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Fare Integration

Metrolinx and our transit partners across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) are working towards a consistent approach to transit fares in the region.

We want to make crossing municipal boundaries and switching between transit systems simple and hassle-free.

In September 2017, our consultant completed a draft GTHA Fare Structure Preliminary Business Case that outlines their findings to date.

The following updates on our plans have been provided to the Metrolinx Board of Directors:

Our vision for integrated fares across the GTHA

For customers:
  • A customer-focused transit system – simple, harmonized and consistent
  • A simplified customer experience– switching between systems is quick and hassle-free
  • Fares that reflect the quality and value of the services provided
For transit service providers:
  • Regionally integrated fare collection, product and policies
  • An integrated system that respects the hierarchy of service needs, improves service and financial efficiencies, and improves competitiveness

For the region:

  • Fares that complement existing and planned transit developments, helping to grow regional transit ridership
  • A fare system that improves regional economic competitiveness, encourages residents to drive less and supports smart growth

Types of Fare Structures

Around the world, transit operators use a wide variety of approaches to fares. There are countless possible fare structures which can be organized into fare structure types by looking at how they answer two questions:

  • Does the fare reflect the type of service?
    • Uniform fare for all service types – the fares between any two places are the same, regardless of whether one takes a fast, reliable transit service (like a regional train) or a slower, more traffic-affected service (like a local bus)
    • Differential fare based on type of service – transit options are grouped into multiple service categories, and fares take the category into account
  • Does the fare reflect the length of the trip?
    • Region-wide flat fares – one single fare for a trip of any length across the region
    • Fare by zone – fares are determined by zones crossed
    • Fare by measured distance – fares determined by a formula based on distance travelled
    • Fare by travel time – fares reflect how much time elapses from a trip’s start to finish
    • Hybrid - fares reflect different approaches to length depending on the type of service

There are numerous other ways a fare structure can be further customized. The rules applied to transfers or stopovers made during a trip can significantly affect how much that trip costs. Fares can also potentially vary depending on what time of day it is, or be capped at certain amount over a certain time period.

How Fares Work in the GTHA Today

The existing approach to fares in our region is complex, and finding a solution requires a significant amount of planning and cooperation. There are currently 11 different ways fares are determined in the GTHA, with each transit service provider setting its own rules and prices. Looking at the regional transit network as a whole—and treating the GTHA’s current fragmented fare structure as if it were a single system—we can see how GTHA transit fares are influenced both by the type of service and the length of trip.

GTHA transit fares vary based on four different service categories:

  • Municipal (bus, streetcar, BRT, subway/RT)
  • Municipal premium express (TTC 140-series and YRT 300-series buses)
  • Regional (GO rail and GO bus)
  • Specialized airport link (UP Express)

GTHA transit fares are influenced by trip length. Depending upon which of the above four service categories a transit trip falls under, one of two different zone systems is used. This means our current system is of the “hybrid” type:

  • Municipal and municipal premium express service categories follow a de facto regional zone system, aligned largely with municipal boundaries
    • York Region Transit has zones for long trips.
    • The TTC has zones for bus trips crossing north of Steeles Avenue or west beyond Pearson Airport.
    • All other municipal transit operators treat their service area as a single zone.
  • The regional and specialized airport link service categories (GO Transit and UP Express) operate with fare by zones, using a separate zone system that more precisely reflects distance travelled

Transfers in the GTHA are inconsistent:

  • GO Transit has co-fares with 905 transit operators
  • Free transfers between municipal operators outside Toronto
  • Different transit operators have different rules on when a trip is deemed to be over and a second fare must be purchased

Further Reading