Archive for August, 2011

Small Regular Fare Increases

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

In a posting last week, Steve Munro opines that, “the TTC is hurt by the absence of small, regular fare increases to cover, at least in part, its increasing costs.”

I agree that fares should at least increase with inflation. Small increases have little to no effect on ridership, but holding fares the same puts more pressure on those fares as costs rise and eventually a nasty jump in fares is needed that has a drastic effect on ridership.

In yesterday’s Toronto Star, columnist Heather Mallick speaks against this idea claiming a hike is like “poison for the poor”.

Mallick must not be a frequent user of the TTC, as she tries to make the case that the working poor are paying the $3 cash fare to get to and from work each day instead of purchasing 10 tokens for $25 once per week. She claims that coming up with $25 to purchase tokens ten at a time can be a hardship for the working poor, but this is really a personal planning issue. She claims that a 10 cent fare increase adds up to a dollar per week that the working poor don’t have, while making the claim that the poor must be already spending $5 per week by paying cash fares.

I say she must not be a frequent user of the TTC because, unlike other GTHA transit agencies, the TTC does not make its riders purchase TEN tokens in order to be able to get on board for $2.50 instead of $3.00. Every location where tokens are sold will sell five for $12.50. In addition to this, some subway stations have token machines that will sell you 4 for $10 or 8 for $20. Granted, these machines do not accept five dollar bills, but many stations will sell you tokens in 4 and 8 quantities from the collector booth, even though those quantities do not appear on the “official” fare chart. I know from personal experience that tokens are sold in 4 and 8 in addition to 5 and 10 quantities at Don Mills station. The collector booth has a hand-written sign indicating the 4 for $10 and 8 for $20 availability.

Is purchasing $10 of tokens every two days that much of a hardship for someone needing to carry $6 each day?

Incidently, for those using a transit agency other than the TTC that now accepts Presto, it is now easy to add $10 to the card balance at a time online, instead of having to go out and purchase 10 tickets at a time.

Mallick also holds the point of view that transit should be free because it has a social value. I agree that it has a social value, but is that a reason for it to be free? I argue that things that are ‘free’ (meaning that you don’t pay as you use it, but through general taxes) are too easily taken for granted. So much so, that when budgets are tough, cuts are made far too easily by those in charge and the public does not get mobilized against those cuts until it is too late. When the public must pay something for a service, there is an inherent interest in making sure it continues. When cuts are being considered, well before they are a done deal and often when they are just trial balloons, people get motivated and take action. How much of the cost should be paid by the user versus covered by general taxes is a whole other debate, but zero fares leads to zero concern for preservation of service.

What Ford Says, Goes: Frank Klees

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

This morning on CBC Radio 1’s Metro Morning, the question of what each party will do about transit was asked of Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne, the NDP urban transportation critic Cheri DiNovo, and the Conservatives’ transportation critic Frank Klees.

Wynne highlighted the 8 billion committed to the Eglinton Scarborough Crosstown line that Ford wants entirely underground. DiNovo was pushing the idea that Transit City was fatally wounded by McGuinty cutting funding well before Ford arrived and dealt the final wound, which Wynne argued did not involve any cut, just a cash flow delay.

When first asked, Klees was rather vague indicating that his part was committing $35 billion to transit and transportation without getting into any specifics for Toronto. When to state what their party would like to make as a priority for transit in the city, Klees said, “We will respect the decision that they made when they elected Rob Ford as mayor on his platform.” He went on to say, “We want to take the lead from the city of Toronto, from the leadership of Toronto, work with them, work with their priorities, and ensure that we work together in partnership to deliver an efficient and effective transit system.”

Never mind that Ford’s platform was only to cut gravy. His transit plan was conceived and presented in an amatuer YouTube video released late at night, while every single appearance and interview he did always had him direct the discussion to the “Gravy Train”. Sure, there were plenty of voters along Sheppard Avenue East who picked up on his plan to extend the Sheppard subway and said, “Yea, I want that for sure!” Trouble is, only a small number of them live west of Kennedy Road which is where the subway’s alignment would depart from Sheppard. Everyone east of Kennedy bought into a Sheppard subway just like one woman who was interviewed during the election who looked forward to not having to wait for a bus at McCowan and Sheppard. She’ll have a better chance catching a flying pig.

The full interview can be heard here.

On a related note (Ford’s fixation on the Sheppard subway), Chris Selly has a good article in Posted Toronto.

Presto and Those Other RFID Cards

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

August 16 update: Rhonda DeBaeremaeker, YRT Customer Service Coordinator responded with the following, confirming the problem:

This issue was recently identified by staff and a memo has been distributed to all Operators informing them a defect has been identified with the Driver’s Control Unit which occurs when the customer has their card in their wallet.  Certain other credit/debit cards are affecting the Presto card.  The cards work properly on the BRT FTP (devices at Viva stops) and on the BFTP (device they tap on the bus) but for some reason the driver will see a “READ ERROR” in red on their display, when there is interference from another card.  The drivers have been instructed to request the customer to take their card out of their wallet and tap again.  This should result in “Already Tapped” message to the customer and “Antipass Back” message to the driver.  If this message comes up, then the 1st tap was a successful transaction. 

The original post continues after the break. 

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Presto Comes to YRT

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

August 13 update: There will be additional events to be held in the coming week. They will be at Richmond Hill Centre Terminal Tuesday August 16 and Wednesday August 17 from 1:00 pm to 6:30 pm. They will be at Finch GO Bus Terminal on Thursday August 18 from 1:00 pm to 6:30 pm, and again on Saturday August 20 from 11 am to 5:30 pm.

Correction to Autoload details: The threshold for triggering Autoload may be set between $20 and $60. The amount of the Autoload may be set between $20 and $1000. 

July 28 update: After a Presto card is registered, it may be used immediately. In order for it to be fully activated, one must either “tap in” or perform a balance query at a Presto terminal after 24 hours. This amount of time is necessary for the registration information to propagate to all terminals in the system in order for it to be delivered to your card. If you want to log into your card’s account online, you will need to wait another 24 hours from your first post-24-hour tap before that can take place.

YRT rolled out Presto on its buses and VIVA service on July 18. Over the past week, they have held events at Finch Station and Richmond Hill Centre to provide up to 5000 cards with the $6 issuance fee waived. For the price of $19 (cash only) you will get a card with a $19 balance on it and it will be registered on site. They are registering the cards  I had the opportunity to stop by Richmond Hill Centre to get a card and ask a few questions. Before getting into the technical details, let me say that the staff was very friendly and helpful, in particular Lori Bowers, YRT’s Public Relations Coordinator.

Currently on YRT, only the ticket fare is implemented. This means that when you “tap on” when boarding a bus or at a Vivastation, $2.60 will be deducted from your balance. They are working on implementing a monthly pass cap, but until that is in place they are recommending that people who are pass users continue with the pass. Despite this, if you use it for at least 32 fares in a single month from a single service provider, it is possible to get a receipt that may be used when filing your income tax return to get the transit tax credit.

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What a Waste

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Update at 11:26 am on August 11: Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne just stated on Newstalk 1010 that this is an unnecessary expense. She has cancelled it and has ordered the TTC to withdraw the ads seeking the consultant. 

 I have a problem when the focus is on subway construction when capacity needs are sufficiently met for the foreseeable future by LRT, but even LRT can have its costly waste.

It was reported in yesterday’s Star that the TTC is seeking a qualified consultant to choose art for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line. I have great concerns about spending any money on a frill such as this, but just wait to hear what they are spending: the two-year consultant contract pays $420,000. That is just for the consulting work, and does not include what will be spent on actually purchasing and installing any art work.

It makes me wonder if the space for artwork wouldn’t be better used for advertising. I know there are those who are opposed to being inundated with ads everywhere, but is being inundated with what someone else feels as artistic any better? At least advertisements don’t cost us to put up and actually bring in an ongoing stream of revenue. Perhaps there could be a special contract that requires advertisements to somehow be artistic. I’m sure there are a few ad agencies that would jump at the chance to get in on that, and instead of us forking out a few million dollars (which I am speculating will be the total cost of consultant and chosen art), it costs nothing up front and we get a permanent revenue stream.

I would be willing to take that contract for half its amount, but even that is a waste.