Following our introductory article which outlined the four options that Metrolinx is considering for transit fare integration in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), Part 2 of the series takes a more in-depth look at Option 1: a Modified Status Quo. Pretty much what the name implies, this option is a series of minor, incremental changes to the existing fare structure—or more accurately, the agglomeration of fare structures.

Fare integration options, with Options 1 & 1B highlightedFare integration options, with Options 1 & 1B highlighted, image courtesy of Metrolinx

In order to properly analyze this option, we need to look at the components of what is being evaluated. For the purposes of Metrolinx's analysis, it assumes that there are three types of transit in the GTHA: local transit, rapid transit, and regional transit.

  • Local transit is defined as being conventional buses or streetcars, with stop spacing generally less than 750 m, and a low average speed of between 10 and 20 km/h. 
  • Rapid transit is defined as being Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT), or Subway, with stop spacing every 500 m to 2 km, and a medium average speed of between 20 and 45 km/h. 
  • Regional transit is defined as being GO trains and highway coaches, with stop spacing greater than 2 km, and a high average speed in excess of 45 km/h.

To evaluate the Modified Status Quo option, we have to first look at what is being modified, which means examining what's out there now. Under the current model, each transit service provider sets their own fares, with most being set as a single flat fare, regardless of the distance travelled on the system. The only exceptions to this are GO Transit, which uses a fare zone model, and York Region, which uses a simplified 3-zone fare model. However, most trips in York Region stay within one fare zone, while most trips on GO Transit do not.

The end result of the status quo is that for short and medium distance trips, GO Transit is a more expensive option, as GO's base fare (the amount charged for any trip regardless of distance travelled) is $5.30, significantly higher than any municipal transit agency's rate, which is generally in the $3 range. This is a fairly large deterrent to transit users taking GO for short-distance trips, even if that GO route would be far more convenient. A prime example of this is Liberty Village, where many transit users heading downtown opt to take the less expensive yet far slower King Streetcar, as opposed to the significantly faster yet more expensive Lakeshore West line from Exhibition Station.

GO/TTC Pilot Project Metropass stickerGO/TTC Pilot Project Metropass sticker, image courtesy CTV News

GO and the TTC have attempted to solve this issue, albeit haphazardly. They have created a Metropass sticker which can be purchased for a $60.00/month which would allow that Metropass holder to board a GO Transit vehicle for trips between Danforth, Union, and Exhibition stations. However, the program has seen poor ridership results. This is mainly due to the fact that the program does not effectively address the need. While it does make GO marginally less expensive to use, there is still a fairly significant premium attached to that option compared to taking only the TTC. It is exactly this situation that the Modified Status Quo option is addressing.

The Modified Status Quo would bring the regional transit (i.e. GO Transit) base fare down significantly closer to what the local transit fare is. This would mean that for short and medium distance trips, taking GO would be approximately the same cost as taking the municipal transit system. Going back to our Liberty Village example, this setup would allow a resident of Liberty Village to choose whichever option is more convenient for them to get to their destination, be it GO or TTC. For those heading downtown, the choice between taking the King Streetcar or the Lakeshore West GO line would not be based on cost, but instead be based on schedule, comfort, and proximity to the final destination.

 Modified Status Quo, showing a reduced regional transit base fareOption 1: Modified Status Quo, showing a reduced regional transit base fare, image courtesy of Metrolinx

Another issue that the Modified Status Quo addresses is it implements a consistent inter-agency transfer policy region-wide. While most 905-area transit agencies have a transfer policy with each other and with GO Transit, the TTC requires the payment of a full fare when transferring from a neighbouring system. While in all likelihood some kind of partial additional fare would be required when transferring between agencies, the Modified Status Quo option would ensure that the same rule is applied consistently, creating a far simpler situation for passengers whose trips involve multiple agencies.

Take for example a passenger who gets on a MiWay express bus at Dundas & Hurontario, and transfers to the TTC at Islington Station. Under the current fare structure, that passenger would be charged $6.00 total ($3.00 for MiWay, and $3.00 for TTC, assuming Presto was used for both payments). Under the Modified Status Quo fare structure, they would pay $3.00 for the MiWay fare as they do today, but their transfer to the TTC would either be free, or would be a nominal co-fare. Free transfers exist between systems like Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) and Burlington Transit, while co-fares exist between GO Transit and many local transit agencies, and are generally below $1. For example, the co-fare between GO and Oakville Transit or GO and Durham Region Transit (DRT) is 75¢. Regardless of which option is chosen when it comes to transferring to and from the TTC, it would result in a significant cost savings over the status quo.

One new item introduced at the February 17th Metrolinx Board Meeting is "Option 1B", which replaces the flat fare for rapid transit with a fare by distance concept. In Option 1, the local and rapid transit categories have the same fares, while regional transit operates independently. In Option 1B, the regional and rapid transit categories have a much more similar configuration, while local transit operates independently. The details of fare by distance will be covered more extensively later on in the fare integration series.

For many people, the Modified Status Quo option is considered to be the bare minimum that should come as a result of the fare integration negotiation process between Metrolinx and the region's transit agencies. It does next to nothing in the way of true regional integration, but rather simply makes it marginally easier to transfer from one transit fiefdom to the next, maintaining the highly siloed transit structure of the GTHA. It will likely be the fall-back option if the negotiations for more comprehensive reform fail to yield a meaningful consensus.

The next article in the fare integration series will examine Option 2: Fare by Zone and Option 3: Hybrid. If you would like to join the discussion on fare integration, you can do so in our forum thread, or in the comments section below.