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GO Transit gets green light to boost fares early next year

GO Transit riders who currently pay between $5.70 and $6.50 per trip will see a 40 cent increase.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

GO Transit is boosting the fare on all but the shortest trips after the board of Metrolinx approved hikes to start early next year.

In February, the cost of most GO trips will rise by 40 to 60 cents, depending on the distance travelled, for people paying cash. In all cases, the increases will be smaller for those using a Presto fare card.

The hike takes the cost of using the regional commuter service slightly beyond its traditional framework for setting fares. Metrolinx chief executive Bruce McCuaig said that they normally aim to keep ticket prices within 60 per cent of the cost of driving.

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"One of the key inputs that we look at is what's the cost of the competition, so to speak. And the cost of the competition for many GO customers is to get in the car that typically is in their driveway at their home," Mr. McCuaig told reporters after the meeting. "We want to make sure that we remain as competitive as possible. [It's] something that we look at every year."

The current fares will be equal to about 63 per cent of the cost of driving, according to Metrolinx, though the figure used for that comparison takes into account only gas and parking.

The decision to raise fares came after lengthy discussion by the board of Metrolinx, the regional transit agency that oversees GO. Speaker after speaker acknowledged that riders will not be happy, but pointed out that the fare hike is coming alongside better service.

Fares under $5.70 will remain unchanged. From the start of February, though, fares from $5.70 to $6.50 will go up 40 cents. Those from $6.51 to $8.25 will rise by 50 cents. All fares above $8.25 will go up 60 cents.

Unlike the lively discussion about GO fares, there was no discussion at the board about the appropriateness of the cost to ride the Union Pearson Express train. The president of the service made a short presentation, said she was pleased with their efforts to build the service, and the board moved on.

Speaking later to reporters, Metrolinx chair Rob Prichard said that members of the board had already discussed UPX at some length during meetings the previous day.

"We had a thorough discussion at the customer experience committee yesterday, we had a thorough discussion at the audit committee yesterday," he said. "I think we gave it a very thorough airing in that setting, which is why there was no appetite for doing a lot more today."

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These committee meetings are not open to the public.

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