Thursday, January 10, 2013

Taking Transit: Cash, Tickets or Pass?

Within the past year I've had inquiries from friends about what is the most economical fare method they choose for taking York Region Transit (YRT) or other transit systems.  These questions usually come around when friends of myself are taking a couple weeks vacation or are starting new transit trip frequencies. 

RideYork blog has previously blogged about the different fare options for riding YRT and which ones to choose as well as tips for maximizing your transit dollar for each trip despite ever increasing fares at York Region Transit. There probably are other similar postings from local area transit experts like RideYork as well.  

Generally, to maximize the transit fare dollars you pay, I would suggest investigating the following options before doing the calculations to choose your choice:
  • CASH: Paying cash is great if you are only going to use the transit system once or twice during a monthly period and probably never again or for quite sometime.  A good case in point is travelling from the airport to the hotel and back again on the TTC on a business trip.

  • TICKETS/MULTIRIDE: Tickets or Multiride passes are great if you are using transit either for a short period of time (e.g. a week, etc.) or semi frequently.  These usually provide either a free ride equivalent compared to regular cash fares or at least a bonus for your money.  In terms of "bonus for your money" New York City's MTA system provides a 7% bonus when you put $10 or more on your multiride card.  Thus, if you put $10.00 on your multiride card, the card is credited $10.70.

  • WEEKLY PASSES: Some systems like New York City's MTA New York City Transit provide weekly or 7 Day transit that allow users to ride the system unlimited for a week or 7 days time.  Be carefult though as some systems, like the TTC, only allow you to purchase weekly passes that start on a Monday and end the following Sunday.  However, New York City will allow you to obtain a 7 Day pass that lets you ride 7 calendar days.  Thus if you wish to start on a Wednesday and leave next Tuesday, you can without being strongarmed into the more expensive Tickets/Multiride or Two Weekly pass option.

  • MONTHLY PASSES/30 DAY PASSES:  All systems that I have used have some form of Monthly Pass or 30 Day pass equivalents.  Toronto's TTC, York Region's YRT, Greater Toronto Area's GO Transit and Ottawa's OC Transpo have Monthly passes that provide unlimited rides on their respective systems during a calendar month (i.e. January 1st to January 31st inclusive).  New York City is different as it provides a 30 day pass for unlimited travel.  Thus, if you purchase your card on January 15th, the pass is valid for 30 days thereafter until the end of February 13th.  New York City's provides a little more flexibility compared to the other systems mentioned above as it doesn't limit you to one predetermined month (i.e. only January) but allows you to choose which 30 consecutive days. 

  • ADDITIONAL OPTIONS: Before choosing your best method of payment you should also investigate additional bonuses provided by transit agencies.  For example, don't purchase a Monthly YRT pass and a GO Transit pass if you ride the GO Train to downtown from York Region but also need to get to the GO Train Station.  YRT routes provide shuttle service to GO Stations for a mere $0.75 if you have a GO Train ticket or pass in hand.  As well, New York City provides discounts to John F. Kennedy Air Train passengers if they also hold a MTA New York City Unlimited 7 Day or 30 Day pass.  As well, YRT and OC Transpo let you use 1 fare for a certain period of time instead of paying per trip (i.e. direction) like the TTC. Thus, it is best to check with the respective transit agency to see how fares are calculated and used.
How do you decide which fare payment method to use?   It is quite easy, take a look at where you will be going on a frequent basis (i.e. home to work) and work it out from there.  Most people use transit during rush hours to get to work.  In York Region this may require use of GO Transit or the TTC on top of YRT. So first start with your regular trips and augment your trips from there for other activities (i.e. shopping).

To calculate which option you should choose use the following example, based on York Region Transit's fares for 1 Zone fares to figure out which method you should choose:

Let's say it is December and John is travelling from Vaughan to Markham on YRT to get to work.  Dutifully John normally purchases a monthly pass on a regular basis as he takes transit every day to work.  But in December John is taking some well deserved time off for 2 weeks (14 days) including Christmas Day & Boxing Day.  So John has 14 days to cover of which 10 of those are regular weekdays he works.   John has figured he will use 20 rides to work plus 2 trips on the weekend for shopping.  John takes out his calculator and sheet of paper and starts working. 

YRT Monthly Pass Option

1 Zone Unlimited Ride Monthly Pass Total: $120.00 minus the 15%  Federal Income Tax Credit = $102.00 per month.

10 Ride Ticket Option

1 Book of 10 Ride Tickets (or equivalent Presto Card load) = $30.00.  2 books of tickets ($60.00) plus 2 cash fares ($7.50) = $67.50 for 22 trips.

Cash Fare Option

$3.75 x 22 trips = $82.50

Thus, John smartly purchases the 2 Books of 10 Ride Tickets and pays cash for 2 trips thereby saving him $34.50 if he had bought his regular monthly pass or $15.00 if he paid cash fares all the way.  Of course additional savings could be had if John bought a 3rd book of tickets and banked those tickets for whenever he needed them next.

When choosing your transit fare options, take a look around to see what service is offered at what price.  If there are multiple systems you could use (i.e. Richmond Hill to Union Station Toronto there is YRT/TTC and GO Transit options) there may be savings based on which route you choose to take. Thus, there are major savings to be had if you do your homework.

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