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05 October 2017 @ 11:07 pm
Simple? transits fares....  
In this response to a report about a new cofare for GO users on the TTC, a letter writer contends that a system of fare only by distance would be simpler for all and would render such fee sharing obsolete.

First what the writer proposes is merely another form of copayment and does not solve the organizational and political problems of sharing transit fees among all suppliers or how to manage those suppliers.

Second a fee for distance system is not generally simpler than the flat rate the writer decries. If you don't know where you are going to get off transit (either because your trip is in flux as you take it or you taking a new journey and not sure exactly where it ends) you won't know what the charge will be and won't know if you have enough change, enough money on your smart card, enough money in the bank etc. for the trip (another problem you may forgot or miscalculate your funds to similar results). If the fair for distance is enforced by barriers at either end then you could be unable to exit the system embarrassing and not simple. If the payment and either end (tapping in and tapping out with a smart card) is not enforced by barriers then there will be worries about people breaking the rules and worries about doing things like tapping in and forgetting to tap out. The GO transit already uses a distance for fare model and it is possible to render your Presto smart card temporarily inoperable by forgetting to tap out and you also to incur extra transit fee.

So for customers a flat fee for a usage period is often simpler and may be cheaper if they are making lots of short trips in their transit window. It is only simpler if you assume people think in a certain very well coordinated way about their transit plans, they never miscalculate or forget how much money they have on their cards, forget to tap out etc. In fact given people do make those kinds of mistakes a distance method of payment clearly creates more potential for problems.

Another idea they raise is that a distance system somehow coordinates better with the transit providers costs and so simpler. This is also clearly not the case, the distance will only be a limited proxy for the transit operators cost of the trip. For example the same distance of a kilometer may correspond to a route that only has one person on a bus or a full bus load of people, the cost per passenger km on the low population bus is much larger than on the popular route. A route may be so popular it requires two buses in a time period where another route only gets one, so that even more popular route is now more expensive per passenger km and so on.

Therefore being paid by distance would only somewhat coordinate the customers costs and suppliers costs. Often no more than the flat rate for ridership during a period of time does. A completely coordinated system of payment and costs would essential charge different fares for trips of the same distance depending on the route characteristics like popularity and mode of transit used.

There are certainly arguments for and against different fare systems, from flat rate transfers to distance charges to one way trip fees and so on. The argument that one is in all situations simpler or fairer strikes me wrong. It could easily be simpler for commuter trains and buses like GO transit's to use distance based fares and for the TTC to use a flat rate system.
Current Location: Oakville, Ontario
Current Mood: pedantic
Current Music: Transport of Delight

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