TTC Fare Policy Town Hall

On February 2, 2022, the TTC will hold an online Town Hall to discuss their soon-to-be-published 5-Year Fare Policy and 10-Year Fare Collection Outlook. Details are on the linked page.

This is part of ongoing consultation about the future of fares in Toronto, and it will inform both a progress report to the TTC Board in February and a Final Recommendation in May 2022.

One important aspect of this study is to look at fares and fare collection without the constraints of any specific system, and of Presto in particular, to determine what a new system should look like. If Metrolinx and Presto can compete on those terms, fine, but the policy will set a bar for all vendors.

It will be interesting to see whether the powers that be at Queen’s Park will let the TTC go with a new system, or like the Liberals did, threaten to withhold subsidies from the TTC if they don’t use the provincial system.

The TTC study is reviewing a range of fare models:

  • Existing fare structure including two-hour transfers
  • Free travel for all riders on all services
  • Full cost recovery by increasing existing fares
  • Remove the cross-boundary fare between York Region Transit and TTC. Riders would pay at the start of their trip on whichever system they boarded and ride for that fare.
  • Fare capping with daily, weekly or monthly caps. This would produce the same effect as a pass, but without the need to purchase one up front. If a rider took more than the “capped” number of trips in a period, the extra trips would be free.
  • Peak/off-peak pricing with higher fares for trips beginning during the peak period.

At the December 20, 2021, TTC Board Meeting, staff tipped their hand on a preferred option – fare capping. This option is simple to understand, and it extends the benefits of discounted travel to frequent riders without the challenge of deciding in advance and paying for a pass.

Other options under review include:

  • A review of concession fare groups and pricing
  • A loyalty program to reward frequent riders
  • Group travel discounts

From previous consultations, the TTC has learned five key points from riders:

  • The 2-hour transfer is considered to be “equitable and inclusive” for all riders
  • Age based concessions and the Fair Pass discount should be retained
  • Discounts should be extended for more riders for equity reasons
  • A single cross boundary fare would make this type of travel more affordable
  • Changes to the fare structure “require equity and access to continue to be foundational”

The political challenge will be to have a new fare system embraced by Toronto and participating GTA municipalities. Nothing is free, especially “free” transit, and there will no doubt be a robust debate about where funding for cheaper fares or extended discounts will come from.

The most important factor in any study like this is that options are all on the table rather than being excluded from the outside with a blanket “we can’t afford it” statement. That, among other excuses, helped to prevent the implementation of the monthly pass years ago, and worked against the two-hour transfer more recently. The decision on what we can “afford” is not management’s to make by filtering options in a study, but for politicians to decide based on where they want to spend tax dollars.

This study appears to be keeping the options open rather than settling on a “solution”.

There is a link on the TTC’s page to register for the Town Hall.

20 thoughts on “TTC Fare Policy Town Hall

  1. “Full cost recovery by increasing existing fares”? The TTC is already the highest, if not close to, the farebox recovery in North America.

    There needs to be a GO/UPX fare discount with the TTC.

    Steve: This would require a fare increase of at least 50% given that pre-pandemic revenue was less than two-thirds of the cost of operation. The option is on the table because budget hawks who don’t give a crap about transit trot out the “user pay” argument routinely, and at the other end of the scale are the advocates who think free transit is the solution. If either option were omitted from the list, the first question would be “why didn’t you loook at xxx”.

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  2. Steve, I note that there is only York Region mentioned as a cross-border “partner” for fare sharing. Is this an oversight, or do similar plans exist with Durham, Mississauga and Brampton too? Is there any data on which systems have the most/least cross border transit ridership?

    Steve: This is an oddity in the study which appears to have come from Toronto and York Region already talking about this, possibly in the context of subways. The TTC has been silent on the other bordering GTA municipalities.

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  3. In Milwaukee in the 1940’s and ’50’s, weekly passes were sold for 10 fares. They were transferable. Children would sometimes use a parents’ pass on weekends. (Good way of instilling a “transit habit”.) In the ’30’s, passes on the associated interurbans could also be used on the city system. (That would be equivalent to a GO/TTC pass,) Really worked quite well. Andy Biemiller

    Liked by 2 people

  4. How about fare good for all time between rush hours? Say, 10 AM to 2 PM. this adds 3PM school to 4-6 PM rush.

    As for intercity fares how about 150% fare (fare and a half) for two systems?

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  5. For cross-boundary travel, I’ve always preferred a “zone upgrade” type of fare that consists of:

    1) A nominal additional fare (not DOUBLE fares as is the case now) – perhaps $1 extra on an adult fare
    2) Wide boundaries (not simply the crossing of one street), so travel from either zone into the boundary area does not incur the additional charge. For example, the TTC/YRT boundary could be from Sheppard to Highway 7 (roughly 4 km on each side of Steeles). This currently exists partly for YRT’s Leslie 90 and Woodbine 24 routes. The “partly” is because these routes cannot pick up southbound south of Steeles or drop off northbound south of Steeles and there is no transfer privileges to TTC routes.

    I would add that payment of the zone up-charge extends the 2-hour transfer, possibly by an additional 30 minutes.

    Steve: This is similar to the Board of Trade’s zone system where one could ride through two zones on one fare and then pay extra going into a third zone. The challenge is that it requires that all riders tap off. I would love to see an analysis of the effects (riders affected, net fare changes, subsidy effects, operational impacts) of this scheme vs simply having a time-based fare.

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  6. Ah the peak hours thing again which is essence is a way to to impose a fare increase without calling it that. I suspect most people wouldn’t ride many crowded routes during rush hour (or drive during that period) if given a choice.

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  7. Steve said “The challenge is that it requires that all riders tap off.”

    Could this be solved by a different Presto card? One that would charge fare and a half for two systems. Use this card (different colour) either direction but only when going across the boundary.

    Steve: The problem is that the card has to “know” someone has crossed a boundary. That is possible only if everyone “taps out” because there is no guarantee a transfer within the final zone will occur to provide tracking data.

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  8. I find it amusing how poor frozen streetcars have to be rescued every time that there is a trace of snow as we did yesterday.

    Steve: Actually, they were much more commonly stuck behind autos parked foul of the tracks. And dare I mention the more than 500 buses abandoned around the city?

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  9. Seems to me that the service provider should come up with a list of options (with the costs, etc, included) and that the electeds choose between them. But what do I know?

    It also seems to me that transit *providers* should not be in the business of providing social discounts. I am completely in favor of subsidizing fares at a higher rate for school kids (with whatever max age you choose) and oldenpeople (only a few more years for me!), folks with mobility impairments, or whatever, but those should be provided by an agency or agencies that are not themselves involved in providing the actual wheels-on-the-rail transportation service. But what do I know?

    There also appears to be, in non-transit-nerd circles (i.e., 99.99% of humans) confusion about fare *media* and fare *policy*. Included in that 99.99% are people involved in providing transit services whether actual staff or electeds. You can, after all, have discriminatory and economically inefficient fare *policies* in a system where all fares are collected via NFC technology over all transit providers in a metro area and you can have the most fair and efficient fare policies where all fares are collected using tokens (though that would be a little harder, granted). Fare media != fare policy. But what do I know?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Steve said: “The problem is that the card has to “know” someone has crossed a boundary. That is possible only if everyone “taps out” because there is no guarantee a transfer within the final zone will occur to provide tracking data.”

    I fail to see the problem. A Presto card set to always charge a two system rate (fare and one half) with credit of full fare given to city where first tapped on and half fare to other city. When returning you tap on in the second city and they get full fare. (when you change buses from one city’s system to another you have to tap on each vehicle) No need to tap off.

    Steve: You assume all trips are only two zones long. The fare has to be split between all intervening systems, and there are many zones. Some routes, like the subway, would operate in several zones if the TRBOT proposal were implemented. This is a lot of complexity for bean counters rather than simply treating transit as a service and charging flat fares. There will have to be subsidies anyhow, and that’s where the money would be divvied up, based possibly on riding counts using APC data rather than relying on Presto cards.

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  11. In answer to plaws0, I basically agree with the comment that the transit providers should not be in the business of providing social benefits. It should be easy for, say, Social Agency A to issue its clients with fare discount Presto cards, and eventually the cost comes back to that agency. Just like when they used to hand out TTC tokens. I do note, however, that since vehicle operators are no longer responsible for collecting fares, that sometimes an abusive belligerent type boards the vehicle without paying and without a mask. Discounts to children, students and seniors, and two-hour free transfers, there is no agency to allocate charges to. That is general policy, and I agree with it.

    Steve: Discounts for the “Fair Pass” are funded through the City’s Social Services budget, not via the transit subsidy. How long this would last remains to be seen. For example, the TTC now treats WheelTrans as part of its base budget, and the special subsidy for other concession fares disappeared years ago. Free rides for children are just absorbed within the TTC’s budget. How much this “costs” depends on how much you think they should actually pay – full fare, half fare or whatever.

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  12. Glad to hear that the motorman is no longer required to do the conductor’s job.

    As for discounted fares for young humans it probably comes as no surprise that I don’t find that necessary. I don’t think it’s necessary for old humans, either. I think that’s a tradition that needs to go away *in terms of the service provider*.

    You want to discount *school* kids’ fares? Great – have the schools buy passes for the kids (at full fare). Unless a young human rides in an adult’s lap, they need to be paying full fare because they are taking up just as much capacity in the vehicle. You want discounts for old people (again, I am uncomfortably close to 65, the age when most “senior discounts” start) great, do that through some elder-service agency … though I think many elderly taking advantage of fare discounts are perfectly capable of paying a regular fare. Fares for people that can’t afford full fare? Again, fine idea, but why is it the *service providers’* responsibility.

    Having *every* rider paying full fare is a great way to make transit’s budget more transparent. I’m not opposed to fare discounts for some passengers (well, maybe I am for non-school kids) but that should not be the *service providers* problem.

    Steve: I suspect that very quickly you would find that a majority of riders are eligible for some sort of discount that is transferred to another agency’s budget. Then there would be the overhead of having “deserving” riders apply for the discounts. There is a point where it is simpler just to give everyone of a certain group (notably people of a certain age) a discount. Just because you “simplify” the transit fare structure with a flat fare does not mean that you eliminate the administrative cost of granting discounts to specific riders.

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  13. Steve wrote:

    The problem is that the card has to “know” someone has crossed a boundary. That is possible only if everyone “taps out” because there is no guarantee a transfer within the final zone will occur to provide tracking data.

    Thinking about it a bit more, one way around the need to tap out would be to not charge the zone upgrade unless one were to continue the journey in the new zone. If one’s journey didn’t require further travel, they wouldn’t have to pay. If they had to board again in the new zone, within the 2-hour (or 2.5-hour as I suggested for cross-zone travel) limit, they would be charged.

    When YRT had zones, one had to know ahead of time and the driver (or passenger, if at a VIVA station) could press a zone button prior to tapping so the upcharge would be applied. The trouble is if one didn’t do that up front, a tap-on in the new zone would charge a whole new fare. In addition, if one tapped on a bus in the same zone coming from another zone that “thought” it was still in the other zone, you got charged a whole new fare (happened to me once).

    Steve: The problem is that term “continue the journey”. The issue of transfers that require riders to pass through some sort of fare control area (and hence to tap on) versus free transfers at major stations. For example, a rider at Finch might originate north or south of Steeles, but unless the north of Steeles buses do not pick up anyone south of Steeles, there will be a mixture of “905” and “416” zone riders getting off at Finch and transferring to the subway, the line that could be the last leg of their journey.

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  14. As one who has not used TTC frequently for a couple of decades, I hope that any changes or tweaks to the system will be easily explained to out-of-towners.

    I am currently not sure when I need to tap my card on changing vehicles.

    Steve: Officially, whenever you change vehicles on the TTC, except within a paid area, you should tap. That said, the two-hour fare that you have paid for is recorded by the first tap even if you don’t tap at subsequent transfer points.

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  15. Regarding “TTC Fare Policy”, I have comments about two items.

    Steve: One important aspect of this study is to look at fares and fare collection without the constraints of any specific system, and of Presto in particular, to determine what a new system should look like. If Metrolinx and Presto can compete on those terms, fine, but the policy will set a bar for all vendors.

    I am thinking that paying by debit or credit card will awfully complicate fare collection, cost-wise. And about those that use their smart phones for paying, not a plastic card? I suppose that collecting statistics on travel patterns is an important part of electronic fare collection. It only gets confusing with “non-standard” methods. And, what is Presto, anyway? Is it not a part of Metrolinx? So, a lot of intra-government accounting & cost allocation?

    Steve: There are two ways of “paying” with a credit card. One way is a “pay as you go” scheme, but it has many limitations including transaction fees, and the inability to store info (e.g. the two hour transfer) on the card. The other is an account-based system that works something like a phone bill with travel charges accumulating (like toll calls) on the account and then making one charge on the card at month end including any loyalty bonuses like fare caps once the full usage pattern is known.

    The account based system also decouples the card (or device) used to identify a rider from the payment mechanism. This already happens in a way with Presto autoload where the card used to pay fares is not the same as the account used to actually pay the bill. Metrolinx is looking at an account based system for its future implementation of Presto. At that point, the Presto card’s only purpose would be to identify the rider.

    Steve: The political challenge will be to have a new fare system embraced by Toronto and participating GTA municipalities. Nothing is free, especially “free” transit, and there will no doubt be a robust debate about where funding for cheaper fares or extended discounts will come from.

    Well, I have a lot of horrible stories that I could tell you as I have been travelling cross-boundary a “fare” bit in the last year. We need to distinguish between flat fares and fare-by-distance as used on GO Transit. I suppose that negotiation among the GTHA municipal governments could result in better deals for transit users, especially regular users. The connections need to be smoother, more logical.

    Case in point: the terrible layout at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station, the northern terminus of TTC’s Line 1 subway on the west branch. Some York “blue” buses drop you off at the Vaughan Station about one kilometer north of the subway entrance, near Langstaff Road. For York’s “orange” buses, you need to go out to the street on Hwy. 7 at the south end of the station. You may not board the “red” buses! Meanwhile, the fare discount between GO and municipal services is no longer. Meanwhile, GO cannot connect Pearson Airport with Malton Station. Meanwhile, GO service to growing communities keeps getting cut (Bolton in mind) despite the self-congratulatory press releases announcing increased services (example, the pre-election announcement about bringing GO trains “sooner” to Bolton).

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  16. Peter Strazdins wrote: Some York “blue” buses drop you off at the Vaughan Station about one kilometer north of the subway entrance, near Langstaff Road. For York’s “orange” buses, you need to go out to the street on Hwy. 7 at the south end of the station. You may not board the “red” buses!

    Could you clarify what you mean by York blue/orange/red buses? Also, what is the Vaughan Station at Langstaff that you are referring to and which routes drop passengers off there rather than at the subway station?

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  17. I do not know what the problem about tapping off is on transit as many systems that I have ridden require it. TfL (London) even required tapping between some lines in fare-controlled areas in stations. They made this easy by having a lot of spread-out machines that looked like Presto GO machines that you just held your card by as you passed. The incentive to do this was that it reduced your fare. If you didn’t and got to a station on another line your fare went up. It has been a number of years since I was in London so I can’t say it is still done.

    The London fare system had 6 zones and a single fare covered zones 1 and 2. If you rode to or from an outer zone into zone 2 there was a reduction from what you would pay if you rode into zone 1. By chance, I found this out by booking a Hotel in Earl’s Court which I chose because I liked the Earlscourt car on the TTC. It was on the tube line from the Airport to London right at the zone 1 – 2 boundary. Most of the London Underground isn’t – underground that is.

    Most stations did not have fare collectors but rather had roving station attendants. Actually, this worked quite well because all the ones I met were very helpful, sometimes too helpful because they would rush over anytime I stopped at a map to help, but I like to try and figure things out for myself. I found out that if you said to them as they arrived something like, “I am trying to figure out how to read your map so If I tell you what I think it says can you correct me and show me a better way.” Most seemed to like this.

    Anyways, back to the topic, If Toronto were split into 2 zones that would be covered by 1 fare like London central zones with the zone 1 – 2 boundary say at Sheppard coming in from the North, Royal York from the west and Markham road from the east then using the TfL system would reduce fares for 905 riders who only went partway into the 416. My choice for the boundary is totally arbitrary and is only a suggestion.

    Unless there is an agency other than the City of Toronto to pay for some of these fare reductions like the 905 municipalities or the province, the city should not have to pay it alone.

    Steve: I am referring to to tap offs on surface vehicles. London is flat fare on the surface. The tube was built around the need to check out when leaving the line.

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  18. Regarding tap-out on exit to enable fare zones on surface vehicles. Translink buses in Metro Vancouver used to have zones on honour system (riders were expected to use a two-zone ticket if travelling across zone boundary). They briefly attempted having tap-out on buses with introduction of their Compass payment card in 2013-2015, but this was nixed early on after it proved unworkable, and all bus lines are now one zone. See this link.

    And yes, London buses are tap-on only. But London is a poor analogy to Canadian systems anyway, since single fares don’t offer transfers between buses and trains – you need a pass for a week or longer to get transfers between modes. (There are also cheaper passes only valid on buses, and long bus routes from very central London. A rough Toronto analogy would be a bus from Jane and Lawrence running to King and Yonge so that its riders can get to their jobs downtown more cheaply than via subway, but much slower. That too would be a fare policy, though not a very good one.)

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  19. Does technology exist (or perhaps used somewhere) that would read the fare cards without need to tap by recognizing them as they pass through the doors as passengers get on and off?

    Steve: In theory, yes. There are barrier-free systems that can read near field communication (NFC) cards at a distance. Whether you want them actually doing this is another matter. For example, if you are carrying five cards with NFC capability, the system has to figure out whether to identify you by a “fare card” or VISA or whatever.

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  20. Steve: In theory, yes. There are barrier-free systems that can read near field communication (NFC) cards at a distance. Whether you want them actually doing this is another matter. For example, if you are carrying five cards with NFC capability, the system has to figure out whether to identify you by a “fare card” or VISA or whatever.

    Can these be set to a specific frequency (or frequency range) or maybe communication protocol/encryption such that it is different from VISA or other credit cards?

    Steve: The problem here is that different riders want to charge their fare against different cards, as well as certain IT issues that I won’t go into.

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