Four years ago, I wrote about GO Transit’s problematic fare structure. Though GO Transit claims to charge passengers based upon a fare-by-distance structure, fares for travelling short distances were disproportionately high compared to long-distance rides from outer suburban stations. In 2015, I also found significant fare differences between corridors, with Kitchener Line passengers paying the most per distance traveled.
Since my original post, some changes were made to the GO Transit fare system:
- In 2016, a tiered fare increase was applied, with the lowest fares frozen (for example, Union Station to Mimico, Bloor, or Danforth), with fare increases between 40 and 60 cents per ride dependent on distance traveled. Those fare increases applied to Presto fares, though with a discount (11.15% less than the cash fare).
- In January 2018, a $1.50 fare discount was introduced for Presto card users transferring between TTC and GO. However, the Ford government announced it would no longer subsidize the TTC-GO fare discount, threatening its continuation.
- In April 2019, GO fares for trips less than 10 kilometres were reduced, with the minimum cash fare going from $5.30 to $4.40, with the minimum Presto fares reduced from $4.71 to $3.70. A passenger headed from Union Station to Exhibition Place could choose to take a local TTC streetcar fare ($3.10 with a Presto Card) or the direct GO train ride (just 60 cents more). At the same time, the cash fares for trips longer than 10 kilometres were increased by 4%, while Presto fares were increased by 3%.
The good news is the eventual reduction of short-distance fares have gone a long way towards flattening the fare/distance curve.
There were also some major service changes over the last four years. Two new GO stations were opened: Downsview Park (which offers a direct connection to the new TTC subway extension to York University and Vaughan), and Gormley, a station built next to Highway 404 on the Oak Ridges Moraine. Additional trains were added to Kitchener, new peak-period trains to and from Niagara Falls were introduced, evening trains added on the Kitchener Line, and this month, weekend trains were introduced on the Stouffville Line. But connecting bus routes to Cambridge, Bolton, and between Milton and Oakville were eliminated, with other bus trips cancelled across the system.
A fairer fare structure for short trips
On the Lakeshore West corridor, fares decreased between 2015 and 2019 for trips between Union Station and Exhibition, Mimico, and Long Branch. These three stations are located within the City of Toronto and within 15 kilometres of Union Station. For example, the fare from Union to Exhibition was reduced from $5.60 ($1.66 per km) to $4.40 ($1.38/km). The cash fare between Union Station and Port Credit increased by 80 cents (12.6%), with all other increases between 17 and 20 percent. As the cash fare discount for Presto users was increased over the last four years from 11.5% to 14%, there is now a fairer GO Transit fare structure.
Still, the farther one travels, the cheaper it gets per kilometre traveled. Below is a table of the cash fare for all stations on the Lakeshore West Corridor, including two bus connections that correspond with the locations of planned new GO Stations (Centennial and Grimsby). Both 2015 and 2019 data are presented.
GO Transit fares increased over twice the rate of inflation
Despite the fare reductions for short trips in recent years, most GO Transit fares have increased substantially between 2009 and 2019. This increase was far higher than the rate of inflation and even local transit fares in the Greater Toronto Area.
The average GO Transit cash fare increase in ten years was 48.7%. However, this percentage increase did not apply evenly across the system.
The cash fare between Union Station and Port Credit, Dixie and Cooksville Stations in 2009 was $4.80. The fare rose by 48.9% to $7.15 by 2019. Meanwhile, Malton Station had the highest percentage cash fare increase, from $5.30 in 2009 to $8.70 in 2019, an increase of 64.2%.
During the same time period, the TTC cash fare rose from $2.75 to $3.25, an increase of 18.2%. According to the Bank of Canada Inflation Calculator, inflation rose by 18.74%. Therefore, most GO Transit fares rose at over twice the rate of inflation.
Fare discrepancies continue to exist across the network
Fares for stations between 40 and 45 kilometres from Union Station
The fare discrepancy between corridors continues to exist, with the highest fares on the Kitchener Corridor and the lowest fares on the Richmond Hill and Barrie Corridors. It costs $9.35 cash to travel from Gormley, GO Transit’s newest station, to Union Station, a distance of 42.4 kilometres. The cost to travel from Bronte to Union, a distance of 41.5 kilometres, is $11.10. From Mount Pleasant Station, two kilometres closer to Union, it costs $11.20.
The one-way cash fare to Kitchener Station, 101 kilometres from Union Station, is $19.40. However, the fare to Allandale Waterfront, approximately the same distance from Union, is just $15.80. Even St. Catharines, 118 kilometres from Union Station, is 40 cents cheaper than a ride to Kitchener.
These fare discrepancies are unfair.
Fares for stations over 90 kilometres from Union Station
I expect there will another GO Transit fare hike in 2020. I hope that any future changes to the structure will take into consideration the severe fare discrepancies, where Kitchener Line passengers pay the highest fares while Barrie and Richmond Hill Line passengers pay, by far, the lowest fares.
I give Metrolinx credit for at least addressing part of the problematic GO Transit fare structure. But there is a lot more work to be done. Ultimately, any fare-by-distance scheme should be fair and transparent.
Map of GO Rail Network, with parking and fare information for each station