Timed-Based Transfers for Transit

Time-Based Transfers

Why is the conversion from the current “one continuous trip” to “timed-based” transfers a good idea?  Who benefits from the conversion?
What is the cost to the TTC for the new transfer system?

Currently the TTC operates a transfer system that allows a rider to make a continuous journey in one direction on the paper transfer utilized for decades.  Given the size of Toronto, this is a huge benefit as the scale of the city compared to other large transportation systems would usually use “zone pricing” (which will be another discussion).  It is the system that everyone in Toronto is used to and a system that some may question why it would need to be changed. 

The proposed ‘time-based’ transfer would allow any rider to pay a fare and have the ability to continue a journey for a certain amount of time (currently discussing a 90 minute or 120 minute length).  During that time a rider has the ability to leave the transit system, perform tasks or complete necessary shopping and re-enter the transit system for no additional fee.  An example would be: Leaving work, stopping by the local grocery store to grab a few items, getting back on transit, getting off to grab dry cleaning and then return back onto transit until you are home.  All of that can be done on 1 fare and not multiple fares.

Why wouldn’t a person who needs to do that many extra trips just buy a metropass?  Valid question but is an assumption that everyone who needs to use the transit system can afford the monthly pass.  Another aspect in that argument is that a person may not need to use transit often enough to warrant purchasing a monthly pass.    

There are several important factors when considering the proposed conversion in the transfer system that people may not be aware of. 

The Presto Card is one of the determining factors in the paradigm shift to a time-based transfer.  It is a card that works similar to the “tap and go” feature that a bank card and a credit card have and is good for transit in the GTHA and Ottawa area.  I have used similar cards in other cities around the world and it could be expanded to beyond transit (ie, Octopus Card in Hong Kong).  There are pros and cons of this system but the Presto Card can be a whole debate saved for another day.

The current system can put TTC employees in situations for possible workplace violence while trying to validate a transfer.  I have seen angry riders get onto a streetcar yelling at the driver about how they don’t know anything and to let them on.  No one should have to worry about being assaulted in their workplace.  The time-based transfer will not rely on the hearsay of a rider who may abuse the system for a driver to determine the validity of the transfer.  This also helps riders who may have misplaced their transfer, or ripped their transfer or are questioned by an operator without merit. 

Currently the TTC loses approximately $15 million in lost fares due to abuse of the transfer system.  Converting to the new system could actually capture a portion of that loss and offset the projected loss of $20 million from time-based transfers.  Stating the revenue loss as a valid reason to NOT implement the change is not only disingenuous but a detriment to a proven system in other transit systems.  The greater good may be a bit more but a benefit for all at a mere fraction of the overall budget.

The current system also discourages people from using transit for short trips for the pay per ride expense.  There are several times where I personally would take transit to the grocery store or shops nearby but do I really want to pay $3 each way when I can just get into my car, the answer is no.  The reality is that economic factors pay a huge part in the impact on how people utilize transit.  Not everyone is willing to shop at further locations with better choice if they can purchase closer to home, or even closer to their work and forgoing any economic benefit to their local community.

A timed-based transfer may actually help local businesses prosper by allowing riders to stop and shop without having to pay per ride.  How many times have you been on a streetcar or bus and saw a shop you might have wanted to check out but didn’t want to pay an additional fare?  Is there any merit to this statement?  I would suggest taking the time to go to St. Clair and ask the local businesses there.  This is because the TTC is doing a pilot project on testing a time-based transfer system on the 512 St. Clair route for up to 2 hours.

The full implementation would be easier to view by also checking out the use of Presto in Mississauga – which uses a time-based system.  My wife has taken a bus into Mississauga with her Presto card and got off at the wrong stop.  This is a scary moment when you don’t know where you are and thought she would have to pay to get on again.  She tapped her Presto card when she got back onto a different bus and was not charged, relieving the stress and grateful her mistake didn’t cost her anything.

How will benefit the most from time-based transfers?  The biggest benefit for time-based transfers is for those of lower income and also women.  Lower income residents may not be able to afford metropasses and are also unable to afford a car.  They rely on transit for most of their commute that is not within walking distance and experts on utilizing their transit trips as much as they can.  By allowing the ability to exit and enter the transit system to perform tasks, they receive the same benefit as metropass holders.  How will it benefit women?  Women are more likely to make secondary stops during their trips than men are.  A study at Stanford gives some good information on transit usage.

I do not see any 'cons' that would detract a time-based transfer system from being implemented for Toronto.  A better educational informational structure will need to put together to inform the public.  The timeline may vary and the path may be longer then it should be but it will come and be a benefit to all riders of transit.

I support the change and have added it to one of my policies of my platform.

Thank you,

Peter Fenech
Your Ward 3 Councillor Candidate


Posted on March 29, 2014 .