Aug 27

Greater Toronto Fare (and Service) Integration Moving Slowly – Needs More Commitment

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

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 identified as:

  • Different fares for similar journeys in different parts of the region
  • Double 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

  • Modify the existing system (reduce barriers)
  • Create new zone-based system
  • Create new hybrid system – fares by distance and flat fare
  • Fares by distance
  • Fares by mode
  • Fares 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:

  • Discounts on double fares (GO-TTC)
  • Discounts on double fares (905-TTC)
  • Adjustments to GO’s fare structure
  • Fare policy harmonization

Transport Action Ontario agrees with this incremental approach to removing obvious fare irritants.

Limited progress on these strategies has occurred since that time

  • In 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 September.
  • 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.
  • In 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.
  • In 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.

Aug 27

Federal Funding Committed for two Toronto Transit Projects

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

On August 26, 2019, the federal government confirmed more than $1B of funding for two Toronto rapid transit projects – capacity improvements at Bloor-Yonge subway station ($500M) and construction of 6 new Smart Track (ST) stations  ($585M).   The funding comes from the PTIF-2 program which will direct about $4.9B to Toronto transit over the coming 11 years.   For further details on PTIF, check the Transport Action Ontario (TAO) report “Update on Federal Funding Commitments for the GTHA” in May, 2019.  As can be read, the Smart Track funding is not a surprise,  as Prime Minister Harper had previously committed similar funding.

The Bloor-Yonge capacity improvement project is a solid, badly-needed project with little controversy. It will build/modify platforms on both Lines 2 and 1 and add stairs, escalators and elevators.

However, there is considerable strategic uncertainly about the Smart Track stations.  See Figure below.    

The following summarizes key facts on the stations:

  • There is no question that stations at all 6 locations are needed.  TAO’s seminal report in 2013 on “Regional Rapid Rail” recommended new GO stations at all 6 locations.
  • However, changes to the proposed subway network may put the viability of several of the ST stations in question.  The proposed Ontario Line (subway) includes stations near the ST stations at Gerard-Carlaw, East Harbour and King-Liberty.  Similarly, the proposed Line 2 Subway Extension includes a station near the ST station at Lawrence-Kennedy.  These may impact rider demand for these ST stations.
  • There is also uncertainty about the role that Transit Oriented Development will play in station construction.  New provincial policy indicates that developers must contribute to the costs of new stations, in return for development rights.  It is unclear if this stipulation will apply if federal funding is in place, or if there is developer interest in the ST stations.

TAO will continue to track this funding and the projects and advocate for the best use of taxpayer dollars.

Jul 23

Letter to Minister Mulroney – Rail and Bus Transportation Plan for Southwestern Ontario

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Press Releases and Open Letters

Ontario’s Budget 2019 confirmed that the Province is actively exploring opportunities in Southwestern Ontario to enhance passenger train speeds and service levels on existing railway corridors, as well as opportunities for inter-community bus services or other transit solutions that better support the immediate public transportation needs of the region. A transportation plan will be brought forward by fall, 2019.

Transport Action Ontario (TAO) strongly supports this new approach. We have long advocated for High Performance Rail (HPR) – incremental improvement of passenger rail service on existing corridors, plus improved bus feeder service. Various meetings on this topic were held earlier this year by TAO and affiliated organizations with then Transportation Minister Yurek and his staff.

With the appointment of a new Minister, the Hon. Caroline Mulroney, TAO took the opportunity to update her and her staff on our thinking for this upcoming plan. Our letter to the Minister summarized the need for a robust public transportation option, the available technical reports on HPR, the need to include VIA Rail Canada and the Federal Government in the study, and key next steps including specific service scenarios that should be studied.

Our letter to Minister Mulroney can be viewed here:

We also sent the Minister a Policy Briefing prepared by Transport Action Canada on Southwestern Ontario Rail and Bus.

Jun 25

Transport Action Welcomes VIA HFR Announcement

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Press Releases and Open Letters

The following announcement was made today, June 25, 2019, by our parent organization, Transport Action Canada.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Transport Action Canada Welcomes VIA HFR Announcement
Today, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Cynthia Garneau, VIA Rail Canada President and CEOfficer, andPierre Lavallée, Canada Infrastructure Bank President and CEO announced a total of $71.1 million in funding to further explore VIA Rail Canada’s proposal for High Frequency Rail in the Quebec City- Toronto corridor.

Transport Action Canada welcomes the announcement of $71.1 million by the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the Government of Canada to complete diligence work on VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail project.

While we would clearly like to see the High Frequency Rail project move forward as swiftly as possible, we’re very pleased to see that the vital question of ensuring interoperability with REM (Réseau Express Métropolitain) and access to Montreal’s Mount Royal Tunnel is going to be addressed. We are confident that an engineering solution will be relatively straightforward now that the political will to make this work has been confirmed, ensuring that Montreal will enjoy both better transit and enhanced inter city connections.  

Thanks to VIA Rail’s choice of making best use of existing rail corridors and extant rights of way, the project completion risk for High Frequency Rail is much lower than any previous Quebec-Windsor upgrade proposal and many transit projects. We hope this will allow the remaining diligence to be completed swiftly, and for the work to proceed on the first sections of the new route in time for the arrival of the new corridor fleet in 2022.

The largest risk, which we feel the government needs to pay more attention to, is the escalating opportunity cost to Canada of falling further behind the rest of the world on this vital aspect of our transportation infrastructure. Infrequent and inadequate inter city rail service both is a constraint on our domestic economic growth and a deterrent to international investors. 

About Transport Action Canada
Transport Action Canada, founded as Transport 2000 Canada in 1977, is the nation’s leading citizen transportation advocacy group. We are a non-profit, consumer-based organization that promotes through advocacy and education, and represents the interests of consumers or users of public transport services in Canada.

Jun 05

Public Survey on Passenger Rail Restoration in Northeastern Ontario

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Northern Ontario

As summarized in our posting of April 28, 2019, Ontario Northland has been tasked by the provincial government to complete a plan to restore passenger rail service to Northeastern Ontario. Our hard-working affiliate group, the Northeastern Ontario Rail Network, together with the Committee Promoting Muskoka Rail Travel and with the District of Muskoka, have initiated an on-line public survey to gauge citizen interest.

For more information, see the article in “My Muskoka Now” at this link:

https://www.mymuskokanow.com/90313/survey-launched-to-gather-views-on-passenger-rail-restoration/

The survey can also be accessed directly at:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NEORNsurvey

The survey will run until June 30.

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