Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Are you critical of TransLink? For a fresh perspective, take Toronto's TTC

TransLink —our regional transportation agency in Metro Vancouver— isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but since I've been traveling to Toronto for work this year, I’ve come to the conclusion that some people in Metro Vancouver make mountains out of mole hills when it comes to issues with our transportation agency.

The SkyTrain has become less reliable, there is no arguing about that, but TransLink is also replacing many of the core components of the system to improve its reliability. Along the Expo Line, TransLink is almost finished replacing all of the power rails. They are also replacing many sections of worn-out running rail along the Expo Line. TransLink is refurbishing all of the original SkyTrain cars. All combined, this should result in SkyTrain reliable going back to near perfection.

Toronto's transit system, the TTC, is less reliable than Metro Vancouver's. Breakdowns on the subway and on the streets, and buses that just don’t show up are a fact of life in Toronto.

Toronto's current streetcar fleet went into service between 1977 and 1987; and is at the end of life. The TTC signed a contract with Bombardier in 2009 to replace the fleet, unfortunately due to a host of problems, the streetcars aren’t being delivered on-time.

Speaking about on-time, back in 2004 the federal government, Province of Ontario, and City of Toronto announced that the Presto Card would replace all the various forms of payment on the TTC. It will also be an accepted form of payment for other transit agencies throughout Ontario.

Unlike Metro Vancouver where TransLink delivers all transit service, if you live in the Greater Toronto Area, you are likely going to have to use more than one transit agency during your commute. For example, you might use GO Transit commuter trains and the TTC subway system. This means that you may have to carry around multiply fare products, and become an expert on the fare structures of the various transit agencies in the regoin.

The Presto Card will increase the ease of use when taking transit in Toronto. All people need to do is make sure they have enough money on their card, and the Presto system will figure out the rest. The Presto system was first announced in 2004. The TTC was originally going to be fully converted to the system by this year, it is now being promised to be fully deployed by the end of 2016. Assuming that they actually complete the roll-out in 2016, that will have been about 12 year!

The TransLink Compass Card was launched back in 2009 and was originally planned to be in service by the spring of 2013. TransLink wasn’t able to make that target, but the system did go live in October. The Compass Card roll-out took 6 years.

Unlike the TTC which charges one price no matter where you travel, TransLink is a multi-zone system and is moving towards a distance-based fare system. Even though the Compass Card roll-out was delayed, TransLink rolled-out a system that is handling a more complex fare structure, in a short time than it is taking the TTC to roll-out the Presto system with its simpler fare structures.

Now even though the TTC has a simple fare structure, it is actually more complex to use the system. With TransLink it is easy to use your credit card, debit card, or cash to get a new Compass Card, load up a Compass Card with cash or a pass, get a single-use ticket, or buy a day pass.

Example of a TTC pass product, and adult fare tokens.

While you can use cash on the TTC with no issue, using debit or credit isn’t as simple. Three different webpages are required to explain how to purchase tokens or passes for use on the TTC with debit or credit.

The TTC isn’t a horrible system, but when I use Toronto’s transit system, it reminds me of how good the transit system in Metro Vancouver really is.

1 comment:

P@J said...

During the plebiscite-we-shall-never-speak-of-again, I found myself wondering how many of the vitriolic critics of TransLink had ever travelled to other Cities around North America and the world and attempted to use their public transit system.

Many "World Cities" have great systems in the core of the City (where tourists spend most of their time), and abhorrent service in the edges. Travelling on Manhattan is obviously great (a City of 10+ million helps), and within the Loop in downtown Chicago, but try to get to and Anaheim Ducks game or the Science and Technology museum in South Chicago, and you find out what life is like in the periphery. As incredibly efficient as the Shanghai subway system is (20+ Million!), coordinating your ride around the various competing transit carriers in Kuala Lampur (7 Million!) is quite the challenge. Don't even get me started on Johannesburg, Ho Chi Minh City, or Bangkok.

As it seems that BC voters won't pay for a system as good as we have, I don't know why they expect it to be like Berlin or Amsterdam.