Archive for April, 2010

Collecting More at the Fare-box

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Without getting into a discussion of what percentage of the cost of operating a transit system should come from the fare-box, I am interested in exploring ways that an operator can increase revenues at the fare-box.

This is not to say that there should not be more funds from the provincial government. In my proposal for a fair system of fare integration, I acknowledge that there will likely be a cost to it that has to come from either some level of government, or from the fare-box. Increasing the take from the fare-box has the nasty side effect of deterring people from using transit.

I do, however, see that an increase in single fares has the least effect of deterring people as it tends to hit the one-off rider. Compare this with the original proposal for the TTC’s recent fare hike that would have added 9.1% to the single fare, but almost 16% to the Metropass user. In the end, the Metropass went up by only 11% while the single fare rose by 9.1%. This is still disgraceful, as the frequent rider should never experience an increase higher than the casual rider.

Granted, the percentage of casual riders is low, so a greater increase for them does not amount to a whole lot of cash across the board. That said, are there other ways besides simply increasing the basic single fare to collect a little more, at least from the casual rider?

One of the pillars of my proposal is to have time-based fares, where a single fare (cash, ticket, or token) is essentially purchasing transit use for a specified time, instead of an A to Z travel path. In a sense, single fares would be a 2-hour pass. Within the GTA, only the TTC, Durham Transit, and GO Transit do not have time based single fares. The TTC takes the stand that they would lose too much fare-box revenue if they moved to a time-based system, but when looked at closely, their own studies show a loss of about $15 million annually. Not pocket change, but in the big picture of the TTC’s annual budget, this is not an amount that will bring the system to its knees.

When York Region Transit switched from trip-based to time-based transfers a month before VIVA was launched in 2005, they made another change in their fare structure: the single cash fare. Also used in Brampton and Mississauga, this is where anyone paying cash pays the same as anyone else paying cash. No children’s fare, no student’s fare, and no senior’s fare. Just the adult cash fare. If one wants a discount (often referred to as a ‘concession’ fare with other transit agencies), one must purchase tickets or a pass. Discounts should only be a benefit for those that are more than a casual user. As a side benefit to the transit agency, a single cash fare facilitates getting an accurate ridership count.

I was inspired to write this when I came across another possibility while checking the current fares in Calgary for an upcoming trip. Calgary Transit charges an adult fare for dogs (service dogs are exempt). While I might be tempted to charge an extra fare for someone carrying something that takes up a person’s space like a tuba, many bags, or (dare I say it) a backpack, it sort of makes sense on one level to charge for a dog that is not a requirement. I suspect that this would open an argument about other pets and size of pet (smuggling of purse-fitting dogs), but they somehow manage with this in Calgary.

I am curious about any other ideas out there! Maybe the TTC can find away to make up the $15 million that time-based fares would cost them.

Transit City LRVs To Be Built By Bombardier

Monday, April 12th, 2010

It was announced today by Metrolinx that the option in the TTC’s order for Light Rail Vehicles with Bombardier would  be exercised for the procurement of the Transit City fleet.

Here is the press release:

Metrolinx will be entering into formal negotiations with Bombardier Inc. to exercise the option from the replacement streetcar contract to purchase Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs).

The negotiations with Bombardier to procure LRVs are part of Metrolinx’s phased plan which is being developed for the four Light Rail Transit (LRT) projects as requested by the Province.

In June, 2009, following an open competitive procurement process, Bombardier was awarded the original contract to produce vehicles for TTC’s legacy streetcar replacement. This contract contains an option clause that provides Metrolinx with the ability to purchase additional LRVs from Bombardier for the four LRT projects.

Over the past six months, Metrolinx, with the assistance of the TTC and the international transit car expert LTK Engineering Services, evaluated its procurement alternatives. Metrolinx, with the unanimous support of its Board of Directors, concluded that entering the negotiation to exercise the option would obtain the best value for Ontario.

If the negotiations are successful, Metrolinx will announce the details of the procurement when an agreement is reached.

This announcement conveniently mentions that it is for four LRT projects under its new phased plan. This suggests that none of the four lines (Sheppard East, SRT conversion, Etobicoke-Finch West, and Eglinton-Crosstown) have been cancelled, just merely had their implementation schedules stretched out.

Notice of Commencement: SRT Transit Project Assessment Study

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

The City of Toronto and the TTC will be two open houses where you can learn more about the conversion to LRT and extension of the SRT. You can read the official notice here.

Both will be held from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm. The dates and locations are as  follows:

  • April 12, 2010 - Jean Vanier CSS, 959 Midland Avenue (north of Eglinton)
  • April 15, 2010 - Chinese Cultural Centre, 5183 Sheppard Avenue East, (at Progress)

I will not be in town that week, but will post display materials when they become available. If anyone who attends has any comments or even photos from either open house, feel free to forward them to me and I can post them.