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Over Time, How Fairly Have TTC Fares Fared?

TTC Fares vs. Gas Prices, 1980-2010

As anticipated by transit watchers, the TTC is proposing an across-the-board fare hike, effective January 3, 2010. That hike, to be decided on at the commission’s November 17 meeting, would see adult cash fares rise from $2.75 to $3.00, tokens rise from $2.25 to $2.50, and adult Metropasses jump from $109 to $126. A full list of the proposed changes are here; the immediate reasons for them are—as they always are—myriad. (The Star and Globe both take a look at some of them.)
Of course, this fare increase is only the latest in a long line of them. Since 1980, there have been twenty-one hikes—a set of six adult tickets purchased on January 1, 1980 cost a total of $3; an adult Metropass, when it was introduced later that year, was $26. The chart above tracks the ever-changing cost of a TTC adult fare, as it was on June 1 of each year from 1980 until now (using statistics collected on Mike Vainchtein’s Transit Stop). Save for a few spots—like the comparatively massive increase to the cost of a cash fare in 1992—the increases have been steady, and in the case of ticket or token costs when purchased in larger numbers, almost entirely predictable.
For a related metric, the far less consistent and infinitely less predictable black line in the chart above is the average cost of regular unleaded gas, per litre, from full service filling stations in Toronto for the month of June of each year (from data by Statistics Canada’s CANSIM database). Though TTC fares and gas prices are affected by a number of different variables and set for different reasons—both are subsidized in different ways and determined by different organizations with different interests and different demands on them—there’s no doubt that gas prices are growing less quickly than TTC fares are, even if on the TTC it’d still only take you the equivalent of two and a half litres of unleaded to get from Queen East and Woodbine to Finch and Steeles.
As usual with statistics, though, it’s not the raw but the relative year-to-year statistics that give a more accurate impression. So, adjusted for inflation, easy enough to determine using the Bank of Canada’s online inflation calculator, how’s the TTC doing?


TTC Fares vs. Gas Prices, adjusted for inflation, 1980-2010
Well, that depends.
TTC fares have risen and are still rising year-to-year at a rate greater and greater than inflation is. (Gas? Doing great until recently!) For an ever-growing transit system that is ever-absent of adequate government funding and that individual riders pay an ever-disproportionate share to use each trip, though, it’s a trend that won’t be bucked any time soon. Riders who are angry about yet another fare increase—”Really? REALLY? We are supposed to be moving away from cars towards public transit, this kind of move makes me never wnat [sic] to ride the TTC again,” one rider complained in the Star‘s comments—might be well off asking themselves what their $2.50 will be getting them in 2010 that their equivalent of $1.48 in 1991 wouldn’t have then.
All charts by David Topping/Torontoist.

Comments

  • CanadianSkeezix

    Great chart and an interesting comparison.
    Of course, it doesn’t tell the full story. A TTC fare gets one from Point A to Point B. A litre of gasoline does not get you anywhere by itself — it is only one component of the cost of driving. There is also the related costs related automobile ownership and upkeep, insurance, parking, etc. etc. It would be interesting to see how the actual cost of driving since 1980, versus simply the cost of gas, compares to TTC fare increases.

  • http://www.torontoist.com David Topping

    Of course, and I totally agree, and I wouldn’t suggest that a TTC fare and the price of one litre of unleaded gas are the same thing (though gas prices and TTC fares are to some extent related to one-another). The reason I used gas for the sake of comparison was that—like TTC fares—there’s thirty years of reliable and consistently measured data, and I wanted something, in Toronto, that I could compare the cost of TTC fares to. (Torontoist staff had also tossed around the idea of comparing a TTC fare over time to, say, street meat, or Toronto Life‘s cover price.)

  • http://undefined canuck1975

    It would be interesting to see how much the gap between Adult fares to Senior, Student & Child fares has changed. I don’t have the time to figure it out, but I wonder if that burden has been moved off Adults and onto families (since not all Adults would be buying fares for kids).
    Just curious, as it could also be an indicator of a burden being placed on those living in poverty.

  • http://undefined W. K. Lis

    There is also wages and benefits to the employees who chauffeur the vehicles for us. Maybe a comparison with taxi rates who have been included.

  • Pan Von Sol

    Impeccable timing; raise fares right before Winter so less commuters can say, “screw this, I’m riding my bike!”

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    The “street meat” idea is also behind the Big Mac Index.
    On going to Wikipedia to find related info on other cities’ systems, I find very similar plots. It would be interesting to see how fares in others cities trend relative to the TTC. Foreign inflation and exchange rates would be relevant.
    And, before anyone gets on it, the relative (over/under) position of the coloured and black lines doesn’t signify anything. CanadianSkeezix gets at the point that a true apples-to-apples comparison would be on the basis of dollars per person-kilometre. That would require average TTC trip length and Toronto ‘fleet average’ fuel economy and vehicle occupancy data by year…hard to come by.

  • http://undefined TokyoTuds

    Indeed, David, maybe you could do a follow-up and use data from the CAA on the annual cost of operating a car that includes gas, insurance, maintenance and depreciation.
    2009 Driving Costs (CAA)
    http://tinyurl.com/ykzcxan
    Kilometres Driven per Year
    12,000 km
    Annual Operating Costs (variable)
    $1,284.00
    Annual Ownership Costs (fixed)
    $6,515.25
    total Cost
    $7,799.25
    Cost per Kilometre
    65.0¢
    CONCLUSION: About $21.37 per day to own a car, in which case you could get a MetroPass at the newly proposed full fare of $126×12=$1,512, and have enough left over for almost $6,300 of taxi fares when the TTC won’t cut it for you (one $17 fare every day of the year).
    =======================
    2008 Driving Costs (CAA)
    http://tinyurl.com/ydymflb

  • http://undefined TokyoTuds

    Hey Paul, here is perhaps a good “all-in” figure to use.
    “Not surprisingly, the total cost of driving a car, according to CAA research, has almost doubled (increased 91.5%) in the last 23 years from 20.1 cents per kilometre driven in 1985 to 38.5 cents per kilometre in 2008.”
    – PumpTalk
    http://tinyurl.com/yjduve8
    TTC cash fare in the same period increased 71.9% from $1.60 to $2.75.

  • http://undefined dowlingm

    canuck – the increases for Seniors and students are about 8%, substantially below the 16% on Adult Passes and 10% on Tokens. The main point is that TTC management HATE passes and would much rather strengthen the floors of their counting offices (I’m serious!) and hire more staff to count cash and tokens (no, really!)

  • http://undefined TokyoTuds

    I’ll also cross-post this from the Newsstand today, as it is relevant to the TTC issue of public finding from various levels of government.
    “With all of this budget talk and TTC fares being raised, remember one thing: the government does not pay for anything. The residents of this city, province and country pay for everything: the people pay. Likewise, companies do not pay for anything: any monies they remit are just as proxy for their employees and customers.
    You pay for everything, so what are you going to do about budget problems?”

  • http://undefined Vincent Clement

    Are the numbers in PumpTalk adjusted for inflation? If not, then the cash fare in 1985 appears to be 95 cents. That would be a 189% increase – or almost a tripling of the TTC face between 1985 and 2008.

  • http://undefined Vincent Clement

    face = fare

  • http://undefined 6Speed

    That’s fair enough, but looking at car ownership isn’t as simple as just comparing averages.
    The TTC has a more or less fixed cost (with some savings thrown in when you buy tokens in bulk and metro passes and things like that).
    With a car costs vary hugely. Yeah, you can buy a new car and lose a lot on depreciation, or you can buy a reliable car for $3000 that will barely depreciate, sip gas. The cost of owning a car like that will probably drop to about $3000 a year.
    I’m not advocating the use of cars over transit, this isn’t the point – I’m just trying to say it’s unfair to compare statistics like that. For example, let’s just say there was an expanding economy. That can lead to people buying more new cars (rather than used), or to be buying more expensive cars, which raises their fuel, insurance, and repair expenses, so the overall average would be higher. But this doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily more expensive to own just a plain cheap car.
    In fact, if you REALLY want a fair comparison of the cost of driving versus taking the TTC, then compare it to a cheap, used, economy car. It will still cost more, but the difference isn’t as huge.
    One can also argue that owning a more expensive, newer, or better car than say a bare bones used econobox is a luxury that the person is paying for, so it is somewhat of a moot point of comparing THAT to the TTC, if you know what I mean. My point is basically that with the TTC you get basic services (no fancy surround system or leather seats), so it’s fair comparing the price of TTC fair to fancy cars.
    If we’re just talking TTC fare price vs. just driving a car, then compare it to a BASIC, economic car, for a much much more fair and realistic result.

  • http://www.twitter.com/vicdezen Vic De Zen

    Interesting how there was a steady decline in costs in the late 90′s. I hadn’t noticed this in all my years taking the TTC. I understand the costs for maintaing vehicles, gas, etc., but then what about the wages. It would interesting to hear what a starting salary is for the TTC. I’ve never done any official research, but everytime I hear about it, the wages go up significantly. Much more than fare hikes proportionately. Maybe there should be some accountability there.

  • http://undefined 6Speed

    PS. Please excuse my lack of proof reading, in the second last paragraph it should be: it’s unfair comparing the price of TTC fare**

  • http://undefined W. K. Lis

    There’s a timely article from San Francisco at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/04/BASA1AD8BR.DTL&tsp=1 on transportation costs being lower in the city than in suburbs.

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    I see what you’re trying to say—for the person with low price as a top priority, the cheapest transit option and the cheapest driving option are close together. There are some weaknesses there; for example, a $1000 bike and lots of exercise is an even cheaper option.
    But the point of the article is that most people do not have low price as their top priority; they may value convenience, or some combination of other things. The value perceptions of the vast majority of car buyers are also influenced by advertising and other factors.
    To the average driver (as opposed to the cheapskate), the value of (crowded, slow) transit is so low that (s)he is willing to pay the extra cost of owning a car, plus some premium to drive a new, non-economy car. This situation is worsened when underfunding causes the cost of transit grows faster than the cost of driving.

  • http://undefined TokyoTuds

    6speed, I agree it is not simple to compare, but it is as close as apples to apples that you can get. I don’t think you read the rather short report.
    1) Yes, the TTC Metropass at a gross cost of $1,512 per year is fixed, and is in fact the most you can possibly spend on the TTC. That makes it an even better value than operating a car in my mind. The savings thorough discounts make it even better and better, dare I say, “The better way.”
    2) You said you “can buy a reliable car for $3000″. Is that so? Show me even one example. In fact, the CAA study allows for depreciation annnualised of a 4 year old Colbalt LT. Here is a four-year old Cobalt for sale for $7,888 mirroring the one used in the report. Buy that instead to reduce your depreciation, but you will still spend over $1,200 a year in Operating Costs at very low milage (12,000 km). Then to be generous, strip out depreciation altogether and add the Fixed Costs of $2,660 for a total of $2,980. This all assumes you paid cash to buy the car. No matter how generous one is by excluding depreciation and purchase price, the difference is still
    3) You said “If we’re just talking TTC fare price vs. just driving a car, then compare it to a BASIC, economic car, for a much much more fair and realistic result.” That is exactly what the CAA report did. I took the absolute lowest cost of $7,799,25 but it ranges up to $13,638.95 in the CAA report.
    4) You bring up the topic of a luxury a person is willing to pay extra for (“fancy surround system or leather seats”). I find it a luxury to read, sleep or daydream on transit and let a professional driver get me there safely, and I don’t even have to pay thousands of dollars extra for it. But both my luxury and your luxury example are additional benefits, not the underlying utility of transportation. I don’t think your $3,000 econobox will have any luxuries in it.
    Finally, I’m just curious, how much did you spend on your car in 2008, how old is it, when did you buy it, and what did you pay for it when you bought it?

  • http://undefined TokyoTuds

    Vincent, I checked and this appears to be a nominal cost, which is also what David uses above for the 1985 TTC fare (nominal price of $1.60). It is fair to compare the nominal cost of the TTC fare to the nominal cost of car operation, isn’t it?

  • http://undefined 6Speed

    Okay, I wasn’t specifically referring to myself, but let’s take my car as an example if you wish. I have a 2000 Honda Civic. I paid 2400$ for it in December of 2008. It’s hardly depreciated, if at all. Super reliable. To answer your questions, I’ve done maybe 4 or 5 oil changes at 30$ each, and I needed a new distributor for $60 once. That’s it so far. I need some wipers soon so another $30?
    I know that almost everyone has a mentality of only driving new cars, but, cars don’t need to be treated as disposable. There are plenty of 7-8 year old cars which are in great condition and have TONS Of life left it them, while being at pretty much the bottom of the depreciation cycle. Driving a car older than 4 years old isn’t the end of the world.

  • http://undefined shaun

    If you want to calculate the full cost of driving a car you will have to include the “externalities” entailed by driving. In other words, you will have to include things such as the health care costs of polluting the environment, which are not included in the price of the vehicle or at the fuel pumps. What it “costs” to drive a car is actually more than simply what the owner of the car pays. It is spread out onto society as a whole.
    If automobile owners had to pay the full costs of what they incur on society our transport options would be a lot different.

  • http://undefined xtremesniper

    That’s kind of funny, given that the TTC’s fare increases are now bringing the fares a little closer to YRT’s fares. Granted, only the people who buy YRT tickets as single ride fare would complain about how expensive it is, since buying tickets in bulk and even a monthly pass is much less expensive even with the cash fare being $3.25.
    But transit aside, of course it’s more expensive for transportation out in the suburbs. You gotta drive or bus everywhere to get anywhere. In the city you can bike or walk and make it to your destination in good time.

  • http://www.flickriver.com/photos/doitintheroad/ dcooper

    This discussion is becoming increasingly inanely about methods of interpreting statistics, when really, it should be about the bottom line. I think the graphs used above, while they CLEARLY do not display the “big picture”, they do provide an accurate, reliable measure of the costs of comparable options over a given period of time. Fair enough.
    Rather, I think it’s much more pressing to note that for a low income family, $126 a month quickly amounts to $1500 a year (per adult). For a low-income family, say a single commuting parent with child, simple inner-city public transit expenses can add up to shockingly fat slices of a below-average annual income.

  • http://undefined Vincent Clement

    The top graph is in nominal dollars (not adjusted for inflation). The bottom graph is in real dollars (adjusted for inflation).
    The nominal TTC cash fare in 1985 was $0.95. The real TTC cash fare in 1985 was about $1.72 (not $1.60 as you and I stated).
    So, yes, you are correct in stating that it “is fair to compare the nominal cost of the TTC fare to the nominal cost of car operation”. You need to compare the 1985 nominal cash fare of $0.95 with the 2008 nominal cash fare of $2.75.

  • http://undefined EricSmith

    Median income for households in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area headed by single parents was $39,824 in 2005 ($36,800 after tax). That means that 118,715 single-parent households brought in less than that.

    The median’s a bit lower for the Toronto Census Division, arguably a better geographic area to pick if we’re interested in inner-city transit: 68,067 single-parent households making less than $36,484 ($34,205 after tax).

    As of March 2010, Ontario’s minimum wage will be $10.25/hr. Assuming a 40 hr work week, that’s $21,320 a year.

  • http://undefined bjhtn

    I produced something similar to this 4 years ago when there was some similar hand-wringing about a proposed fare increase (I didn’t include gas prices, which is an interesting addition). (Linked from here on Transit Toronto.) I went back to 1954, which showed two interesting patterns:
    1) Fares were fairly stable until 1975, not long after the TTC eliminated the zone fare system. After then it appears that fares had to rise quickly to make up for revenue losses on unproductive suburban routes.
    Until you look at page 2:
    2) Fares didn’t really increase all that much in 1975 when you account for the effect of inflation. By comparison, though, the fare increases of the early- to mid-90s had a major impact even considering inflation, and have never gone back. As the update shows, the inflation-adjusted cost is still creeping up.

  • http://undefined bjhtn

    By the way, it would be interesting to see something similar for the Metropass now that it is about to enter its 30th year.

  • http://undefined dorkknight

    According to their website:
    “The starting hourly wage rate for [a TTC operator] is $21.90 (rate after training) to 28.57 (ater 24 months).”
    http://www3.ttc.ca/Jobs/transit_operator_drivers_recruitment.jsp

  • http://undefined dorkknight

    bah, apologies. This should have been a reply to Vic De Zen’s post above.

  • http://undefined dorkknight

    According to their website:
    “The starting hourly wage rate for [a TTC operator] is $21.90 (rate after training) to 28.57 (ater 24 months).”

  • http://undefined Vincent Clement

    One hopes that the single commuting parent with child claims their federal tax credit for public transit passes – a 15% credit in 2008.

  • http://undefined EricSmith

    The staff recommendation is to increase the cost of the pass by about 16%, so that takes care of the tax credit quite neatly.