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Are TTC fares still the priciest in North America?

Posted by Guest Contributor / January 13, 2014

TTC Fares 2014Continuing a series that started two years ago, and was revisited last year, it's time once again to see how the TTC compares to its peers when it comes to the cost of riding public transit. Based on those past studies, the Red Rocket was judged the most expensive transit system in any big Canadian or American city that uses a single fare zone. The year 2014 has brought yet another TTC fare increase, so has Toronto retained its unwanted crown?

Cities don't exist in a vacuum. Although they all have their quirks, many large North American cities with integrated bus and rail transit lines have more similarities than differences. Fiscal pressures, strikes, over-budget construction projects -- these are all hardly unique to Toronto. Neither is expensive subway expansion.

In any case, smart cities everywhere learn from each other. Nearly every large city in North America now has a smartcard, and more every year are adopting timed faresthat allow stopovers and return trips within a certain time window rather than the traditional one-way transfers. It's not entirely unreasonable to expect that fares for large systems should exist in a fairly narrow and somewhat comparable band -- and they do.

TTC PrestoBut every year fares change in at least some of the 29 cities studied. What happened in 2013? While Toronto suffered/enjoyed a year of record ridership, many cities wrestled with the lingering effects of the recession on their budgets. Some new tricks were used to balance the books, such as requiring a fee for fare media.

In Chicago, the base fare was held at $2.25 but to enter a subway station you must now use a smartcard, and a disposable one-trip smartcard will set you back $3 (the $2.25 fare plus an assumed 25 cent transfer and a 50 cent card fee). On the whole, fares were for the most part held stable, with the cost of a monthly pass rising only 3% across the 29-city data set. (Philly, Miami and Phoenix notably had increases over 10%). Cash fares increased a little more. So where does that leave the TTC compared to its peers as 2014 rolls in?

First, a little history. When the Yonge subway opened in 1954, the TTC cash fare was 15 cents, or 10 cents if you bought tickets in bulk. In today's dollars that would be $1.30 cash, 87 cents for tickets. (The 2014 fare is $3 cash, $2.70 cents for tickets - more than twice as much). Compared to its peers back then, the TTC was very competitive on cost as cities like New York, Boston and Chicago typically charged 15 to 20 cents per ride (the US and Canadian dollar were at par in the 1950s). But as funding for public transit systems waxed and waned, the TTC began a slow slide towards the expensive end of the spectrum.

TTC Fare ComparisonBack to 2014. Toronto is no longer the most costly when it comes to occasional users, as a handful of cities are now slightly more expensive for infrequent riders. A C-Train ticket in Calgary costs more ($3) than dropping a token ($2.70) into a TTC turnstile. Montreal has now caught up to Toronto for cash fares ($3), while Ottawa ($3.40) and Edmonton ($3.20) cost quite a bit more -- though all three cities have equivalent or lower token (multiple-trip) prices.

Even a few American cities (St. Louis, Philly, LA) are now pricier than the TTC if one includes the price of a transfer (see notes below). Compared to the mean average of the entire 29-city data set (including Toronto), the TTC is 23% more expensive for cash fares and 17% more expensive for frequent riders (i.e. people who buy tickets or tokens in quantity). The Red Rocket is still very pricey for these kinds of users, if no longer quite the priciest.

TTC Fare ComparisonSenior fares are another matter. This specific kind of discounted fare was used as the metric for comparing reduced fare types, and for seniors it remains far more expensive to ride transit Toronto than all other cities except Ottawa. And that city offers a $40 monthly senior's pass and free Wednesdays to compensate. Other cities that have expensive adult fares such as Calgary and Edmonton have very progressive fares for seniors -- as low as $15 per year. Philadelphia and Miami let seniors ride free, all the time. But in Toronto, where government subsidies are low, seniors and other discounted riders pay a steep price.

The Metropass is where the TTC really stands out from the pack, as the pass is now a staggering 65% more costly than the mean cost of a monthly pass in the 29-city dataset. Even if just compared to eight big cities with fairly comparable (i.e. subway-heavy, high ridership) transit networks -- New York, Boston, SF, Philadelphia, LA, Montreal, Atlanta, Chicago -- the cost of a Metropass is still 55% more than the average cost of passes in those cities. Narrow those peers to just Chicago and New York and the TTC pass is still 26% more each month.

TTC Fare ComparisonWhat makes matters even worse is that Toronto seems to be uniquely discouraging the purchase of a monthly pass in first place. Under the recent fare hike a rider must now take 49.5 rides per trip to make the monthly pass worthwhile ($133.75/$2.70 = 49.53). This equates to having to commute all 22 work days in a month, never taking vacation or being sick, not even taking off Canada Day or Christmas or other statutory holidays, and then travel eight more times in the evening or on weekends. No other city has such a high index - the average for the entire 29-city set is only 36 trips.

The only other city to blow past the 44 trip index (2x per working day) is New York (47), where levels of car ownership are low and a leading 56% of people take transit to work. (Toronto and Montreal, by comparison, are around a 22% transit share). The cost of the Metropass, and its cost relative to the base fare, seems to be out of line not only with other cities but with basic transportation policy for encouraging the use of public transit, and people are starting to notice.

On the basis of the sky-high cost of the Metropass, the very high senior fares and the still top-tier cash and token fares, I believe it is still appropriate to say that the TTC remains the most expensive of its big-city, single-fare-zone public transit peers. With additional revenue streams still a matter of great controversy and all political capital consumed by never-ending expansion debates (when not trying to throw streetcars into Lake Ontario), this situation may not change for some time. Your next stop on a TTC vehicle might as well be an ATM.

Mind the (fiscal) gap.


The Fine Print

- This comparison is of North American transit systems but does not include Mexico, since labour costs, income levels, and other parameters there are quite different than the US or Canada. This is evident given the 41 cent fare of the Mexico City Metro (which was a 66% hike over the previous fare!)

-The dataset consists of 29 big-city single-fare integrated public transit systems. Cities without subway or light rail, such as Winnipeg, are not included. Ottawa is included on the strength of it's heavy-infrastructure BRT, the Transitway.

- Very significantly, this set does not include any zone-based transit systems such as Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Houston, Denver, Portland, Seattle or Vancouver. These are apples-to-oranges when compared to single fare-zone systems because while they might be considerably more expensive for distant riders they are often less expensive for short rides in a single zone. Vancouver and Washington DC are particularly costly, though a monthly pass within Vancouver is only $91 and a short Metrorail ride can cost as little as $1.70 off-peak. Perhaps in a future post I will try to level one of these vs Toronto on a dollar-per-km basis, but for the purposes of this study they are excluded.

- The cash fare, or base fare, is the standard one-time single-trip fare, used mostly by tourists and infrequent users and traditionally paid in cash (think coins in the farebox when boarding the bus). It is the easiest to compare among transit systems but also the least relevant to commuters and quickly falling out of use in the era of smartcards.

- More interesting is what I call the "Multiple-trip Fare." This is meant to reflect the lowest possible cost for a paid trip, i.e. what a frequent pay-per-ride user would pay because they buy bulk tickets or tokens or get a smart-card discount. Some cities offer a lower price for frequent users using these structures; some do not, in which case the multiple trip fare matches the cash fare.

- For the individual fares, transfers had to be equalized. Most systems offer one or more free transfers, but some (New Orleans, Newark, St. Louis, Chicago, Jersey City, LA, Miami, Philly) still require paid transfers costing 25 cents to $1.50 every time you change buses or trains. I have included the cost of one transfer in their cash fare, multiple trip fare and senior fare numbers, even though this spikes the cost significantly, up to 100% in the case of LA. I believe it is realistic since few people live on the exact bus or rail line that takes them from home to work. But do take the base fare costs for these cities with a grain of salt since they would indeed be much lower if a transfer was not needed.

- Day and Weekly passes are too varied to compare, and not all cities offer all formats, but Monthly passes are a common standard. While these do differ between cities in terms of whether they are transferrable, 30 or 31 days, or when the month actually starts, they are all considered equivalent for the purpose of this study. The unique Metropass Discount Program, which slightly lowers the cost of a TTC metropass for a 12-month subscription, is ignored here as it is effectively an annual pass and not a monthly pass; the regular Metropass is used in the study.

- Also on the Monthly chart you will see what I am calling the Trip Index, which is the cost of a monthly pass divided by the Multiple Trip fare. It is the number of trips one must take before a monthly pass becomes a better value than using tokens/pay-per-ride smartcards. Keep in mind when using the Trip Index that the average month has about 22 working days, not including holidays.

- Student fares are far too varied in terms of format and age limits to easily compare, but all cities offer some sort of "Senior Fare" that is more easily levelled. Note that I used the cash fare for the Senior category and not any discounted multiple trip fare. (In Toronto, for example, this would lower the $2 fare to $1.85). Miami, Philadelphia, Calgary and Edmonton have an usual setup where seniors pay as little as zero to $54 for an annual pass, so I arbitrarily set their senior per-trip cost at very low figures. This might not be fair when comparing to cash fares in other systems but I felt it was important to note their progressive policies towards seniors as an example of how systems manage discounts for certain groups of riders.

- Certain cities (Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Dallas, Minneapolis, St. Louis, San Francisco) use a 90 minute or 2-hour fare that allows stopovers and transfers in either direction. These are effectively short-term passes that add tremendous value for certain kinds of trips - for example, to run a short errand and return on a single fare cuts the effective cost of transit in half. However, they are not used by commuters going one-way to work so I ignore them here.

- Two cities in the Base Fare chart (Calgary and Salt Lake City) still have a Free Fare zone. These also add value for some users but are slowly disappearing (Seattle and Portland removed theirs in 2012) and ignored in this study.

- Minneapolis and Dallas offer reduced fares outside of rush hour. While a boon to livability in a vibrant city, these types of fares are not used by commuters and are ignored here.

- Where different prices for bus vs subway do still exist, as in Boston, Chicago or St. Louis, the rail fare was used. For Ottawa the bus price was used as this city is unique in having a full BRT trunk line. (The small demonstration rail line is actually less expensive to ride but carries only 2% of daily ridership and is therefore ignored).

- This comparison is about major cities with trunk rail lines. No suburban bus systems were included, nor should they be. Different animals. But suburban systems do tend to take their pricing cues from their big-city cousins because they are subject to similar funding and expense parameters. Just as the TTC may be the most expensive big-city system, it is very likely that York Region Transit is the most expensive suburban system on the continent with its $4 cash fares, $3.33 multiple trip fares, $4 senior fares and $132 monthly passes. Ontario clearly has a growing issue with costly public transit, urban and suburban.

- Exchange rate in this comparison was assumed to be $1 US = $1 Cdn. This has been reasonably true over the past few years and a difference of a few cents would not grossly affect the results of the study. This may be revisited next year if the Canadian dollar begins to slide.

Guest contribution by Larry Green / Photo by Tom Ryaboi



Yardl / January 13, 2014 at 10:25 am
I like to compare transit systems, especially since there has recently been so much data available. Many, many urban planner theses on transit.
Interesting european pay idea includes multi-day cards where you pay for a certain number of 'use' days - say a 20-pack card which would mean unlimited use on any day used, so you wouldn't be paying for days not used - like a monthly pass in December with piles of holidays. I figure that it is all about the complexity of the system to implement and maintain - prestocards, as an example, are a bit of a nightmare, but seem more fair.
Though cost is a good way to gauge transit systems, many would also use value, such as:
-percentage of Toronto area served by 15-minute service (within 300m of stop)
-average trip time per km travel - very interesting: every stop has its route matched to every other stop (as the crow flies) then compared to total (departure time (+transfer) to arrival) time (best to separate high-volume from low-volume times)
-$ per average trip length
-$ per installed bus mile, subway mile, streetcar/LRT mile
-hours of service per toronto resident (subway/ bus)
-value to community (development improvements when stop upgraded - bus to freq.bus, bus to LRT/streetcar, bus to subway)
-average walk length to stop
-GTA users vs Toronto users
.. so on .. keep the stats coming!
GRBY / January 13, 2014 at 10:50 am
Torontonians continue to get ripped off due to over paid Union workers and bureaucratic idiots that rape our pocketbooks every chance they get. I'm so glad my fares go towards ticket collectors making 100k + salaries with their generous overtime pay.
John / January 13, 2014 at 10:53 am
Lets start from the top not just the fares. ARE TTC Staff the priciest in North America?

TTC CEO Andy Byford earns $294,366.92 plus more than $14,000

In March 2009, Karen Stintz came under some scrutiny when it was revealed that she spent $4,500 of her councillor's office budget on voice lessons.

TTC staff making $100Gs hits 1,395
Moneesha / January 13, 2014 at 10:59 am
Hate unions all you want but they're the reason you only work up to 40hrs a week (if in fact you are employed) and have at least 2 weeks vacation while employed. They're the reason companies are required (for some jobs) to pay you overtime and a decent living wage for your contribution to society.

Like any organization there can be issues but if the alternative is for Neo-Cons to make employment policy, I'll stick with periodic service disruptions thanks.
Jason / January 13, 2014 at 11:08 am
Really informative article. Thank you, Guest Contributor.
hamish / January 13, 2014 at 11:08 am
This is a very useful post thanks. It'd be useful to also get to the fare-by-distance issues perhaps, as the core here helps to subsidize the transit in our less-dense areas, and the majority of suburban politicians are just fine with that. They are also just fine with ensuring that the car continues to be well looked after with myriads of subsidies buried in many budgets. But in Vancouver about 15 years back, they found that each car had an annual subsidy or avoided cost of $2700 per car per year. That's the topic that should be added for truly giving our transit costs context right?
guest replying to a comment from John / January 13, 2014 at 11:22 am
Other interesting quotes from the Sun article mentioned by John above:

Brad Ross - “If a bus is late coming back from a garage for example then there is going to be overtime costs … in order to keep service going there is going to be overtime that we have to pay for. We budget for overtime and we pay for overtime knowing that we in fact save money.”

Ross argued if the $100,000 figure was adjusted to 2012 dollars, the threshold would be $140,000 and there would only be 55 TTC employees on the list.
QED replying to a comment from John / January 13, 2014 at 11:30 am
Hmmn, interesting question. But this article is from ten years ago and quotes salaries for general managers/transit CEO's in the range of $200 to $300k:

I'm no union expert, but don't all transit systems in Canada and the US have union labour, and regional or national unions at that? Even in places like Texas?

So I'm not sure unions or the manager's pay has that much to do with the high fares. It's probably more a function of the well-known fact that the TTC gets less subsidy than any other public transit system.
Alex / January 13, 2014 at 11:53 am
A few years ago the metropass wasn't such a rip, but in the past few years the TTC has mentioned a lot about how they used to lose a ton of money on metropasses. Guess they adjusted it so that you don't really save any money on a metropass, you just have the convenience of not needing to constantly buy and carry tokens or change.

The TTC is already at max capacity on a lot of routes, so I doubt their goal is to make it any cheaper to attract new riders. What they need is to expand service first, then they can afford to try and attract more people. I wish the city had a good transit policy, and wasn't encouraging people to drive more and create more traffic.
george / January 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm
Wow! I can't believe the quality of this article. Really well done.
stopitman / January 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm
It should also be noted that almost every transit system in the GTA has higher cash fares than Toronto, but usually lower fares if you use Presto (usually $2.50) and they also have GO transfer fares (usually 70c).

For comparison, NYC's transit gets a $1B state subsidy, $4.7B from dedicated taxes (on income, etc.), and $1.5B in toll revenue (the MTA receives toll revenues from bridges and tunnels entering Manhattan). ABout 40% of their revenue comes from fares. Compare that with GO's 82% revenue from fare and the TTC's 73%.
Terry / January 13, 2014 at 12:23 pm
It's all about our environmental and public-transit priorities. The TTC is among the least-subsidized public transit system from an operating-cost perspective, relative to other North American cities. Road building and road repairs would get huge subsidies and need to be weighed against this.
tommy replying to a comment from stopitman / January 13, 2014 at 12:37 pm
This. Seriously. YRT fares just went up to $4 dollars cash, $3.30 ticket. To all the people calling for GTA transit integration: no way the TTC needs to get involved in this sinking ship.
W. K. Lis / January 13, 2014 at 12:53 pm
Transit agencies in the Far East, OWN and LEASE out office and residential buildings. That revenue source is something the TTC and GO are prohibited from doing.
Lee Zamparo replying to a comment from GRBY / January 13, 2014 at 01:06 pm
your angry comment would be a lot more credible with a citation or any argument to back up your crank.

jd / January 13, 2014 at 01:51 pm
It's crazy that metropasses have gone up about $30 in the past 7 years, but single fare have only gone up a quarter?
Bleh replying to a comment from Gay guy 89 / January 13, 2014 at 03:53 pm
And considering how bad most of them are, that`d be a real insult.
iSkyscraper replying to a comment from tommy / January 13, 2014 at 04:19 pm
No kidding. But if you really want to be sick, think about a suburban rider in, say, Aurora or Newmarket who wants to go downtown by bus and subway. He coughs up $5 for the YRT two-zone fare to the Toronto border, then another $3 to connect to the TTC at Finch. Total cost - $8.

But a suburban bus rider living just as far away in Westchester or Long Island outside New York pays $2.50 to get on the local suburban Bee-Line or Nice bus (the same fare as the city services), crosses the border into the city, and then transfers to the NYC subway AT NO ADDITIONAL COST. Same story, same cost, for bus-to-subway in the Chicago suburbs. So what costs a rider $8 in the GTA is less than 1/3 that cost in those US cities.

That's unreal. No wonder congestion is so bad. It's not necessarily about building more subways (extending the Yonge line to Richmond Hill won't change the fare). It's about the complete and utter lack of fare integration across the region. Public transit in the GTA is far more expensive than what this article implies for Toronto itself.
Whaaa...? / January 13, 2014 at 04:31 pm
Well the way I see it, a $3 fare is still dirt cheap. Way cheaper than driving a car or taking a cab. There are times where I've deliberately taken the GO train to downtown instead of the subway. Costs twice as much, but is less crowded, faster and the people/staff are a little more pleasant.

I would like to see GO offer premium express bus service offered on some of the busiest routes in Toronto. You pay more, but you get there faster in a more pleasant way. And it would take some load off of some overloaded routes.
the lemur / January 13, 2014 at 04:43 pm
Are TTC fares still the priciest in North America?

Is this still a rhetorical question that cannot be answered easily? Yes.

Are TTC fares still not properly comparable with those of other systems that offer distance-based pricing, have different funding models, different levels of service and coverage, etc.? Yes.
mcs / January 13, 2014 at 05:24 pm
One thing to remember when looking at fares is service levels.

The TTC provides vastly more service than any of the transit systems listed, and it is better to pay a little more for better service.

You might be wondering how I could say that with NYC being on the list. The truth is that in the outer areas of NYC, bus services are less frequent than they are in outer areas of Toronto.
And for the many people who are not near a subway (and there are many), this means longer waits for buses than in Toronto.

Yes we don't want transit fares getting out of control. But we also have to look at everything in context. Might I also add, that our fares are not that high when compared to other world cities like Tokyo and London.
jd replying to a comment from mcs / January 13, 2014 at 06:39 pm
"vastly more service than any of the transit systems listed"?

How so? If you're only talking about buses, this is more to do with the fact that cities like London, New York and Tokyo have done a much better job of supporting not just urban ares with subways, but their support of suburbs with rail systems is really great. And the mix of TTC and Go comes nothing close to what is offered in those cities.


You mean like Subway lines: Tokyo (13) London (11) New York (34) and Toronto (3 - With an RT line I suppose makes 4).

Or in Stations? Tokyo (290) London (270) New York (468) and Toronto (69).

The truth of the matter is it comes down to the fact that there is a giant mix of issues with the TTC...

From improper funding at federal and provincial levels. Way too much political interference (It shouldn't matter who gets elected every few years. They shouldn't have the ability to change or alter the cities transit plans on a whim).

Just these two things have put the city in a horrible position. And there is very little hope it will get any better any time soon,
jenny / January 13, 2014 at 06:45 pm
Just wait until we get the LRT lines. LRT is the costliest mode of public metro transport to run and maintain. They cost 2x as much as subways for upkeep, and they are slower. The best is yet to come!
Michael Greason / January 13, 2014 at 06:46 pm
One issue that is not mentioned is the benefit in Canada that Steve provided for Transit Riders that can afford a monthly pass. When pressured to provide an "investment" in transit as a social good, Steve said no for a while until he figured out how to return the maximum amount to his "base". The result was a targeted tax reduction for transit pass holders. This reduces the ride multiple for all monthly pass holders in Canadian systems.
Michael Greason replying to a comment from Yardl / January 13, 2014 at 06:52 pm
While I use a MetroPass in Toronto, my favourite method of payment is the Oyster Card in London. Each ride on the Tube or bus is a separate fare, but after reaching a daily maximum the rest of the rides are free. On Christmas, or a sick day for that matter, there is no charge at all. On a busy errand day, after about three or four rides, the rest is free. By making each ride a separate fare, it encourages short rides because they are relatively cheap.

There are also zones, which I did not experience as a Tourist, but which would affect a suburban commuter who worked in Central London.
George / January 13, 2014 at 07:59 pm
Who cares we pay what we pay this article is going to change nothing.

As for Karen Stintz the pressure is on, she said she'd run for mayor after Presto is fully executed, the click is ticking Karen. Get it done or your in no position to be mayor if you can't even bring in presto on time and on budget. What a waste of time and $$$$.
John / January 13, 2014 at 09:54 pm
"Certain cities (Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Dallas, Minneapolis, St. Louis, San Francisco) use a 90 minute or 2-hour fare that allows stopovers and transfers in either direction. These are effectively short-term passes that add tremendous value for certain kinds of trips - for example, to run a short errand and return on a single fare cuts the effective cost of transit in half."

You're damn right they add tremendous value. I couldn't believe it when I moved here from Edmonton (which, to be fair, does not have an especially good transit system either) and discovered that fares are one way only, no stopping, no detour. I was used to paying not for a trip, but for time in the system.

No errands, no dropping something off or picking something up on the way to a destination, no nothing. Insanely restrictive.
Jake replying to a comment from Moneesha / January 13, 2014 at 11:37 pm
Unions, also the reason why really old people who should and can no longer do their job the best they can do, are still in it.. oh yeah, and they get that nice zesty "seniority" crap. Also, Unions... keeping anyone else from ever working in the same area as them no matter what. Thanks Unions! I'm not part of your union, so no job for me.
the lemur replying to a comment from jenny / January 14, 2014 at 12:30 am
'LRT is the costliest mode of public metro transport to run and maintain. They cost 2x as much as subways for upkeep'

No, no and no. Even if you disregard the expenses associated with subway tunnels, LRT costs nowhere near as much as subways.
Kav / January 14, 2014 at 12:37 am
The TTC has the lowest operating subsidy of any major transit system in North America and, for that matter, any I can think of in Western Europe. At a mere 79 cents per rider, the TTC runs service 24 hours a day. Contrast that with Montreal ($1.16/rider), Chicago ($1.68/rider), Boston ($1.93/rider), and Los Angeles ($2.53/rider). Even the massive New York City transit needs $1.03/rider. If you need further convincing of the TTC’s efforts to be frugal, consider that in 2010, the TTC carried around 462 million rides for an operating subsidy of $430m. Four years later, we will carry 80 million more rides for a subsidy lower than that awarded in 2010.
John replying to a comment from jenny / January 14, 2014 at 10:15 am
Please provide evidence for this. I know for a fact that it isn't true, but I'd love to know where that info comes from.
JennyR / January 14, 2014 at 04:52 pm
(I'm a whole different Jenny btw) Former TO resident now living in San Diego. Our single fare is $2.25 which puts us right in the middle of the pack, BUT: we completely eliminated bus transfers a few years ago, to push $5 day passes ($2 extra if you don't have a smart card to load it onto). This was both to eliminate the work and expense of dealing with transfers and to push people onto the smart card system, which gives the transit company detailed data on ride(r)s.
Solomon Short replying to a comment from jd / January 14, 2014 at 07:25 pm
Hey jd, have you not learned anything yet-SUBWAYS AREN'T THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING. We can't build subways to every part of Toronto 'just because'-we have to build them where the density is. Unlike New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo, we don't have a lot of density to build these; that's why light rail (if it's built, and if it HAD been built as it was supposed to) is needed for those areas. mcs is right in what they said about the bus service provided in spite of the higher fares, and you'd see that if you weren't so full of rage (why not direct it at Harper & Co., and vote their asses out in 2016?)
Solomon Short replying to a comment from Jake / January 14, 2014 at 07:28 pm
Boy, when the fuck are you going to read some history, instead of depriving your mind (and wasting time watching shit like Sun News Channel and it's anti-union/anti-labor/pro-corporate nonsense?)
Chris / January 15, 2014 at 01:16 am
No, the city of Toronto is around 36% transit share, not 22%. 22% is the metro number. But the number you gave for New York (56%) is for the city proper.
Larry Green / January 15, 2014 at 10:10 am
Errors noted -- San Diego has no transfers (nor Baltimore or LA for that matter - I have an idea for how to deal with this), wrong figure given for Toronto transit share, cost issues with suburban systems worth noting in more detail. In fact, since the suburbs are densifying and several systems will soon have heavy-infrastructure BRT busways in effect it may be time to include Miss., York, Winnipeg and Gatineau next time in the survey.

Thanks, will correct all next year.
Vote NDP in the next federal/provincial election / January 15, 2014 at 12:08 pm
Don't forget that YRT/VIVA has the highest cash fares and multitrip rates in the entire GTA in all passenger categories. Also they have zone fares in their own region and service is much infrequent service than the TTC.
Elcee / January 18, 2014 at 06:28 pm
I wasn't aware they've been trying to toss Streetcars into the Lake . I was under the impression that was shopping cart territory .
Eric replying to a comment from John / January 28, 2014 at 06:43 pm
Hey, John -- re the 1395 TTC employees on the Sunshine List. You didn't quote the last paragraph of the Sun story: "Ross argued if the $100,000 figure was adjusted to 2012 dollars, the threshold would be $140,000 and there would only be 55 TTC employees on the list."

BTW, I hope you complain about the $500k of public money pulled in yearly by a lot of hospital administrators and university and college poobahs.

And to Alex, who said: "The TTC is already at max capacity on a lot of routes, so I doubt their goal is to make it any cheaper to attract new riders. What they need is to expand service first, then they can afford to try and attract more people."

Remember that when considering the mayoral candidacy of Karen Stintz, who:
* caved in to Fordism and backed the expensive Scarborough subway cash cow
* took $5 million voted by City Council to restore some cut TTC service and gave it to WheelTrans -- a deserving sector but one that should be decently funded without robbing regular TTC passengers.
Eric replying to a comment from John / January 28, 2014 at 06:49 pm
"- This comparison is of North American transit systems but does not include Mexico, since labour costs, income levels, and other parameters there are quite different than the US or Canada. This is evident given the 41 cent fare of the Mexico City Metro (which was a 66% hike over the previous fare!)"

But if you take these parameters into account (basically fare cost vs. typical income), you can make comparisons. One such found that Mexico City has the highest fares in North America relative to ability to pay. (

For Toronto, perhaps the whole story is summed up in this paragraph:
"When the Yonge subway opened in 1954, the TTC cash fare was 15 cents, or 10 cents if you bought tickets in bulk. In today's dollars that would be $1.30 cash, 87 cents for tickets. (The 2014 fare is $3 cash, $2.70 cents for tickets - more than twice as much)."
Gods wife / August 24, 2014 at 09:07 pm
OK. I am going to be a total dissenter on this blog and say something that most of you will not like, but just like whining children you need to be told the truth. You are self entitled gripers.

First, at $3 for a fare that takes you anywhere in Toronto, the price of the TTC is dirt cheap. Try parking a car, let alone owning one. Second, let's not compare the cost of the TTC to other North American cities that provide lesser coverage. Let's compare with cities elsewhere in the world that have great systems - London, Copenhagen, Zurich, Paris, Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong. ALL have much better systems than the TTC and ALL are MUCH more expensive. Why do they have such great systems? Economics 101: people pay for them.

Fact: More than 20% of the City of Toronto's budget goes toward subsidizing the TTC - and this is an operating subsidy that doesn't even cover new capital for expansion. It's no wonder Toronto is constantly in a fit over the cost of building new transit. Expanding the system with the current model would simply increase taxes... ...taxes that Torontonians, with the lowest property taxes in the Golden Horseshoe, seem to not be willing to pay.

Last year the Toronto Star ran a letter by a guy who lived in Oakville complaining about his daily car commute to north Brampton. He complained that the highways were clogged and that a more direct highway should be built. He did not want to travel on the 407 because it cost him too much. I guess he didn't consider that 100 years ago such a trip would have taken more than a day and I guess he didn't consider that someone paid for the infrastructure that reduced his commute so that he could actually live comfortably so far away from his work.

Imagine something. Imagine if we had a society where people paid appropriately for their consumption of infrastructure. Fares would be priced according to the number of stations they travelled and the single stoppers no longer subsidized the long stoppers; for these people prices might actually drop. People would make more logical choices about the distances they lived from work and we would make sensible decisions about funding transit. We would also build subways where densities warrant - such as downtown Toronto rather than Scarborough. And something else would happen too. The capital markets would actually fund the cost of new expansion. In fact, pension funds would be clamouring to build the infrastructure because they would be able to assure 50 year annuities with stable funding. We would get the infrastructure we all want.

The problem is that we have a culture of self-entitlement. It exists at all rungs of the socio-economic ladder from Bay Street bankers to the majority of people writing and posting on this blog. For these people, money comes from somewhere else and should go toward subsidizing them.

Kids, it's time to go to your rooms until you learn to behave.

Rob replying to a comment from GRBY / August 31, 2014 at 12:37 pm
"Torontonians continue to get ripped off due to over paid Union workers and bureaucratic idiots that rape our pocketbooks every chance they get. I'm so glad my fares go towards ticket collectors making 100k + salaries with their generous overtime pay. "

Typical ignorance...if you'd bother to check you'd see that a collector making THAT much money works MANY hours of overtime and basically LIVES in his/her booth for that fiscal year and barely sees their families.So while you're at home complaining to your wife that you don't make enough money, there is someone working & putting up with abusive TTC patrons like yourself at some bus station/subway entrance.
Aside from a few collectors getting robbed and even killed, I'd just like to see YOU do that job.The other reason the TTC would rather pay them overtime then HIRE a collector is because it's CHEAPER to pay them overtime.
I'm always amazed that people whine about those making a descent living because it's a crime now... while they sit on their butts when the wealthiest and top 1% hide their money overseas OR avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
So ya keep pointing your frustrations at the WRONG groups...
Bruce / November 4, 2014 at 03:41 pm
It looks like those defending the TTC are those working for it. Do not get me wrong someone needs to do the job but at the end of the day, despite the politically correct environment that we live in, a bus driver is a bus driver, I know someone starting at 32$ an hour to drive a bus. Its not correct to say these days, but man oh man.TTC toll booth collectors making 120 000$, nice. I do not care how much OT they do, its still has to be within the law and at any rate that is an obscene amount of money for a collector to make. TTC is just plagued with issues. From overpaid staff to management that is yet to enter the 21st century. Speaking with office staff from the TTC they will admit without hesitation that it uses antiquated methods.

Monthly passes are no longer worth it even for those who take the TTC everyday to get to work. This must be a unique world case. The level of service is terrible, the buses and streetcars only now are starting to get replaced. Look at Germany, we have light years to reach the level of public transport infrastructure.

Where do you even start with the TTC? Its rotten to the core.

Gods Wife- Don't know what you are talking about those systems being way more expensive. In the end they work out to be quite a bit cheaper.

Bottom line is that in the rest of the world bus drivers do not make as much professionals with 6 years of post secondary education who have to train every year in order to stay current.
Cattus / January 20, 2015 at 02:19 pm
This is a good informative article. One thing I would like to see is what percentage of Transit System Operating Expenses are subsidized in all the cities mentioned. Several times I have seen statistics that TTC is the most underfunded Major City System in NA. That would have a lot to do with a higher than average fare. I feel that the Federal and Provincial governments resist greater contributions because Toronto is the Canadian city people love to hate and transit support would not garner sufficient partisan support.
Monkey Monkey / April 9, 2015 at 10:03 am
Moron, don't you know that the TTC can only handle a certain VOLUME of riders daily, and if every schmuck like you had a monthly pass they would not be able to handle the volume of riders, so, yes, they have to discourage a certain number of the population from taking the train or bus BECAUSE otherwise there would be line-ups around the block for everything. Do you guys ever THINK before you embark on writing these articles? I know, I know, it's the lure of seeing your name in lights (er, I mean, in print)
Niece / August 1, 2015 at 04:03 pm
Thank you for taking the time to crunch those numbers for us. It's really appreciated as I grow increasingly frustrated with not only the cost of fares, but the quality of service. It really irks me when I have such an uncomfortable ride to the station to see that my toll booth collector drove his Cadillac to work. I wonder if you could put me in touch with anyone who is currently crunching numbers including mismanagement of funds and what it really feels like for customers who depend on the transit. To ride can be incredibly painful for me packed on the bus and I know cattle get more humane treatment than what I get. I'm interested in teaming up with someone who can help me document the realities of this quality of service feels like for me.
mischief_maker / September 1, 2015 at 03:03 pm
Awesome article, really well-written.

Even though TTC fares may not be the highest in North America, it still doesn't pay to take it. If you can get a scooter or motorcycle, a tank of gas (at 91 octane) generally won't run you more than $10. And on that tank of gas you can travel up to 250ish km, go at your own pace and whatever routes you want, and without having to sit beside Uncle Garlic Breath.

Plus, parking is free and a two-wheeler can squeeze in between just about anything.
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