In a little less than a year, Metrolinx will unveil a new plan which promises to revolutionize transit in the Toronto region.
I’m not talking about a new subway plan, shiny new vehicles or even some much-needed sustainable funding. But if fare integration succeeds in dismantling existing barriers for taking transit - such as the need to pay an additional cost when crossing from the 905 into the 416 - the payoff for Toronto riders in particular could be quite sweet.
Of course, details on the various charging models under study by Metrolinx - zones, by distance, some hybrid of both - need more than a little firming up.
After committing to have at least a framework for a policy unveiled by last fall, Metrolinx now says it needs until the end of 2017 to make a firm recommendation for how to proceed. Well ahead of then, riders will hopefully get a clear sense how the agency intends to proceed.
While a change in how fares are calculated would affect all transit operators throughout the region, it’s safe to say the impact would disproportionately affect Toronto, rather than, say, Orangeville.
TTC riders, after all, can travel from one end of North America’s fourth largest transit network to the other for the same flat fare. Will such a structure continue to exist in light of a new fare arrangement? Will riders from Scarborough or Etobicoke, as an example, face higher fares calculated under a GO Transit-style distance scheme for the same trip downtown? Conversely, will taking short trips cost much less than they do today?
Then there’s the question of jurisdiction. Would Toronto readily accept a new fare structure which costs more for its riders, or cuts into existing revenue streams to provide discounted trips? It’s hard to see how the TTC, which liquidates savings accounts just to trim budget deficits, could accept such an arrangement without some compensation.
There are many questions Metrolinx still needs to answer about fare integration. Such a plan could well prove a revolution for transit, but first we need more details.