As of Monday, December 14, all TTC streetcars will operate under a “proof-of-payment” system; allowing customers to enter through the rear doors, as they currently do on 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina, the two routes partially equipped with the new Bombardier low-floor streetcars. All-door loading and proof-of-payment (POP) is supposed to be in effect on streetcars on Queen Street, but in practice, operators inconsistently open the rear doors; sometimes at all stops, often just a few downtown stops, sometimes only at Yonge Street, sometimes not all.
This new policy requires passengers to have a valid pass, transfer, or Presto card on board every streetcar; fares can continue to be paid at the front door on the older CLRVs and ALRVs; at that point a transfer must be obtained.
TTC fare inspectors have been handing out brochures about the new policy to streetcar passengers, informing them about the upcoming change:
The design of the new low-floor streetcars has required POP: they have four doors instead of two doors on CLRVs and three on ALRVs; the operator is in a separated cab, and normally does not interact with passengers, including fare collection and handing out transfers. At this point, at the end of 2015, all streetcars on the 509 and 510, as well as the 505 Dundas and 511 Bathurst routes were supposed to be equipped with low-floor accessible streetcars, but the many delays at Bombardier has resulted in only the twelfth new streetcar, #4413, entering service today.
By the end of the year, all TTC streetcars (not just the new Bombardier LFLRVs) will be accepting payment by Presto Card, one small step towards the elimination of tickets, tokens and paper transfers, a process already complete at many suburban GTA transit agencies.
But widespread adoption of Presto at the TTC will result in a few challenges unique to it, thanks to its outdated transfer policy that dates back over 100 years.
On the TTC, transfers are only valid for continuous one-way trips, no stopovers permitted. But most other major systems in Ontario work on the time-based transfer system, that allows for stopovers, even return trips within a 90 minute period (the policy at Grand River Transit) or 120 minute period (permitted in Mississauga, Brampton, York Region, Hamilton and elsewhere). After boarding the first bus, each additional tap with a Presto card will not result in a new fare deducted until the 90 minute or two hour time limit has passed.
The TTC will have a different policy. Paper transfers will still be required for Presto card holders if they intend to transfer to a bus (Presto readers will not be coming to the TTC’s buses for another year); but transfers to connecting streetcars and subway stations can be done by tapping the card on the new vehicle or at the subway turnstile. If it’s a valid transfer under the TTC’s rules, it will not deduct another fare. Here’s the TTC’s Brad Ross (the TTC’s amazing Head of Communications) clarifying this:
But there’s a hiccup:
If a passenger taps onto another vehicle on the same route, which is quite a common occurrence due to delays, short-turns, and diversions/shuttles, the Presto Card will deduct a second fare.
There is an easy solution: two-hour transfers. It would eliminate confusion, allow for short stopovers and quick two-way trips, and solve such issues such as customers re-boarding streetcars and buses on the same route. Allowing Presto cardholders the same luxury as that enjoyed in Toronto’s suburbs would provide an incentive to passengers paying by cash and token to switch. After all, the TTC already offers a two-hour transfer on St. Clair Avenue, a pilot project left over from the construction of the streetcar right-of-way.
The TTC already considered at time-based transfers in 2014 as it planned for the transition to Presto for fare collection. The Commission estimated that it would cost $20 million in annual revenue (thanks to lost fares stopovers and single-fare return trips), but it would by a lot of goodwill. And I doubt that the TTC would lose $20 million a year as it might attract new riders, especially during off-peak periods.
It’s now time for the TTC to bite the bullet to make it easier to ride the rocket.