Monday, July 28, 2014

Zoned fares work for GO Transit, but setting Toronto transit fares according to distance would force the riders who travel farthest and have fewest choices to pay the most

Yeah, that's a long headline. But it nails it.

I have friends in Oshawa, Courtice, Whitby, Ajax and Bowmanville who find the cost of GO Transit expensive. I, myself, pay on average $315 monthly (from Oshawa with PRESTO discount factored in). Many of my friends have said it would be nice if GO was a flat rate like the TTC, so this story works both ways, right? Two friends quit their jobs and took positions at companies in town for far less salary but wound up taking home the same pay since they were just working to pay for GO fare.

TTC puts distance-based fares in no-go zone

GO does it. So does York Region Transit. Why doesn’t the TTC charge riders according to how far they travel?
Among the suggestions offered up in the Toronto Star’s Big Ideas series is the idea of zoned TTC fares that some readers see as an equitable source of badly needed TTC revenue. The roll-out of the Presto electronic fare card over the next five years makes it more technologically feasible.
But the people who would pay the most would be those who live farthest from downtown. Many of those neighbourhoods have high concentrations of low-income residents and fewer transit choices than other parts of the city, said Chris Upfold, the TTC’s chief customer service officer.

More on the Toronto Star website


Devon said...

I guess it all boils down to the lifestyle you want, and the convenience of what you are willing to pay for.

I'm recently faced with the possibility of leaving the city, but am nervous about it for the following reasons:

Living in the city for $700.00 a month in rent and paying $117.00 through work for a metropass seems more feesible to me than it does to embrace the possiblity of owning property outside of the city.

After work with that $117.00 metropass I have the option of going to the myriad of things that city living has to offer whether it's theater, going to see a live band, movies, pubs, doing groceries whatever.

If I lived in some place outside of Toronto, it would be $300.00 for a GO pass, plus insurance and car payments. Essentially it would be my rent in transportation fees, plus gas.

It has been a bit of a pain in the ass to move around in the city with the TTC being the way it is. But I guess as most of the stuff I love to do is in the city, I would rather have the easy access to what the city has to offer, than make it this long winded task to get to the city by GO Train.

Plus, I have an immense respect but am constantly trying to comprehend how you GO faithfuls do that commute every day. An hour and a half to two hours every day? That's three to four hours per day if you count both ways. How do y'all do it?

I'm just curious did most of you GO commuters previously live in the city and now live outside of the city?

How was the transition for you?

Do you still visit the city often outside of work or no?

Am curious to know

Jules said...

Devon I have been struggling with moving back into the city for the very reasons you point out.
I am in the east end and did live downtown for about 8 years. I moved because I got tired of the noise and wanted to live in the burbs. There are times I regret it, the transition was hard to get used to but I loved the neighborhood versus highrises. I work downtown and commuting as a single parent is tiring. I rarely visit outside of work, much to my teenage daughters shagrin (she would be so happy if she could live downtown) I did the calculations and couldn't survive on the pay difference to find a job in Durham. I am blessed with a great job in Toronto so I do occasionally debate moving back into the city, reluctantly.

George said...

My commute is 30 minutes each way. I hate the dirty, noisy and (sometimes) smelly city with a passion these days.
If the city could be arsed to actually have crews collect garbage, enforce existing bylaws, actually try to relieve congestion rather than just talking about it and stop pandering to the homeless to the degree they are now, I'd consider moving back. But since prices there are millions for a closet (an exaggeration of course) that means I am never going back.
I prefer the quiet streets of where I live to the streets of Toronto. I like to sit in my spacious back yard or play with the dogs in that yard to sitting on a postage-stamp sized balcony watching what's going on below.
I prefer to step out my front door and have a chat with my neighbours rather than stay cooped up in an overpriced and tiny condo box or taking an elevator just to go outside for some not-so-fresh air in the city.

Now don't start with the "all the city has to offer" comparisons because I have them where I live also. No need to go downtown at all except for very special occasions.
That's my personal opinion of course YMMV.

C.J. Smith said...

I know others will be happy to share their stories. I'm eager to hear them as well!

I know my bio gives away nothing.

I used to drive two hours to work and two and a half hours home from work 5 times a week and did that for just over five years. It nearly ended my marriage. For real.

Long story short. I grew up in Toronto at Jane and Bloor and lived in other parts of Toronto until the age of 26. I always worked outside of the city. So when I wound up in a well-paying job in Richmond Hill, I decided to make my home in Markham.

Then I met my husband who eventually got a job in Oshawa. Eventually we decided to move to Oshawa as the house prices were incredibly affordable (2001) and we could get a much larger home for less money than what we could in Markham.

I continued to commute to Richmond Hill. After my daughter was born, I brokered a deal with my employer to work from home. Eventually I was phased out of my position (2008). Jobless, and with no desire to drive anywhere to work, I decided to bite the bullet and look for jobs accessible by GO train.

I am MUCH BETTER off for this psychologically. The train is my ME time and I love it. I blog, I write, I watch movies. It's not bad.

The downside is moving so far from the city killed a lot of friendships but some of my closest friends I have now are neighbors and people I have met commuting.

As for arts and entertainment, yeah, nothing beats Toronto for sure and its many strips of stores, boutique neighbourhoods, cool scenes, plethora of food and booze and a kick ass theatre district but each of the communities out near me have their pleasant surprises but yes, a car *is* needed. I myself do not have a car but my husband has a car so this helps, but I am confident I could manage without one at all. You just have to plan well and have good connections, a bus pass and money for a cab in extreme cases.

I definitely don't come into the city very much other to see family and for work but I keep my Friday nights available for friends who want to hang out downtown. On the Lakeshore East we have half hour trains which makes staying downtown more appealing as you don't have to take a late bus (milk run) home or wait an hour between trains.

Squiggles said...

@ Devon:

I lived in the city before moving east. I wanted a house and couldn't find anything in my price range in the city. I was already taking GO from Oriole Station after the TTC brought in the pay parking lot.

As bad as it sounds, my commute is actually shorter from Ajax than it was when I was taking the TTC (based on timing, the Oriole Station commute time was about the same).

For fun times when I was in the city, I always did a mix of car + TTC, as there really wasn't reliable service in the area I lived in, so that transition wasn't that bad.

Presently, I work around my own schedule and my friend's schedules. Mostly, things are arranged for when I am already in the city - so dinners, coffee, etc. Otherwise, I suck it up and come in via the train for a whole day. It isn't worth it to go into the city for a couple hours on a Saturday.

Basically, it all boils down to what you want and what you are willing to do. All situations have a different outcome for different people. A pro/con list (even including financials) is probably the best way to go in trying to make your decision.

As for TTC and zoned fares: they should still do this when PRESTO is fully installed. There might be a way to do a means test, so those on ODSP (or whatever it is called), are blind, etc have a discounted rate.

Like the province, the TTC is broke. Something needs to be done about that. No one should be able to go from Scarborough to the airport for $3.

Anonymous said...

Will you be relaxing your 25 comment limit on this post because you know, you are asking here.....

KM said...

I moved to Mississauga about a year ago and the transition hasn't been easy but there are definitely things I prefer over TTC! Mississauga transit has Presto fully integrated along with Brampton transit, they also have it so you can transfer for FREE between the 2 systems! Not to mention, Mississauga Transit also allows for a 2 hour stop over period. Which makes that quick trip to the store just a little too far away to walk, a lot more affordable! I'd like more frequent service on weekends but that will come as my area grows and the demand grows. It just encourages me to walk or bike more often!

I also make sure I make plans when I have to go into Toronto for a full day. Days I have classes downtown or an appointment I'll make plans with friends. My friends haven't adjusted nearly as well as me... they make many excuses not to come and visit because it takes them too long on the route that is the cheapest!

As for zoning, after staying in the Netherlands for 2 months I fell in love with the transit system! I could pay just over a Euro to go to the city centre and shop all day. Or go somewhere quickly and hop back on for 0.45 within an hour. It works! Not to mention their (registered) cards work across the country even for the long distance trains.

I hope when TTC has Presto fully integrated they take a look around them at what the other transit systems are doing...

C.J. Smith said...

I think 20 personal experiences would be more than enough, let alone 25.

Bicky said...

I've lived in Durham Region since 1987. I've been riding the GO Train for 23 years. Yes, that sounds crazy but I have a nice townhome with a small backyard, which I do not have to mow.

Would I like to live closer to my job? Hells yeah. Do I want to live in a 500 sq ft shoebox downtown? Hells no!

While the commute has been trying some days, for the most part it's uneventful. I treat the GO ride as my time. I read, listen to music, or watch the world go by.

Everyone has to decide what's best for them. Some prefer the city, some prefer the suburbs.

Mark said...

I used to live in Mimico, right on the lake and right on the King/Queen street car line. We moved here from Montreal and the transit situation was appealing to avoid driving and give my wife some flexibility in finding a job.

Eventually I found out the Mimico GO Station and the fact based on the zone that for an additional $20 a month my commute when from 45-65 minutes per leg to 15 minutes. It was an easy choice.

We would have stayed in Mimico, but the housing costs were too expensive so we eventually settled up in Waterdown near the Aldershot GO Station. Even with the hefty monthly charges to use the GO, it still ends up being cheaper when you factor in all the costs of living in Toronto including the real estate one.

There is no easy answer as to whether or not transit systems should move to a zoned fare system or stay with a one size fits all. There are very good arguments for both.

I do not think a GO model would work on the TTC. You would open yourself up to charges of favourtism and conflict of interest by saying living in AREA A would be cheaper than B. Also, in those areas where the more expensive fares were put into place you would suddenly open yourself up to competition from GO which would impact your bottom line. An example of this would be Kipling which has both a GO Stop and Subway. At $3.00 downtown vs. $5.20 for the faster GO Train, you give more cost conscious consumers a cheaper option. In a tiered fare zone, Kipling (would likely be a more expensive TTC zone) you'd push that cost closer to GO Train fare and you would very likely lose revenue from people opting to take the GO.

The GO on the other hand would suffer going with a zone free system. The sheer size of the system distance wise makes it different than Toronto. To have people going to Exhibition paying the same as people going to Hamilton or Barrie would ensure the system was cash strapped. It would mean less and more crowded trains.

You really can't compare a regional transportation system with a city one. What fare arrangement works for one won't work for another.

Personally I'd love it if the GO was cheaper, but when I crunch the numbers, even at $340 per month the GO Train is still a better option than my car. And as they add services, do track and station improvements I see those fares being put back into the system. I can gripe, but the GO now vs. the GO when I started taking it when I moved back to Ontario in 2005 is a wholly different experience, and for the better.

April said...

I grew up in Toronto and lived there until I married my second husband - then we moved out to Oshawa because, at the time, he had a split parenting arrangement with his kids.

Those reasons no longer exist and I have been talking to him about moving back to Toronto.

My oldest daughter is out of the house and living in Toronto, my youngest is making plans to move to Toronto. I would like to be closer to them.

In the 7 years I have been in the 'Shwa I have made no close friends. I find living in the 'burbs to be very, very lonely.

Anywhere we choose to live in Toronto might still take me an hour or more to get to and from work and I don't find I get the same amount of me time on TTC as I do on GO. But the cost savings would be great. Between the two cars, insurance, gas, and GO - I'm poor!

Anonymous said...

I moved into Toronto from Hamilton with my wife and 4 kiddies. Similar to CJ my commute (3 hours a day for 5 years) nearly killed my marriage. Moving downtown was a huge change for me. I always lived in the burbs. I dispute the suggestion that living downtown is more expensive and that all inner city houses are 'shoeboxes'. I ditched my VIA commute (I gave up on the GO after a winter of frozen switches (frozen switches? In Canada? Really?) and the car and now get home 90 minutes earlier. My house is about the quarter of the size of my old one but who needs all that space? I think if you truly look at all the costs of living in the burbs - including lost time and the lack of amenities - then the comparison with living downtown is not so bad. Yes the houses are pricey but there are still pockets of affordable houses if you are prepared to make concessions on space and grittiness (Parkdale ain't so bad!)

As for zone based pricing I think this will be a hard sell for the TTC. The service is very very poor and there is no dispute that people with money to spare would never use it to go a great distance. So, regardless of the obvious economic argument, you would be penalizing the less well off. Transit use is going to increase and it should be encouraged. We should be looking at fare reductions not increases. said...

I lived in Toronto and when I moved to Mississauga to be with my then-boyfriend (now husband), we deliberately rented and then bought a house that was in walking distance to the GO. He had a vehicle already, I didn't. And I couldn't drive his (standard)... so it's doable. You don't have to buy a car. Or an expensive car for that matter. You can get a cheap used vehicle just to get you to the GO station and back if that is an issue. After a few years of still working downtown now I only work near home, Etobicoke is the closest I will go. Don't miss the train one bit! Love driving to work (I'm lucky to have a good drive, not much traffic on the QEW, it gets bad just when I'm getting off). Love living in Oakville now.

Anonymous said...

People need to decide whats worth it. Living close to work thereby no need for a car and having amenities close by, OR living far from work where the car payments is going to eat up a bigger portion of your budget.

Also, TTC has zone fares, its called buses that go north of Steeles.

Unknown said...

I say no. It's confusing and I agree with Upfold. $3/ride is to go anywhere is the appeal.