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Monday, December 22, 2014

In its review of regional service and fares, Metrolinx really needs to take the covers off of its fare model so that we can understand how it works, or if it even works at all

At its recent meeting, the Metrolinx Board approved a GO Transit fare increase taking effect February 1, 2015.

A separate, but important topic, and one noticeably absent from the meeting agenda, is the question of regional fare integration. Another related matter is the relative roles of GO as a regional operator and the TTC as a local one to accommodate demand to the core area. The hybrid SmartTrack proposal is a bit of both — a GO Transit corridor running with station spacings more like a subway in spots, but at TTC fares.

The problem has always been that GO simply does not regard itself, or at least not until quite recently, as having a role as part of a unified network. Critically, the fare structure is rigged against short distance trips, and this has been getting progressively worse for a decade.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Ridership keeps going up, it went up again. We expect 68 million boardings this year and last year it was 66 million. So it keeps going up and we have to meet those demands," Anne Marie Aikins, a Metrolinx spokesperson said in an interview Tuesday.

This is totally at odds with common sense. If ridership is up, then revenue from fares is also up without any fare increases. Meanwhile, I can't see how costs increase. It's not like they add additional CSAs when trains are fuller. Moreover, gas prices have tanked so they'll see massive savings in the short term from that.

Tyson Moore said...

The question you have to ask is "why is ridership up?". GO has been adding service constantly for the past few years (whether it's increased bus service, 30 minute Lakeshore service etc.), and that has pushed ridership up. As was mentioned in the board meeting (paraphrasing) "any new capacity we add gets taken up immediately".

So yes, fare revenue increases when service is added, but so do costs. Public transit isn't profitable; adding additional service costs money. That said, we can get closer to break-even by increasing fares, which will also allow for more future service expansion. I don't think I've phrased this very well, and I'm not lauding fare increases, but I see why they're necessary.

As for the gas savings, GO likely won't see any price relief in the short term. Public transit agencies sign contracts with fuel suppliers that lock in a rate for a period of time; it's doubtful that the rates will change until the contract is re-negotiated.