TTC Heads Toward Fare Capping, Flat Fares, No Zones

At its meeting of February 10, 2022, the TTC board will consider a report on the future transit fare structure in Toronto.

In May 2022, TTC management will present a final recommendation for the Board’s endorsement, but this month’s update takes us a considerable way along the road to a new structure transit fares. For the past two years, TTC staff have consulted with interested members of the public while following an overall policy framework approved by the Board.

Source: Advancing the 5-Year Fare Policy, p 15

The evaluation found, to no surprise, that no fare scheme can achieve all of these goals, and in particular “financial sustainability” (for which read “no increase in subsidy”) and any change to make fares more attractive will work at cross-purposes. The idea that somehow new riders can be attracted in sufficient numbers to offset costs is a convenient fiction spouted by those whose real agenda is to cap spending, not to improve transit.

Many fare schemes were considered, and many were discarded for various reasons.

Those that survived to the final round of evaluation were:

  • Free fares
  • Full cost recovery
  • Fare capping
  • Aligning concession fares
  • Removal of the cross-boundary YRT-TTC extra fare
  • Peak/Off-peak pricing
  • Group Travel Discount
  • Reduce the TTC children-ride-free age limit to 5 from 12
  • Set the Senior concession fare to 20% of the Adult fare
  • Remove the Senior concession

Notable by its absence in this list is any form of fare-by-distance or fare zones. These options were dropped because of the inequity they would pose for riders whose trips tend to be long, but whose incomes are not high (residents of the outer part of Toronto).

It is no secret to readers of this blog that I have always supported the flat fare concept not just for its value to long-haul riders, but for its simplicity. Schemes that purport to make riders pay proportionately for their riding tend to increase the complexity and cost without a comparable or better return in making transit attractive. Indeed, the higher fares this would bring drive away the very trips, long journeys, that we do not want shifting to autos while giving a bonus to riders who make shorter hops typically “downtown”.

The fare policy report recommends that the TTC:

1. Continue to support the TTC’s existing fare structure, which includes the flat fare, free two-hour transfer across all modes and the Fair Pass and age-based discounts as the hallmarks of the TTC’s fare policy;

2. Endorse in principle the opportunities related to fare capping and aligning concessions across Fair Pass, Seniors and Youth as detailed in the Comments section of this report to inform the final fare policy recommendations that will be presented to the Board for approval in May 2022; and

3. Direct staff to forward a copy of this report to the Ministry of Transportation to restart discussions on reintroducing the Discount Double Fare (DDF), the TTC-GO Transit co-fare to offset Line 3 closures.

Source: Advancing the 5-Year Fare Policy, pp 1-2

No Zones

For a very long time, Metrolinx attempted to push a zone or distance-based system onto local transit in part to buttress its own fare scheme. Whether Metrolinx will attempt to force its will onto Toronto and others, as they did with the Presto fare card, remains to be seen.

The problem in moving to a flat fare has always been the question of “lost” revenue compared to the status quo. Toronto went through this 50 years ago when a separate “Zone 2” changed to a single cross-city fare at a time when the suburbs, and with them the transit network, were growing fast. That separate zone was an historic remnant of the old City of Toronto boundary and non-TTC services beyond.

However, suburban pols were happy to demand a “fairer” fare for their constituents, but were unwilling to fund the TTC in future decades at a level that would both drive service growth and subsidize the longer trips.

The Cost of Options

An important part of the current proposal is that there are estimated ridership and cost/revenue effects for most of the options. This is far superior to past fare discussions that were met with “we can’t afford it”, but with no underlying estimate, effectively pre-empting the political debate. That approach might suit politicians who don’t want options on the table at all, but it serves transit riders poorly.

The proposed change has another advantage compared to the all-or-nothing removal of the suburban zone fare – the possible fare capping schemes lend themselves to incremental adjustment as funding and political will warm to further fare discounts.

The chart below shows the estimated effect of the options.

Source: Advancing the 5-Year Fare Policy, p 8

A fascinating aspect of this chart is the relatively small range of ridership and revenue effects. Revenue spans about $90 million while ridership spans less than 20 million annually. These are at or under 7 percent against the pre-pandemic base values. How much political capital and upheaval is a fare structure change worth? Conversely, if a new feature in the tariff attracts riders at minimal cost, why not implement it?

That said, Fare Capping is close to the origin of the chart (the 0/0 mark) because this analysis assumes that caps would be priced the same as existing passes. There are no projections of the effect of “turning the dials” on the model to determine the effect of lowering, say, the monthly fare cap (equivalent to making the monthly pass cheaper relative to single fares).

What Fell Off The Table?

Free fares would forego over $1 billion in annual revenue, and would only add about 75 million new trips annually to the TTC and YRT combined. There would be an associated cost to provide more service on routes where the growth was strong. This is a huge cost, and it benefits all riders whether they need the subsidy or not.

Full cost recovery would save primarily the City, but also its provincial funding partner, about $800 million in subsidies, but would drive away more than 60 million rides. It would have a particularly severe effect on Wheel-Trans services whose cost per trip is very much higher than the fare paid.

Both of these projections turn on a basic issue: ridership is driven primarily by service and convenience, not by fares. If the subway, bus or streetcar does not take someone where they want to go, preferably conveniently, then a free ride will not change their mind. Conversely, there is a high incremental cost for many riders to shift away from transit to another mode such as autos, and this will keep most riders on transit even if the price goes up.

The TTC observes:

This analysis indicates that we have reached our “peak” transit mode share in the City and other external factors (e.g. highway tolls) would need to be considered to see any further increases.

Source: Advancing the 5-Year Fare Policy, pp 8-9

In effect, a major change in the overall share requires a major change in the context for transit in competition with other modes. Even road pricing will not change behaviour if transit does not present a reasonable alternative. Some schemes (including subway extensions) result in incremental changes for a small part of the network, but do not change transit’s mode share on a system-wide basis very much at all. Moreover, if the primary benefit goes to existing riders as with the Vaughan extension, there is little overall mode shift.

The City’s Net Zero 2040 scheme makes bold assumptions about a shift to walking and cycling. Yes, there are trips and travellers who will cycle, and more would do so with better facilities. However, the travellers we want to shift drive cars, or yearn to drive a car if only they could afford it. Transit must be able to attract and hold these trips. Just making transit cheaper will not achieve that goal.

Other discarded options include:

  • Service based: differential fares depending on the mode used. Our transit system is designed around a single tier fare, except for GO Transit, and the network encourages people to transfer onto higher capacity and faster routes (e.g. the subway). This avoids the need for parallel “poor rider” services for those who do not want to pay more to ride rapid transit. It is ironic that we might consider charging more for the subway, an “express” service, just at the point we are trying to eliminate fare barriers between the largely subway-free 905 and the 416.
  • Zone based: varying fares depending on how many zones one travels through. This would increase the cost of long trips, an inequitable outcome for those who cannot afford to live close to their destinations, and it would add the complexity of “tapping off” to measure trip length. Yes, there are systems where this is implemented, but they have a long history of this type of fare collection, unlike Toronto where the change in rider behaviour would be substantial.
  • Distance and time-based: The arguments here are similar to those against zones in that longer trips would cost more, and tap-off would be needed to identify how far, or how long one travelled.

Cross-Border Fares

The removal of cross-border fares is an example of how proposals can be sidelined for lack of modest funding. The TTC states:

The findings from the technical analysis and public consultations suggest that removing the double fare at the TTC and YRT boundaries will have a positive impact on customers; therefore, it scored well against most of the fare policy goals. However, removing double fares between agencies scored poorly against the financial sustainability policy goal because of the significant subsidy that would be required to implement. Due to this funding gap, we have removed this option from the 5-Year Fare Policy, but continue conversations with the Province on achieving regional fare integration.

Source: Advancing the 5-Year Fare Policy, p 8

If we are to believe the chart above, the annual cost would be roughly $15 million, and the ridership effect would be modest compared to the overall network. The obvious follow-on question asks why much cheaper fares would attract so few new trips, and the answer must lie in cross-border service and convenience.

Any examination of regional fare policy must also consider the degree to which demand is constrained by the service offered both across the borders and within each municipality. The cost of better service could well be higher than the cost of eliminating the fare zone boundary.

The Role of GO Transit

In the short term, GO Transit service will not change very much, especially as that system was hard-hit by the drop in commuting to downtown. If better service depends on recovery of that market as a base, hoped-for frequent all-day, two way service could be a long way off.

Toronto is the only municipality served by GO for which there is no co-fare reducing the cost of transferring between the provincial and local service. The “Double-Discount Fare” ended because it was implemented with a time limited subsidy by the province, and has not been revived.

At a time when Ontario is spending billions on system expansion for both GO and local rapid transit, that fare policy says a lot about their real commitment to transit. They are committed to construction projects and land values, with actual riders being in distant third place.

The TTC argues that reviving the the DDF would both aid in regional fare integration, and could provide an alternative service for Scarborough RT riders who will lose their rapid transit line in mid 2023. That latter claim should be taken with a grain of salt because it depends on frequent service all day on the GO lines in Scarborough, mainly the north-south route to Stouffville and beyond, and good feeder service from the TTC to Milliken (Steeles) and Agincourt (Sheppard) GO Stations. This would primarily benefit SRT riders coming from north of the 401.

The Shift from Monthly Passes to Two Hour Fares

Since the introduction of the two hour fare, the attractiveness of monthly passes has fallen because a rider’s calculation of the break even point has shifted. What used to be two or more single fares can now be achieved within a two hour journey for one fare, and the monthly cost of pay-as-you-go has dropped versus holding a prepaid pass. This effect is shown in the chart below where the proportion of trips taken by a “pass” dropped by almost half from 2015 to the end of prepandemic times.

Source: Advancing the 5-Year Fare Policy, p 11

The TTC board had asked management to report on the effect of dropping the monthly pass to $100 (it is now $156, discounted to $143 on an annual subscription). The estimated annual cost of this change (including pro-rata shifts in other pass types) is $107 million due to the price change, and a further $68 million from single fare payers migrating to passes. This could only be offset by 71 million new single fare rides, a big jump in demand that shows no sign of happening. There is also the question of whether this would be the best place to spend $175 million as opposed to, say, running better service, or targeting reduced fares for those who really need this support.

Realignment of Discount Fares

Discounted fares are now available to five classes of rider:

  • Seniors
  • Youth (formerly “Students”)
  • Children
  • Post-Secondary Students
  • Low-Income riders meeting certain criteria for

The current price for a Senior or Youth monthly pass is $128.15, and the single fare is $2.25 if paid by Presto card. Children under 12 ride free. Holders of a “Fair Pass” discount pay $2.10. See the full TTC fare table for all of the details.

The TTC proposes to consolidate these discounts by moving most of them all to the lower Fair Pass level. (The report is silent on Post-Secondary passes.) This would cost about $7 million per year in foregone revenue. Fair Pass pricing would be offered to all ages through a consolidated tariff, but by contrast youth and seniors would still receive no marginal benefit from the Fair Pass program.

This could also complicate future changes to the Fair Pass by locking it to an overall discount rate. There are already complaints that the Fair Pass is too expensive, and that a deeper discount should be available to those of limited means. The incremental cost would be greater if this extended to all seniors and youth through a consolidated, single-tier discount.

If Fair Pass discounts are extended beyond “adult” riders to other age groups because more potential riders would have to be vetted for their eligibility.

The TTC considered the reduction or elimination of discounted fares notably for seniors, and a lower cutoff age for free rides by children. Both of these were rejected.

Of the fare options analyzed, reducing free Child fares for those under five, or reducing or eliminating the existing Seniors’ concessions are the only options that increase revenue, aside from a full cost recovery fare. We have heard from customers that the current age-based concessions are considered a success and need to be maintained when identifying areas for improvement in the fare structure. Given that Child fares and Senior concessions are an integral element of fare equity/accessibility, we have removed these options from further consideration.

Source: Advancing the 5-Year Fare Policy, p 9

This is a rather woolly way to argue for these discounts. Not all seniors are poor and all children do not come from low-income families. However, the cost of providing these discounts to everyone must be balanced against the complexity of identifying who should or should not receive a lower fare. Unless there is a pressing reason to target the “well off”, however we might define this, it is better and simpler to leave the discount open to all on the basis of age.

(Full disclosure: I am a senior who can afford to pay full adult fare. However, if you want to get more money from me and my cohorts, do it through the tax system, possibly funding better transit, rather than turning the TTC into a social benefits administration agency.)

Peak/Off Peak Fares

Time-of-day fares have been advanced as a way to relieve capacity problems on the TTC, and co-incidentally as a way for riders to save money.

There are two basic problems here.

First, in pre-pandemic times, over half of all riding was already outside of the peak period. An off-peak discount would mean a revenue loss across a wide group of riders, or a peak period boost would be needed to offset this. Riders who already travel mainly outside of the peak would receive a discount with no offsetting benefit to the system. This type of scheme shows up on systems with a higher ratio of peak to off-peak travel than the TTC.

There is also a basic issue of service quality on the shoulders of peak periods and this can work against a decision to shift the time of a journey.

More critically, however, time-of-day fares assume that riders can choose when to travel. Many riders are constrained not just by job start and end times, but by other components of their work day such as child care or school drop offs which have their own schedules. They have less choice and control over their work hours, and face longer trips that are harder to shift out of the peak. These conditions affect riders from lower income areas disproportionately and time-based fares would probably raise, not lower, their travel cost.

Daily, Weekly or Monthly Caps

TTC management argue that fare capping provides the same benefit as a pass (a known upper limit on transit cost) without the need to commit up-front to buying a pass. Moreover, different capping periods could bring benefits to riders whose travel patterns vary through the month, even from day to day.

Caps could be implemented for various periods, and these might all interact. For example, a burst of heavy transit usage could trigger caps at a daily or weekly level even if other “light” weeks meant that a rider never hit a monthly cap. The caps would be automatic for all riders, not just those who “opted in” by prepaying for a pass.

As I noted above, the chart of costs and ridership effects shows only a small change for capping, but this reflects a monthly-only cap at the current fare multiple for passes. The situation would be quite different with a wider range of capping periods. This bears further investigation if only as background for a multi-year strategy of altering capping levels to bring down the effective cost per trip to riders.

Preferred Solution

TTC management’s preferred scheme is fare capping plus realigned discounts to reach a new “baseline” for future fares. They argue that:

  • it retains a fare structure riders like (the flat fare plus two hour transfer);
  • it removes the burden of an up-front payment for a pass or pre-planning whether a pass would be worthwhile;
  • it extends a known limit to all riders’ monthly transit costs, not just for those holding passes;
  • it permits various fare caps for different groups;
  • it will be easy to understand and integrate across the GTHA.

There is some conflict in this list in that the whole idea of realigning discounts is to decrease the number of unique fare levels. However, a benefit claimed for the scheme is the option of varying capping levels for selected groups. The TTC should beware of a consolidation that might have to be undone in response to policy changes for some groups, such as the Fair Pass discount discussed above.

The regional question of fare integration goes beyond this proposal, and it will require agreement on common terms such as the eligibility for various discounts, capping levels and whether trips are counted globally or on each agency. More generally, a regional mechanism for administration and sharing of fare revenue and subsidies will be needed.

What’s Missing?

Any new fare system for the TTC must fit within a larger regional context. Other reports on the Board agenda include a status update on regional fare integration and a review of options for fare collection technology. I will turn to these in a separate article.

An important consideration in the discussion would be a review of the existing fare systems in other GTHA systems and the degree to which they might already be converging on common practices. It will be much simpler for the TTC to “integrate” with something that is already there than to require wholesale change across the region. Equally, the arguments pro or con a new Toronto fare structure might be buttressed by compatability with existing schemes elsewhere.

Fare integration between TTC and York Region Transit will take some work, not to mention whatever subsidy is needed to make up for the reduced cross-boundary fares.

That said, Toronto should not have its fare scheme skewed simply to suit regional interests such as in a now-abandoned (I hope) Metrolinx scheme that would have pillaged Toronto’s revenue base by raising fares on the subway network as a premium service akin to GO Transit.

Already, the municipal hands are out for Queen’s Park to ante up the funds. It’s an election year, and who knows what might fall from the tree. The danger is that the “ask” is too small and deals only with fare subsidies on a limited scale, not on the larger issue of provincial support for transit generally.

A shift to fare capping from monthly passes is a relatively straightforward one to make. Presto already supports this scheme, notably on GO Transit. What is missing is an analysis of what might happen if caps were implemented that give more generous discounts to frequent riders than the existing pass system. That is definitely a topic for the final report in May 2022.

17 thoughts on “TTC Heads Toward Fare Capping, Flat Fares, No Zones

  1. “What’s Missing?” You refer to doing a separate article. Will this give detailed fare structures for GTHA bus lines?

    Steve: The point I was making was that the TTC did not include such a comparison in their study to show the degree to which other systems might already match what they are proposing. No, I am not going to do a compendium review myself. The separate article will be on the 10 year plan for new fare collection technology and the TTC’s own report on regional integration, both of which are obviously related to whatever the fare scheme might be.

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  2. With the two-hour fares, the capping limit will harder to reach. Before the two-hours, two fares would be required. Now we can do that within two hours.

    The threshold for a 1-day, 3-day, 7-day, or 30-day cap will have to be lowered. By the way, are the caps based on the calendar, or 24-hour or 72-hour, or calendar week or calendar month, or 7 days or 30 days?

    Can see the anti-transit powers-that-be go with the calendar.

    Steve: They have not gotten into the details yet.

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  3. Does the 5 year fare policy mean it is a policy to last five years or a policy that takes five years to develop?

    Also is the removal of double fare likely in this plan?

    Steve: Five years to develop. Double fare? That depends on provincial funding.

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  4. What about fares between Peel region and 416?

    Steve: It looks as if TTC and YRT have been working on a joint proposal, but it depends on someone footing the bill at the provincial level. Meanwhile, there is a separate report about regional integration that includes a trial operation on Burnhamthorpe. Obviously MiWay has been involved too. There is a map in the Service Plan that I have not written up yet showing cross-border services from all adjoining systems.

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  5. I’m curious about the the delays to the Fare and Service Integration pilots that were supposed to start last fall. But in general it seems like we may be heading in the direction of free transfers for TTC buses and buses from 905 agencies (YRT, DRT, MiWay and BT) right across the boundary 416-905 boundary. This sort of tracks with what 905 agencies were already doing. Long before the GTA Regional Pass or PRESTO my Mississauga ticket could get me a free transfer to Oakville or Brampton but not YRT or Burlington. In theory I could travel from Hamilton to Toronto on a single fare if I kept exchanging transfers but it would take a long, long time and be dependent on the driver accepting the transfer. Now with time expired PRESTO I can still make the trip but I’d probably have to pay three times.

    While we have the broader conversation about regional fares and service, I’m most interested in the possibility of blurry boundaries rather than the idea of a single zone for the inner GTA.

    I often mention how the TTC 57 used to stop under the 427 (Toronto Mississauga boundary) and most of the riders would get off rather than pay the second fare to get to Pearson. Now the boundary is at Pearson, which has probably attracted more revenue from more riders than revenue from double fares lost.

    Similarly, I wonder why the Eglinton 32 bus only runs to Renforth now, when it used to run further west. The Rathburn bus stops at Etobicoke Creek rather than making the trip up through Centennial Park to connect with the Transitway at Orbitor Station (which ought to be called Orbitor/Centennial Park). There is a lot of Toronto west of Renforth, and plenty of jobs that could be reached more easily with a blurry fare boundary and TTC buses running slightly further than they do today.

    Steve: There are two key issues for fares: funding and technical changes to Presto. Obviously the 905 municipalities are eating the cost of free transfers from other systems already as a cost of doing business, but TTC/YRT appear to be going after an extra subsidy (operating and capital) from the province for fare and service integration. Everybody’s budget is tight these days. One might ask whether a cross-border subsidy (I almost wrote “subway” there) is the best use of local tax dollars, but that would be churlish, wouldn’t it. Presto would have to change too including the machinery of making not just single fares but also passes acceptable for cross-border trips.

    For service, there are legislative changes and labour contract issues. I will be writing these up in a separate article. The one on the 5 Year Fare Policy update was long enough as it was.

    Steve said:

    “There is some conflict in this list in that the whole idea of realigning discounts is to decrease the number of unique.”

    What’s missing after unique?

    Steve: Ooops! I will fix that. “Unique fares” was what I intended. On one hand the TTC seems to want to simplify things to having only a full and a discount fare, but then talks about selective changes to capping levels for specific groups. If only a two-tier fare capability is built into whatever new software gets rolled out rather than the ability to handle multiple fare levels, we’re back to the “broken as designed” problem of Presto.

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  6. A few years ago I tried to take express buses from work in west Markham to Brampton to my home in Mississauga.

    The viva purple trip to York University took more than an hour. The Brampton Züm Queen 501A trip (via 407 and 410) trip took another hour, so I had to pay a second fare to get on the Züm Main 502 bus to get to Mississauga. I transferred to MiExpress 103 Hurontario at Eglinton, then MiExpress 101 at Dundas.

    Thanks to traffic on Hurontario and waiting for the 103, I barely made it onto the 101 without having to pay a third fare at Dundas.

    The connections have been improved and the viva Rapidways on highway 7 are finished, so while the trip would probably still require more than 2.5 hours and 2 fares, at least there’s no risk of 3 fares.

    Steve: I am confused. The free transfer period is two hours, and paying three fares implies it would take over four hours to reach the last transfer point.

    There are three morals to this story. First, two hours may not be enough time for a trip, but should the “delta” be another full fare?. Second, transit priority anyone? Third: frequent service.

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  7. Steve: Note that two comments left by Derek have been combined here.

    What consideration has there been to having transit agencies charge everyone the same fare and having social service agencies be responsible for subsidizing low income rider fares?

    Has any consideration been given to having someone other than the TTC deal with fares for low income people? For example, have the TTC charge everyone the same fare and have the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services provide subsidized Presto cards.

    Steve: Actually the low income cards in Toronto are funded by the City through its social service budget. TTC gets full adult fares already. Other discounted fares (seniors and students) are included in the overall tariff. There was a time when the TTC got a special subsidy for them, but long ago that was rolled into the base funding.

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  8. The entire effort feels like a waste of time and money. Presto should be used to pay for public transit in Ontario. That someone is getting paid to collect cash fares, press tokens, stamps or metro passes represents nothing but gross government incompetence. It is complete duplication of a solution already covered by taxpayers.

    Steve: I am not quite sure what you are driving at. Tokens were abandoned quite some time ago, Metropasses were consolidated into Presto, there are no “stamps”. Presto has been the fare collection method for the TTC and the rest of the GTHA for some time. The question now is whether the tariff should be adjusted to better suit riders’ needs and to improve the attractiveness of transit.

    There is a separate report about the possibilities of a replacement fare collection technology. It is well known that Presto was a poorly-designed system with many constraints, and if you want to point to a waste of taxpayers’ money, you need look no further than the attempts to keep Presto alive.

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  9. Steve: I am confused. The free transfer period is two hours, and paying three fares implies it would take over four hours to reach the last transfer

    I paid two fares. Another 20 minutes and it could have been three fares.

    It took over two hours to get from 404 & 7 to Brampton GO station via York U. This was back in 2016 during the viva rapidway construction on 7 through Concord, and subway construction was finishing up. It was the p.m. peak so there was plenty of congestion both ways on Keele to boot.

    From Brampton GO there was the trip itself down to Eglinton (around 45 minutes, again due to congestion), waiting time (15 min) for the 103 to continue the journey to Dundas, the journey to Dundas itself (20 min), then waiting time at Dundas (20 min). That leg of the trip was around 1 hour and forty minutes.

    Steve: but should the “delta” be another full fare?

    This is where I wonder if an option for a 6 hour/half-day/between the peaks pass might be welcomed. When I take GO I get 3 hours from tip-off at Union which means I can occasionally travel downtown for a meeting and return on the same fare.

    Steve: Second, transit priority anyone? Third: frequent service.

    The irony, given that it was viva rapidway construction, and viva hasn’t been offering the most frequent service, before or after the rapidways were built. The viva purple also didn’t stop at Keele and Snidercroft/Great Gulf, forcing riders to go all the way to York U if they wanted to get a TTC or GO bus.

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  10. Regarding free child fares, I think there’s two key facts:
    * Parents with young children need to bring the children on trips that the the parent is making (example: shopping)
    * Young children need to have an adult with them on trips the child is making

    … so one trip is being made, but extra people have to tag along. For me, that’s the main argument for why young children should ride for free.

    The question then becomes what age is the cut-off for “young child”. I don’t think anyone would reasonably argue that 6 year olds can generally be left at home unaccompanied or make trips on transit unaccompanied – and hence 5 is far too young for the cut-off. If the cut-off is 12, I don’t think the same situation applies.

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  11. I don’t see TTC and YRT ever combining their fares given that YRT is run by franchise. YRT has the worst transit service in all of the GTA (despite getting the lion’s share of transit funding from the province and the feds. Just look at the money losing subway and VIVA rapidways). TTC runs service in York region at 40-60 min intervals. York Region hard caps the amount of subsidy given to public transit and the franchisees run worse service to compensate. I don’t see the TTC ever eliminating cross border fares unless York region is willing to increase their transit subsidy make it financially worthwhile.

    Steve: It is telling that this proposal and the service integration scheme is subject to the province coming up with more subsidy so that York can increase service and buy more buses. And the moon is made of green cheese.

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  12. Moaz’s journey just highlights that better fare integration is necessary because his journey would have take considerably less time if he did the following:
    1. Viva to Richmond Hill Centre
    2. GO (407 service) to Square One or Erin Mills Transit Way Station
    3. Miway to home

    However, this would be quite a lot more expensive than local transit (YRT/Brampton/Miway). So the question to answer here is how much is a person’s time is worth?

    Steve: To which the corollary is “why should only those who can afford it make fast trips?”

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  13. Steve: To which the corollary is “why should only those who can afford it make fast trips?”

    I didn’t mean to imply that only those that can afford it should have access to fast trips. I would be in favor of GO transit being equivalent to discounted sum of applicable fares. So a trip YRT-GO-Miway (through Brampton) could be something like $7.50 total (75% of combined presto cost of 3 fares). Or perhaps the reward for taking transit over greater distance (over what could be otherwise done via many local systems) would be greater discount on total base fare.

    Steve: Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that was your argument. Only that it highlights the problem when we treat some services as “premium”. Remember that Metrolinx once wanted the subway lines to be a premium fare, and might have included things like Line 5 Crosstown in that definition as “rapid transit”.

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  14. Steve: Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that was your argument. Only that it highlights the problem when we treat some services as “premium”. Remember that Metrolinx once wanted the subway lines to be a premium fare, and might have included things like Line 5 Crosstown in that definition as “rapid transit”.

    If Metrolinx would like to promote and encourage transit use between GTA municipalities then Metrolinx needs to consider GO as express service linking areas of GTA together instead of premium service. This way we have local “local” service (like TTC, Miway, etc), local “express” service (like TTC 9xx routes, or Miway 100x, or Viva/Zum) and area wide express service (GO buses/trains). If some thought is given how to design fare structure and route coverage between all of these service we could a system that promotes transit use across the region not just along GO Train corridors (with driving to GO Station) but also between less obvious points like the ones described by Moaz.

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  15. Though I like the idea of using credit cards to pay TTC fares, I am not sure how they would work with 2-hour transfers or capping fares per day, week or month. Can the trip info be stored on the credit card? If one can pay with credit cards and have both capping and 2-hour transfers (which is, I suppose, capping at 2 hours) why would you want a Presto card?

    Steve: Credit cards are “read only”. Determining that one is within a 2 hour transfer (or otherwise entitled to a discount, say, between carriers) has to be done in the back end. The challenge is whether to charge a full fare (including service charges if any) for each leg and refund the discount later, or to store the taps in a central database and calculate fares on a bulk account basis later. A lookup for validation purposes can be much slower than the response time needed to calculate charges on the fly. There has been no explanation of what operational design Presto or a TTC-sponsored fare system would use.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi Steve, thanks for these great articles. I’ve got two related ideas I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on:

    1. Zone-based fares might not make sense, but what about fare discounts if you only travel one or two stops? This would still have the benefit of simplicity, and of fairness, and it would actually benefit people who live further from the city centre, since their stops tend to be further apart and it’s harder to walk or bike instead in those areas. And it might help promote transit use over driving, because the need to find parking makes short-distance driving trips especially annoying. And it would help promote grocery-shopping via transit, since most people live within a stop or two from a grocery store. It might even help promote in-station shopping, which could help the TTC make a lot more money.

    Steve: Any fare that requires the system knows both where you board and leave adds a layer of complexity both because riders must tap off, and in defining “how long is one or two stops”. Use of transit for multiple short trips is already encouraged by the hour-transfer which can be used to “chain” a number of short hops together for one fare. I am not sure that making a single, isolated very short trip cheaper is as much benefit as various ways that make multiple hops attractive through various discounts such as a time-based fare, or daily fare capping.

    2. Fare-based incentives to reduce peak-hour crowding at St George or Yonge-Bloor stations:

    For e.g. perhaps if you transfer at Spadina instead of St George during peak hours, you get a fare discount? Or if you enter at Yonge-Bloor or St George during peak hours, you pay a surcharge (unless you are a Senior)? Or if you enter at Rosedale/Wellesley/Bay/Sherbourne/Spadina instead of Yonge-Bloor or St George during peak hours, you get a fare discount?

    Steve: First off there is no way to know that someone transfers at Spadina rather than at St. George. For someone entering at St. George or Bloor-Yonge, how do you know they are going to travel in the peak direction. Entering at a station near Bloor-Yonge? Have you ever tried to get on a train at Sherbourne westbound in the AM peak, or for that matter eastbound in the PM peak, in pre-pandemic conditions? Shifting the boarding point does not make the fat that the demand exceeds capacity. It is not the head counts at specific stations, but the cumulative demand from the outer terminals and their bus feeders. Probably the classic for this is Yonge southbound which can pass up riders at Sheppard because of the demand pouring into Finch Station. All you need is the briefest of delays, and there is no capacity for downstream riders.

    The issue is not to nibble around the edges of a severe problem of chronic underinvestment in transit. Were it not for the covid downturn, we would be in a terrible state for subway capacity for the next several years. But, hey, a few politicians and their constituents will get their pet subways.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Tri-Met in Portland OR accepts credit-card taps as well as their own Hop tap-card. I don’t know just how it works under the covers, but according to Tri-Met, time-based transfers (2.5 hours in Portland) and daily caps (at two full fares, at which point they say you’ve earned a Day Pass) work with credit cards.

    There’s a monthly cap too, priced at 40 full fares.

    What does a Hop card give you that a credit card doesn’t?

    — Hop cards can be topped up with cash at many convenience stores and pharmacies; said shops also sell the cards themselves. You can also top up online with a credit card online or over the phone, or arrange autoload similar to that on Presto.
    — Concession fares like senior, youth, low income, disabled person can be registered only to a Hop card, not to a credit card.

    Monthly capping used to be available only on Hop cards, not when tapping a credit card, out of concern that the card might expire or otherwise become invalid midway through the month. No, I’m not sure I follow the logic either. There’s no mention of that policy now on the web site.

    I have a Hop card, though for obvious reasons I haven’t used it for a couple of years. (I hope to use it next sometime this summer.) I opted for the special card so I wouldn’t pay extra for currency exchange (my one credit card that doesn’t charge exchange fees doesn’t support tapping, for some reason), and also because I’d rather keep my credit card safely in my wallet so I’m less likely to lose it in the hustle and bustle of boarding.

    In general Tri-Met’s payment system gets right pretty much everything Presto gets wrong in Toronto.

    Steve: The Portland scheme sounds like a limited implementation of account-based billing. Because credit/debit cards are “read only” (readers cannot write data to them in the way that proprietary cards like Presto can), there is no way for the “card to remember” that it was tapped, say, an hour ago. This can be done by a central system that accumulates the taps and figures out after the fact how much to bill the rider. Since they only go to the point of capping at a day pass price, they are obviously not tracking and billing usage over a longer interval such as weekly or monthly. Obviously they did that at some point, but then withdrew the option.

    Portland has only implemented this for the simplest case, an adult fare, that requires no account “set-up” process to identify, say, your Visa card as being eligible for senior fares and bill you accordingly.

    A card on which the system can store value, like Presto, need not be confined to transit fares, but could be a generic payment card for any vendor who accepts it. This is not new technology by a long shot.

    Presto had restrictions “baked in” from its earliest design, and some of these are reflected in its limitations today.

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