As expected, a GO Transit fare hike was approved by the Metrolinx board at a meeting Wednesday, Dec. 5, morning, which will see fares rise by an average of 31 cents per ride.
The fare hike is scheduled to take effect Feb. 1.
The increase approved by the board will result in fares rising by approximately five per cent with longer trips costing more. The increase comes in three tiers: fares under $5.80 will cost 35 cents more; there will be a 45 cent rise for rides costing between $5.81 and $7.35; trips currently costing more than $7.35 will receive an increase of 55 cents.
Metrolinx chief executive officer Bruce McCuaig said fare increases are necessary for improving service and recommended similar increases every year.
“By doing it on an annual basis you can avoid building up to a larger fare increase,” McCuaig told reporters following the two hour meeting at Metrolinx’s downtown offices.
“We think it’s the best practice to improve services and identify costs.”
He said Metrolinx will net around $18-million from the revenue raise this year if the level of subsidy the transit planning agency receives from the provincial government remains the same. Future fare hikes would be determined by existing levels of service, fare revenue, government subsidy and monies generated independent of the fare box.
The price difference between paper tickets and fares paid via Presto will also increase, said Metrolinx chief financial officer Robert Siddall, to encourage more migration to the re-fillable card that approximately 400,000 riders and the majority of GO customers have already adopted.
Siddall said the cost for using Presto will also rise, although cash fares will still be higher due to loyalty discounts provided by GO.
Riders who “tap on” using Presto will pay nearly nine per cent less for the same trip paid in cash.
The regular board meeting was Metrolinx’s last of the year, and board members also heard presentations on various projects under construction including the Union Pearson Express, which will become the city’s first rapid transit link to the airport when it’s completed in 2015.
The board watched a video where Torontonians extolled the benefits of having a fixed link that will provide 25 minute trips between Pearson International Airport and Union Station.
The project has proven unpopular for some west-end residents groups including the Clean Train Coalition for the decision to run diesel trains along the link before eventually converting the line to environmentally friendlier electric.
But, air rail link president Kathy Haley said 88 per cent of Torontonians support the idea of rapid transit connection from downtown to the airport. She said station designs for the new service have been completed with construction at Pearson’s Terminal One stop scheduled to begin in spring of next year.
McCuaig said the final decision on fares for UP Express remain a long way from being determined, targeting the latter half of 2014 as a potential date for an announcement.
“We’re continuing to update and monitor out ridership forecasts as reaching out to potential partners for commercial arrangements such hotels and the airlines,” he said.
The board also endorsed plans to arrange public consultations on updating its Big Move transportation plan.
Twelve public meetings are expected to be scheduled throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area between December and early February.
The next Metrolinx board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 14 when the board is expected to approve the updated plan, which includes $34-billion in proposals including a downtown relief subway line and launching an all day 2-way GO train service.