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.