Metrolinx, the Provincial body in charge of building transit in the GTA, is considering a number of changes on how we pay for transit. This conversation will result in the average trip being more expensive for residents in Downsview.
Metrolinx is doing this, because of budget pressures and because different modes of transit (buses vs. trains) and the distance of each trip (1km vs. 10km) need to be factors in calculating the price of each trip.
Currently, a trip from Downsview to the downtown core, which normally requires a bus and a subway ride, costs the same as a trip from Bay St. and Queen St. to Bay St. and Bloor St. -one bus ride. This means that people in inner suburbs benefit from a system that understands that the distances traveled in the suburbs are greater than they are in the downtown core.
Metrolinx is considering changing this. Their rationale for questioning the current system is that it is not fair to charge the same price for someone that rides a train versus a bus, or takes a short trip versus a long trip. What this misses is that the accountant’s methodology to building transit will create a dysfunctional system.
If we want more people riding transit, we need to figure out a transit system that caters to the needs of riders, not the other way around. Metrolinx seems to be coming to the decision that the riders need to meet the demands of the transit system -they’ve done this before.
Leading up to the PanAm games, Metrolinx built the UP Express from Union Station to Pearson International Airport. Their business model assumed that there would be a wealthy market of transit riders that would pay a premium fee for the convenience of the service they created. What they missed, is that most of the transit trips to the airport were made by the 10,000 employees who are employed by the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA). Since the service was not practical, or affordable for most of the employees, the trains ride mostly empty -even a reduction in fares has not changed ridership.
The UP Express experience should have taught Metrolinx that its focus on market based transit building is not a viable model. For Downsview, this could mean a more expensive transit fare in the next couple of years. Let us not forget where the decision are being made: the Province is not investing in the operating costs of transit, so Metrolinx is trying to come up with the money by raising the price of transit.