Toronto Councillor Mike Layton wants to ease congestion on the King streetcar by making it easier – and cheaper – for riders in his west-end ward to use the Exhibition GO train stop instead.
Mr. Layton, who represents the booming Liberty Village neighbourhood, says area residents and workers who use the GO train to travel the roughly three kilometres between the Exhibition stop and Union Station are paying the highest rates in the system based on distance. – $4.85 for a five-minute ride. And they must shell out even more if they want to use the Toronto Transit Commission system to reach their final destination.
With no easy way to increase service on King Street and the population in the neighbourhood expected to double in the coming years, Mr. Layton says it only makes sense for the TTC and GO Transit to work together and give riders a break with an integrated fare.
"Every other municipality has a deal with GO to do this except the city of Toronto," Mr. Layton said, noting that GO riders pay just 70 cents extra to travel on local transit in Brampton and just 65 cents in Durham.
"The sooner this happens the better," the councillor said. "The King streetcar is overflowing. More people are moving to the neighbourhood. There is no planned improvement, besides the new streetcars coming, but that is many years down the road for King Street."
An integrated fare would be an easy way to increase capacity without a huge capital investment – or the prolonged political wrangling that that is likely to entail, he said.
"This is probably the most inexpensive downtown relief line that could ever possibly be built," Mr. Layton said.
TTC chair Karen Stintz agreed, saying an integrated fare system is the natural extension of the new Presto card payment system. "We need to provide more options for the customer," she said. "We have to think about what's best for the rider and less about who is operating the system."
Plans for a pilot project to integrate fares at the Exhibition and Bloor GO stations are in the works. Ms. Stintz is asking staff to report on a possible pilot at the TTC's November meeting. She would like to see the project up and running in the first quarter of next year.
Metrolinx, the provincial agency that operates GO Transit, also indicated in a letter to Mr. Layton its willingness to examine the feasibility of an integrated fare. The province recently increased service on the Lakeshore line. A spokeswoman for the agency said about 650 people board the train at the station on a typical day, with another 600 disembarking there. She said there is capacity for more commuters to use the station and the pilot will study how adding TTC riders would affect that.
As a second step, Mr. Layton is asking that Metrolinx consider adding a stop on the existing GO line to the north of Liberty Village – the Georgetown line that will also provide service to the airport.
Metrolinx, in its letter, also agrees to study the potential of a future stop.
Mr. Layton has started to gather names on a petition on his website to support his proposals.