Friday, August 19, 2011

Public Transit & Fare Hikes

So... the local public transit commission (the TTC) have been told they cannot hike fares to solve thier budget problems. Public transit supporters (well, some of the more vocal ones... or the more nutso ones, depending on your view point) are saying it's utter madness to disallow moderate, predictable increases when ridership is on an upswing, and that moderate fare increases are preferable to service cuts. Some folks are even saying that it should increase because "you've got to pay a reasonable fare to get good service".

Hmm... To that last group I say... so we've never paid a reasonable fare for the TTC? Because trust me, I've rarely had good service. Indeed there are some areas of the city woefully underserviced, yet any service increases go to routes and areas that don't need them.

Example: On my route from the end of the subway line to my home (about 20 minutes by car... or 30-45 by surface routes of public transit, if I'm lucky), we encounter a route... let's call it 116. Now, the busses of route 116 that we pass are rarely, if ever full... rarely even 'moderately crowded'... and yet, it's not unheard of for us to pass 5 of them in the space of 3 blocks. Seriously, folks. 5 busses on the same route in the space of 3 blocks. And they're the SAME route... not variations... not a 116, a couple of 116As, a 116E and a 116C... they're all just 116's. Madness. Especially when you consider that the route that runs behind my house generally runs one bus every 20 minutes... and another one nearby 1 every 30 minutes. Hmmm.

Here's my thinking for me, personally.

Right now, the TTC cash fare is $3. Using tokens drops it to $2.50... so $25 buys 10 tokens, or enough for 5 days worth of commuting. To purchase a monthly metropass costs either $111 (if you have a year-long subscription) or $121 per month... so more than 4 weeks' worth of tokens by about a week if you're looking at full-price. This, to me, makes no sense. Generally (using GO transit as an example) the more you purchase, the more you save... it encourages more people to purchase monthly, thereby guaranteeing a minimum revenue for the month. It encourages more people to use the system rather than driving. But not for the TTC.

So... it costs me $25 per week to commute, assuming I can get dropped at a subway station and don't need to pay for parking. Throw in parking for 5 days and you're now looking at $50 per week to commute by public transit.

On very rough calculations, it would cost me, personally, about $35 per week to drive to work every day (as I am lucky enough, in spite of working in the downtown core, to have parking provided to me free of charge at work). The time investment is pretty much identical, assuming no service delays on the transit system.

So, right now, with my current transit plan, most weeks it's cheaper for me to take public transit. Barely.

Throw a fare increase into the mix and suddenly it's cheaper for me to drive. Where I don't have to be concerned about the weather at any point in my travels. Where I can get a comfortable seat with nobody invading my personal space, insulting me, leering at me, or taking my picture without my permission. Ok, so I can't read in the car ('cuz, you know, reading and driving don't mix so well, in spite of what buddy I saw on the 401 last weekend thinks), but the other benefits kind of outweigh that. Why in the name of all things holy would I want to take public transit to work? And I highly doubt I'm alone, really.

On the other hand, if prohibiting a fare increase reduces service, then I'm now going to face longer waits (with bad knees), more crowds, more invasion of my personal space, more insults, assaults, creeps, etc. So why would I want to take public transit to work? And again, I highly doubt I'm alone.

They can't win.

But for the sake of the "working poor", I hope to hell they don't increase fares. Or cut services like the afterhours bus routes.

Hey Mr. Ford... you're looking for 'efficiencies'? Take a look at the 116! ;)

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