Metrolinx is exploring ways to make payment easier for those who use multiple transit agencies to move around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

A report tabled at the Metrolinx board meeting Thursday lays out a case for harmonizing fares across the various systems in order to make it easier and more attractive for people to use transit.

“There are currently 11 different ways fares are determined in the GTHA, with each transit service provider setting its own rules and prices,” the report says.

The current system means that those who have to cross a municipal boundary for a short trip end up paying double, while a much longer trip within a single municipality still only requires a single flat fare.

The report warns differences in pricing, discounts, payment types and transfer rules make transit use confusing and more expensive for customers who use different systems, as well as more expensive for the various operators.

“Without more co-ordinated inclusive decision making, agencies’ fare systems are continuing to evolve independently of one another leading to greater inconsistency and divergence,” the report says.

Consultants have laid out four options that will be examined more closely over the next few months. They include implementing zones, charging fares by distance and a hybrid system where there would be flat fares for local trips and fare by distance for rapid transit and regional trips.   

While some options such as zones or fare by distance would take longer to set up, the report says there are a number of measures that could be implemented immediately to better harmonize fares across the various systems.  They include

  • Discounts on double fares for those using GO and the TTC
  • Discounts on double fares for those using 905 transit agencies and the TTC
  • Adjustments to GO’s fare structure
  • Fare Policy Harmonization

Some of the options could be implemented by instituting a tap on/ tap off policy, as is the case with GO Transit. The report says that emerging technologies could eventually allow zones and fares by distance with a single Presto tap.

While there have been pilot projects to integrate the various systems in the past, such as a special passes for those using GO Transit and the TTC, the discount policies between various agencies have remained inconsistent.

Metrolinx staff are expected to gather feedback from the public and key stakeholders and report back in December on the best options for fare integration.