to GO+TTC would represent a huge change for riders. In effect, it’s an “incentive” for people who can already afford to pay a premium for faster travel, not for riders overall.


  2. A small, toddler step. Next step (training wheels?), the passes, hopefully whenever one passes an automatic threshold for both or all transit agencies.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lets see if I understand this correctly:
    1. minor tinkering with TTC fares
    2. pols make it sound like transit nirvana is here
    3. provincial election next spring
    Sounds about right…


  4. TTC unlawfully goes after private service providers by shamelessly claiming a monopoly and so, why does TTC not go after GO Transit and UPX for providing service within Toronto? One reason that the TTC is so incompetent is because there are no private sector players permitted.

    Steve: GO Transit and UPX are allowed to provide service under the City of Toronto Act, but as you appear to be omniscient, you should have known that already.


  5. At the Doors Open event at Downsview Park Station last May, a TTC manager told me that the TTC and YRT were still negotiating how to implement a co-fare for the TYSSE between Vaughan and York University stations. Do you know if they have come to a conclusion yet?

    I like the idea of a GO/TTC co-fare for all GO train stations within the City of Toronto. If there is going to be a lower SmartTrack/RER co-fare, it would be nice if it applied as well to all Toronto RER stations instead of just those on the Milliken-to-Mount Dennis SmartTrack corridor.

    Steve: There is no agreement yet on a YRT/TTC fare on the TYSSE. As of Oct 6, the TTC’s Brad Ross confirmed that it is still a separate fare for each system.

    I agree that any “SmartTrack” fare should apply to all of GO especially to the LakeShore corridor, but I suspect that when Council sees the bill for implementing a “TTC” fare just on the handful of SmartTrack branded trains and locations, expanding this across the city will hit severe sticker shock.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This co-fare has to happen. If the GO buses stop serving York University directly, passengers will be force to transfer at the Highway 407 Station. Even though it is only two stations south to York, it will still cost money. Right now, someone coming from Bramalea GO or even Oakville GO has a one seat ride to York. The Barrie Line will also stop serving the York University Station soon. Passengers would be forced to backtrack at Downsview Park Station. So all the GO passengers heading to York using GO will end up paying more. The co-fare helps to soften the blow.

    When RER happens, there will be more demand for GO service within Toronto. There will be no longer trains that run express in Toronto. People’s travel pattern has to adjust. Just because the TTC can take a person from Rouge Hill GO to Humber College for $3, it does not mean it is the best way to do it. Someone using the RER can make the trip in a shorter time by using the LSE and Kitchener lines. Especially with the TTC Times Two with Metrolinx promotion, only one TTC fare has to be paid even if TTC is used for both ends of the ride.

    Metrolinx will have to get around to update their Toronto stations. Stations like Oriole GO and Agincourt GO are pathetic in terms of intermodal connectivity. The Smart Track Finch East Station already has a bus loop built in. Other stations would benefit from a pedestrian bridge to connect to other TTC services. I wish that Metrolinx would create more Mobility Hubs so that people have more options to connect. Not everyone is travelling to Union Station.

    Co-fares with other agencies will be tougher. Really, how many places can one connect with other agencies with the TTC? DRT only connects to the TTC at two places (UTSC and Rouge Hill GO). Mississauga Transit only connects at three places (Humber College, Skymark Hub and Islington/Kipling Station). YRT is different as it connects at many places.

    The easiest solution would be for TTC and YRT to recognize each other’s transfer. This is why a 120 minute fare is so important. If the rules are the same for everyone, it is much easier for Presto to handle. For example, someone boarding at Promenade Mall can take the YRT Bathurst bus to Steeles. Afterward, the passenger can board a 60 TTC Steeles West bus. As long as it is within 120 minutes of the first tap, it will be fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Glass half-full? I think that’s optimistic.

    Realistically, the big reason for a City of Toronto resident to use GO is to travel to Union station. (I don’t know much about the other hubs such as STC, but I don’t see people boarding a GO bus within 416 to go there….maybe I’m wrong.) And travel to Union station will the end of the transit journey for 416 users. They’re unlikely to take the TTC any distance beyond Union, because in that case they may as well take TTC for the entire trip, definitely saving time, and maybe not taking all the much longer either.

    Therefore, as stated in the post, the overwhelming beneficiaries of this are people who come in from further 905 on GO and then have to travel locally from the GO station/hub to their final destination.

    So, any City of Toronto politicians who are calling this a great deal, and what residents have been asking for, are either doing their best to spin, or are clueless about transit travel patterns. One does not preclude the other, of course.

    Definitely saving money.


  8. I realize there are good reasons to turn off editing of posts, but 95% of my postings are on sites where I can read and edit any glitches. Hard to get into that mindset for this site.

    Steve: WordPress does not allow editing by anonymous users, and I have no interest in the effort needed to support userids on this site.


  9. I’m glad to see this, especially given that I’ve been taking TTC + UPX/GO more often to go to Ryerson lately. (It’s only about 30 minutes faster than the TTC alone given that getting to Weston and Etobicoke North GO stations is a bit of a chore from where I live but it’s much more comfortable.) Just to confirm, under this new scheme, would TTC Times Two still exist?

    Steve, is there any news on when, if at all, UPX fares will be unified with GO (to be able at Pearson for instance)?

    Steve: Who knows when UPX and GO will be unified. The current change is much more a political announcement for effect rather than a carefully planned change. I don’t see any reason TTC times two should not exist, but it would be intriguing to know if Presto understands this as a valid transfer. I will have to inquire.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Steve,

    The new Co-Fare might very well be a boon to people living with access to the Weston corridor where UP express provides regular 15 min service. One can’t only look at the cost, but one must look at the time saved as well. A rider from Dundas West conceivably could save 25 minutes of travel (on a good day – more on a bad day for the BD line) connecting to the TTC at Union, if they work south of Bloor downtown. Riders, who live close to Weston, will save a huge amount of time. Many of my students who do this now say the additional cost is well worth it and with the co-fare, the saving to them will be fantastic. One has to consider a bus trip from Weston Rd and Lawrence to connect with either YUS or Bloor lines v.s. the UP ride from Weston to Union with a short Connection via YUS to one’s destination. Even the TTCs Premium Bus Services could not rival the speed and convenience that the co-fare will provide (As you know, I’m not an apologist for the TTC or Metrolinx – But this is a vital, long overdue first step!). If we want something fully integrated like Paris (where the RER and Metro transfer on one fare), then we might have to give up the notion of one fare for all of Toronto and look at fare zones (a toxic subject to be sure).

    Steve: I’m sure there are lots of people who live in just the right place and have just the right trip that the extra cost is offset by the time saving. This is almost certainly a small minority of TTC riders, and I cannot help thinking how often there are screams when anyone talks about upping fares.

    I notice you say “many of my students who do this now” implying that they have already made the choice to pay more for a faster trip, and so this is a saving to existing riders for whom affordability is not the primary issue. The harder sell would be to convince someone that “saving” $1.50 is worth paying much more than a TTC fare to get downtown.


  11. Hi Steve – Theses kids (who use the UPx/TTC combo) have moved out to Weston and/or Bloor West because living in the traditional student areas DT is either unaffordable or unavailable. The cost of transit/living/education for them is a delicate tradeoff revolving around the rent they pay, their schooling and associated costs, and working Part Time to offset said costs. Saving an hour getting to/from school means an extra hour at a PT job. That extra 1.50 in their pockets will go a long way for them… (We made the same argument for higher order transit on the Finch corridor for example)

    Steve: I am not trying to sound unsympathetic, but this shows how much the usefulness of the co-fare depends on individual travel patterns and economic circumstances. It is a change that benefits a specific type of user, not transit riders in general.

    Thanks for explaining the specifics of this situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Martin Phills said:

    “If we want something fully integrated like Paris (where the RER and Metro transfer on one fare), then we might have to give up the notion of one fare for all of Toronto and look at fare zones (a toxic subject to be sure).”

    It would like to point out that in Paris, something like 90% of the very extensive metro (subway) network is located within Zone 1. Likewise, using the RER in the urban core of Paris (i.e. Zone 1) costs the same fare as the metro. Zone 1 is actually the City of Paris “proper” (i.e. think of City of Toronto vs. GTA), the urban core encircled by the circular expressway (Peripherique).

    Therefore I don’t see why the City of Toronto would in an analogous situation be divided into more zones. The GTA should be divided into zones, with the City of Toronto being a single zone with a single fare – for TTC, GO, UPX, and whatever else enters its limits while it is operating within them (e.g. MiWay in Etobicoke).


  13. @ Grzegorz Radziwonowski

    I asked this question at the last Metrolinx board meeting and they claimed that the two fares systems are totally integrated and the fare between any two stations is the same whether you do it entirely on GO or on a combination of GO and UPX as long as you use Presto. I have heard claims to the contrary but do not have any personal experience myself.


  14. Thanks Robert. I mean, between the traditional GO stations, it certainly is. Guess I’ll have to try the silver Presto reader and go through Pearson next time I’m headed to Hamilton to see what happens. One can only hope transfer credit gets applied.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Presto might see TTC Times Two as valid sometimes, but coincidental.

    The TTC Times two page says that “PRESTO card customers require a paper transfer on these routes to prevent a second fare from being deducted from their card.”

    No explanation on how this works on the new streetcars, given that they don’t dish out transfers any more to Presto users.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. No explanation on how this works on the new streetcars, given that they don’t dish out transfers any more to Presto users.

    They most certainly do provide transfers if you tap your Presto card at either of the onboard fare machines.


  17. Presto users don’t need to grab a paper transfer at either end anymore – TTC Times Two just applies automatically through the Presto Card. My tap on at Union or on the Lawrence West bus after taking UPX/GO (depending on the direction) show up as transfer, not as an additional payment, when looking at my Presto usage. I obviously haven’t tried any combination under the sun, but it seems to just work.


  18. L. Wall wrote: “They most certainly do provide transfers if you tap your Presto card at either of the onboard fare machines.”

    Only the older ones do. The ones on the newer streetcars starting with 4425 or so they no longer give out paper transfer for Presto cards


  19. @Benny Cheung

    Are you sure that Finch East station is going to have a bus loop? I vaguely remember seeing some “suggested designs” for the future grade-separated stations (here), and I thought that Metrolinx was going with the cheapest, quickest things they could build. They were going to sink the road underneath the rail tracks, ruining the walkability of a block on either side of the rail crossing. It seemed like the station itself would be far from the street (i.e. far from the bus stops), and it was unclear if there would be an easy way to cross the street to the side of the street with the station, meaning the bus would have to drop you off a block or two away at the nearest intersection instead, where you could cross the street to get to the side with the station, then go another block or two across all the GO parking to the station itself.

    Though looking over the documents more closely, it might be that Finch East station is being built by the City, so they might build something more TTC-friendly, whereas the Sheppard and Steeles stations are being built by the province, which just needs something built as soon as possible for the election.

    Steve: There was a bus loop in the original Metrolinx design of Finch East, but it has been removed. The grade separation renders the Metrolinx scheme unbuildable.


  20. It probably makes more sense to increase the TTC premium fare to $60 and allow TTC riders to use GO transit within Toronto (as currently used in the pilot between exhibition, Danforth and Union GO stations), and to charge the same for GO transit riders who want to use the TTC after GO. All this talk of discounts is confusing for many commuters and discourages transferring between systems.


  21. The other Friday I caught the LAST GO bus till Monday to Bolton by the skin of my teeth. There appears to be NO “linx” in Metrolinx. Late Friday afternoon, I found the only GO bus heading my way from Richmond Hill Centre was the bus to Pearson Airport. Fine, except that buses to Bolton only come as far down as Malton GO, around the corner approximately 3 km from Terminal 1. I managed to get a MiWay bus most of the way, I still had a 2 km walk to Malton GO from Airport Road. I finished my journey home from Bolton with a $17 cab ride.

    This is not the first time I have been stranded by GO.

    Why cannot Bolton GO buses loop at Pearson, just around the corner?

    1. Last bus Monday to Friday is 8 pm. Excuse me, but sometimes I do not go to bed before 9:30 pm.
    2. No weekend service whatsoever. This speaks for itself.
    3. I don’t know if GTAA is to blame, but probably not.

    Re: Pearson Transit Hub in the news, but why does not GO better service the airport?

    Back in the day when PMCL and CP Rail provided transit to Bolton (at 1/4 the population), we had hourly service to the airport, Elm Street Bus Terminal, Yorkdale, and weekends Saturday & Sunday. Service today sucks. Though, kudos to the drivers & cashier/clerks, they’re great people.


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