Toronto transit riders will soon be able to get a break on ticket costs for some urban GO train routes in the first significant fare integration between the two systems.
Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca and several top transit officials are expected to unveil the new policy at a press conference Friday morning.
According to sources, the plan calls for a sharply discounted GO Transit fare for Toronto Transit Commission passengers travelling between Union and either Exhibition or Danforth GO train stations. The goal is to offer a much quicker way to get to the city core, while allowing people to bypass the over-crowded subway exchange at Bloor-Yonge.
GO has a fare-by-distance system that charges disproportionately more for short rides. Fares between these GO stations and Union currently run around $5 each way, while a TTC ticket that offers unlimited use across the city costs about $3. Under the new plan, TTC passengers will be able to get access to these GO routes for a $60 month fee.
For people who use these stations to do a round-trip every week day, the added cost for GO will amount to a roughly 50-per-cent premium on the normal TTC fare.
The idea of cheaper access to GO trains has regularly been pitched by Toronto councillors, particularly Mike Layton, whose ward includes Liberty Village. This area, on the western shoulder of the downtown, has urbanized rapidly without a proportional increase in transit coverage. Under the new plan, those residents willing to make the hike down to Exhibition station and pay up will be able to get to Union in minutes.
It's unclear how much the plan will cost GO Transit, a figure that will depend on how many passengers use the discounted service.
A wrinkle is that finding a space on the train could prove difficult. GO trains usually run full during rush hour, with the agency's officials saying that an extra train typically reaches capacity only six months after entering service.
As well, most rush hour trains go through these stations without stopping. People wanting to reach Union between 8 and 9 a.m., for example, now have only two train options inbound at Danforth and two at Exhibition.
"It'll look nice, but will anybody really use it?" wondered transit authority and blogger Steve Munro. "Unless they're planning to convert some of these express [trains] to semi-local, it might not have much effect."
Still, polling during the recent mayoral election showed that transit and congestion were top of mind among Torontonians. With larger-scale transit projects often years or decades in the future, small improvements tend to find a warm reception.