Metrolinx has announced its initial views about how public transit fares should work on journeys that cross regional boundaries in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. At present, passengers on those journeys may end up paying twice, using different systems or passes for a single journey. Metrolinx’s long-term goal is that passengers will pay a single fare via a single fare collection system for transit journeys across the GTHA.

The Presto card, now in use on transit systems across the GHTA and which is targeted to be fully installed by the end of 2016 across the TTC—replacing tokens and tickets—is an important first step as a technical means for collecting fares regionally and flexibly, but Metrolinx has to negotiate how fares will be set and revenue split between itself and the region’s transit agencies, a process that it expects may take a decade.

TTC is to adopt Presto fully by the end of 2016

There are already areas where there will be pressure to act sooner, for example when the TTC’s Spadina subway extension to York University crosses the Toronto-York boundary in 2017. And tensions over the impact of fare integration on agency budgets are already apparent: the TTC’s board voted on September 28th that it will not accept any scheme which would involve it subsidising other transit agencies. Metrolinx is already participating in decision-making over fares; it will be working with City of Toronto staff on their upcoming Policy Framework for Toronto Transit Fare Equity.

Fares of regional buses meeting GO trains are already partially integrated

Some pricing options have already been excluded from further consideration. At a Metrolinx board meeting on September 22nd, Leslie Woo, Metrolinx’s Chief Planning Officer, reported that a flat fare for travel across the GTHA or charging the same fare for a given journey regardless of the kind of public transport used (eg train or bus) would "overprice some services and underprice others”. Transit critic Steve Munro is already suggesting that this might in time undermine the TTC’s flat fare policy, “would voters and politicians be so quick to cry for subways-subways-subways if they knew a fare increase came with their new line?”

Metrolinx has concluded flat fares should only be considered for local journeys, while pricing by journey distance would be most suitable for longer distances. Pricing journeys by the time taken was also ruled out because they would make the cost of journeys unpredictable. Metrolinx’ chair, Robert Pritchard, told reporters after the meeting that he expected some “clear directions and conclusions” about fare integration over the next 6-18 months.

Metrolinx distance-based fare plan diagram

Public consultations will take place later this year, with a report to the Metrolinx board of directors following in Spring 2016. Meanwhile, if you have views about Metrolinx’s latest recommendations, please comment below and there is a very active discussion on the UrbanToronto Forum here.