Transport Action Ontario
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Setting up a region-wide integrated
transit fare system across the 11 transit agencies of the Greater Toronto and
Hamilton Area (GTHA) has been a goal of transit planners for over a
decade. Metrolinx’s 2007 Regional
Transportation Plan (The Big Move)
proposed Big Move #6 as “Implement a region-wide integrated transit fare system
by 2012 that allows users to pay a seamless, integrated fare for all transit
systems across the region”.
The work to meet this objective has
not gone well. The first five years were
largely spent on getting the Presto card and hardware up and used by riders,
and ensuring that all transit agencies, especially the Toronto Transit System
(TTC), used the system. Serious policy work
on fare integration did not start until late 2013. The key barriers to integration were
fares for similar journeys in different parts of the region
fares resulting from lack of fare integration between GO and TTC and between
TTC and neighbouring transit providers
Various fare models were developed
and analyzed over the next three years, including
the existing system (reduce barriers)
new zone-based system
new hybrid system – fares by distance and flat fare
by time (eg 2 hours travel on one fare)
In September 2017, Metrolinx
concluded that modifying the existing system captured considerable benefits and
was least disruptive/least complex, by avoiding the need for centralized fare
setting and revenue allocation. Four
specific “step-by-step” strategies were set:
on double fares (GO-TTC)
on double fares (905-TTC)
to GO’s fare structure
Transport Action Ontario agrees with
this incremental approach to removing obvious fare irritants.
Limited progress on these strategies
has occurred since that time
January, 2018, the Wynne government initiated a $1.50 co-fare between TTC and
GO, representing a discount of about 50%, and committed to a subsidy of about $40M for a three year
period to compensate for lost revenue by GO Transit and TTC. This July, the Province announced it would
halt the subsidy in 2020. Metrolinx has stated it will continue to offer the
discount on TTC transfers to GO and has urged TTC to match the transfer
discount to the TTC. TTC has indicated
that a detailed cost benefit analysis will be conducted prior to a decision in
Spring, 2018, the Wynne government announced a $1.50 discount between TTC and
adjacent 905 transit providers, and provided a 3 year subsidy of $70M to
account for lost revenue. This promise
died when the Liberals lost the election.
Spring, 2018, the Wynne government also announced a reduction in the fare for
short GO trips, providing a subsidy of $90M over three years. This promise also died when the Liberals
lost the election. However, in Spring 2019,
the new provincial government did reduce GO fares for shorter trips to $3.70
minimum, while raising them for longer trips.
This more closely aligns fares to
local transit fares and may provide some relief to the subway network. In this
case, Metrolinx has indicated that no additional provincial subsidy was
offered, meaning that GO just “ate” any revenue loss.
Summer, 2018, TTC implemented a two hour transfer policy, consistent with that
offered by 905 agencies. This is the
first concrete example of fare policy harmonization.
In addition to fare integration, there is the related problem of service integration. Currently there is a frustrating absence of a “customer service” attitude when more than one transit agency is involved. One bad example is where a 905 transit agency (eg YRT or Miway) bus route goes to a subway station within Toronto (eg Finch or Islington). There is a “closed door” policy wherein riders boarding within Toronto cannot use the 905 bus to go to the subway, even if convenient and available. They must wait for a TTC bus, even if inconvenient.
We recently met with Metrolinx staff to review the events of the past few years. On fare integration, staff indicated that it was their belief that the Province would not be providing any more fare integration subsidies. Any reduction of double fares would come from the affected agencies, either asymmetrically (unilaterally) or bilaterally. For example, it would be possible for York Region Transit to unilaterally accept transfers from TTC at a lower rate, independent of whether TTC would reciprocate. Staff also indicated that umbrella agency working groups were studying service integration and policy harmonization ideas, and to expect announcements soon.
Transport Action Ontario is disappointed with the slow progress of fare and service integration and urges all agencies and governments to commit funds and resources to this important area.