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Toronto TTC mulls single cash fare, rush-hour pricing in sweeping policy changes

The introduction of the Presto card will allow TTC riders a much wider and more nuanced range of fare options.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's transit agency is gearing up for sweeping changes to how people pay to ride, with plans for a single cash fare to push people to the Presto card and a serious look at charging more to ride during rush hour.

The ideas are part of a report going out next week to the board of the Toronto Transit Commission, which will be asked to approve a wide-ranging series of changes to the TTC's fare policy.

Most of the ideas are related to the long-awaited advent of the Presto fare card. Finally bringing the TTC into the modern payment era, Presto will allow a much wider and more nuanced range of fare options.

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Among the options the board will be asked to consider are a single fare for those not using Presto; ending discounts for seniors and students paying cash; requiring passengers throughout the system to be able to demonstrate they paid their way on; and a daily "e-Purse" that would allow track usage and ensure riders are not charged more than the price of a daily pass. There were no similar recommendations for weekly or monthly passes.

Another proposed change would mean riders having to tap out with their Presto card as they exit subway stations. Although that could be seen as a foundation of a fare-by-distance system – since it would allow the length of trips to be measured – this type of fare structure was not endorsed by the TTC, which is currently assisting Metrolinx in studying the issue.

If approved, these changes would be phased in over the next two years.

Longer-term adaptation of the fare policy could include a different price to ride, depending on time of day. The board is being asked to approve consideration of the idea as part of the 2018 budget process, with staff saying that they have analyzed various pricing scenarios.

"Increasing peak fares can also be difficult as it involves a change in customer behaviour and not all customers have the flexibility to change their schedules," the report notes.

"Fare impact analysis scenarios were completed based on current TTC ridership, and included options for raising the peak fare by 5, 15 and 25 cents, and decreasing the off-peak fare by 5 cents. For example, factoring in ridership loss and switching rates, the revenue potential of a 15 cent increase in peak pricing alongside a 5 cent across the board off-peak discount could result in an overall $2M net revenue gain."

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