Sunday, October 15, 2006

GTA Fare Card

The GTA fare card has been in the news lately, as the details of the pilot project are being finalized and a vendor has been selected to provide the service. The services which are part of the pilot project include:
  • Four Mississauga Transit routes, likely to be the four GO shuttle routes (62 - Cooksville Shuttle-Webb, 63 - Cooksville Shuttle-Kaneff, 60 - Meadowvale Shuttle-Crosscurrent and 64 - Meadowvale Shuttle-Montevideo).
  • Three GO Stations, likely to be Union, Cooksville and Meadowvale.
  • One subway station, likely to be Union.
The fare card, in the pilot project, will work like this:
  1. You buy a fare card and put money onto the account attached to the card.
  2. When you board transit, you scan your card. If you're on a flat fare system, like the TTC, it will automatically deduct your fare from your account.
  3. If you're on a fare-by-distance route like GO Transit, you scan your card again as you leave, and it deducts your fare based on your distance travelled.
It seems dead simply. Anyone who's ever used a vending machine and who understands the concept "place your card here until you see a green light/hear the beep" should have no trouble using the fare card. However, the TTC appears to have dug in its heels on the issue, arguing that since the fare system isn't broken, they have no incentive to participate - it would even be a financial burden to them. I beg to differ.

The fare system works, but only if you define "works" as "just gets us by." The TTC fare system, as it stands now, allows you to pay exact change, buy tickets or tokens in bulk, or buy daily, weekly or monthly passes. If you do pay using a single ride fare, then you are issued a transfer as your proof of purchase. While this system is convenient for most people, by moving to a fare card, some wondrous things can occur.
  1. The monthly pass offers the most savings on a per ride basis. One monthly pass is equivalent to 34 cash-fare trips, or 18 round trips. Since there are 22 working days each month (October 2006, anyway), it's like getting four days for free. When you factor in stopovers, the savings quickly add up. But, those who struggle to make ends meet often cannot afford to shell out 99 dollars at the beginning of every month. They are forced to use tickets, which result in spending more every month - money which they need to feed their families. By going to a fare card with built in monthly pass rules (like Burlington, where it's free for the rest of the week after 11 rides), money is saved. If you use less than a monthly, you only pay for what you use. If you use more than a monthly, it's like getting free rides. It takes the guesswork out of figuring out which pass to buy, and it keeps money in the pockets of society's most vulnerable, and allows you to top up every week instead of shelling out an arm and a leg.
  2. Counterfeiters have been taking the TTC for a ride recently. First it was fake tickets, then fake tokens, followed by fake metropasses. It's even people throwing a pile of coins into the farebox - which the collector cannot possibly count - but it really only adding up to 86 cents. By moving to a fare card, it allows printed tickets and tokens to be phased out completely. The upgraded fareboxes needed to read the fare cards will no doubt have coin counters, and if they have transfer printers (which would only be needed for cash fares), transfer disputes would be eliminated - the transfer would clearly say when it expires. The fare card would interface with the reader using secure code, preventing all but the very best hackers from exploiting the vulnerabilities. The money saved by the reduction in fare evasion, which is likely much higher than they report, could mean that a fare hike down the road is averted. Add that to the money saved by not having to print fare media, and you have savings enough to talk about expanding the system.
  3. Have you ever waited in line to show your transfer to the collector or drop a ticket in the farebox, and there is an elderly lady buying tickets, holding up the line? Just go to Union Station on any given morning. The line snakes around the concourse. With a fare card, adding money is done elsewhere, allowing the turnstiles to keep moving. The only holdups will be from people who need directions. Look at how efficient a similar system in Tokyo works. There are no lines being held up, and everyone moves through very quickly:

The TTC, if it really wants to remain the better way, must come to the table and participate in the fare card system and give credit for a good idea when credit is due. I do have faith that they will, no matter what Moscoe says (and he's the one saying it), as his time on the commission is limited. Its not much of a Greater Toronto Transportation Authority if the greatest part, Toronto, leaves a gaping hole in it, but I'm confident that new blood from the new council will make things better. For more information on what I think the GTA fare card should be, check out my website,, and click "Fares and Passes."

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At 10/29/2006 1:25 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings... I remember the fare card project on the Richmond Hill Line, and nobody could figure out how the thing worked. They'll need to do some education sessions with their riders to make sure they all know how it works.

At 11/13/2008 5:49 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless how it works, its still very neat in my eyes. The creativity put behind such an idea had to be somewhat immense of an imagination!
the GTA fare card is comparable the to MTA bus fare card as well. Do some research on the two, quite interesting.



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