Toronto

Time for two-hour transfers, say mayor and TTC chair

Toronto’s mayor and the TTC board chair are throwing their support behind implementing time-based transfers for Presto users across the transit system, and are asking agency staff to report back on the issue at the commission’s next meeting.

Spokesperson says transit agency staff will issue report at TTC Commission's meeting on Nov. 28

Mayor John Tory is asking TTC staff to report on the costs and other issues surrounding implementing two-hour transfers across the system. (John Rieti/CBC)

Toronto's mayor and the TTC board chair are throwing their support behind implementing time-based transfers for Presto users across the transit system, and are asking agency staff to report back on the issue at the commission's next meeting.

In a letter to TTC CEO Andy Byford, Mayor John Tory, TTC Chair Josh Colle and Coun. Mary Fragedakis ask staff to report on the "costs and any other implications for the introduction of time-based transfers for Presto users on all routes in 2018" at the meeting, scheduled for Nov. 28.

The transfers would allow a rider to get on and off the TTC an unlimited number of times within a two-hour timeframe without having to pay more than their original fare.

The letter, dated Thursday, notes that Presto use is at 14 per cent among TTC riders.

"Making time-based transfers available for Presto users would have multiple benefits including making transit more affordable, increasing ridership and encouraging Presto adoption," the letter says.

It also references a TTC report from 2014 that suggested transfers are the "biggest contributor to fare evasion," which costs the system nearly $15 million annually.

On Thursday morning, TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said that staff will provide a report at the Nov. 28 meeting "as requested."

Let riders 'hop on and off,' advocates say

Both Colle and Fragedakis said in a statement that they will lobby to have time-based transfers added to the 2018 TTC budget. The proposed budget goes before the TTC's budget subcommittee on Friday and to the TTC Commission on Nov. 28.

Colle and Fragedakis said that time-based transfers will not only make transit more affordable, but will also help small businesses along TTC routes, as well.

"Time-based transfers would allow people on transit the flexibility to hop on and off to run errands or make stops along their way to work, school, or home," Colle said in the statement.

"This would continue the modernization of our services, and further demonstrate the TTC's ongoing commitment to improving the customer experience."

The TTC is expected to formally endorse two-hour transfers in its Ridership Growth Strategy, but the release of that plan appears to be delayed until early next year. While the transit system had a record 538 million rides in 2016, that was 15 million fewer trips than its target.

Transfer pilot cancelled with new streetcars

The 2Hour Fare4TO Coalition, a new advocacy group consisting of businesses and transit riders, spoke out earlier this week in favour of two-hour transfers.

"If Toronto is serious about growing transit ridership it has to make the service more attractive and financially accessible in 2018," John Kiru, executive director of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Associations (TABIA), said in a statement.

"A two-hour transfer encourages foot traffic, business and tourism on streets close to TTC routes, because riders can easily leave the TTC to shop and then board again."  

In September, the TTC cancelled a pilot project testing two-hour transfers on St. Clair Avenue with the introduction of the new Bombardier streetcars.

Because the operators on the new streetcars sit in a cab that's separated from the vehicle, they can't hand out paper transfers or check the expiry times, the TTC said at the time.

While TTC brass have expressed support for time-based transfers, the agency has cited cost as a primary barrier to implementation. Adopting them across the system is projected to result in a $20 million loss in annual revenue.

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