In an announcement made late Tuesday night, the Discounted Double Fare program between GO Transit and TTC customers will be coming to an end on March 31st of this year.
This non-renewal (see: cancellation) of the program by the province may not seem like the biggest news to non-commuters, but for those who travel in and out of the city centre on a weekly basis, the $1.50 discount each way certainly adds up:
The program, which was funded by the provincial government, was a three-year fiscal agreement (April 1 to April 1) between GO Transit/UP Express and the TTC, offering PRESTO card users a $1.50 discount on their fare when transferring between GO/UP and the TTC. The first funding GO Transit received was in the final quarter of 2018, approximately $4.6 million, while in 2019-2020, they received the full $18.4 million.
That said, in both years the program went over budget; by $2.6 million in 2018-2019 and by $6.7 million in 2019-2020, showing that interest in the program nearly tripled from one year to the next. Metrolinx says it has covered the $9.3 million shortfall since the program launched, meaning the province has not paid any more than was originally budgeted.
In calendar year 2019, Metrolinx saw an increase in ridership of 5.5% to 77 million riders, a 50% over all increase in the past decade.
Of those riders, the cancellation of the Discounted Double Fare program could affect approximately 50,000 commuters every day who switch between GO Transit and the TTC. According to Metrolinx's CEO, Phil Verster, in the single month of March 2019 some 1.6M transfers between the two transit systems were recorded, with riders saving north of $2 million as a result.
Many of those riders who will no longer enjoy the $3 daily savings are students.
York University students who would take GO Transit to the Highway 407 Bus Terminal before transferring to the TTC will now have to pay extra.
Acting York University Chief Spokesperson Yanni Dagonas told Toronto Storeys:
Many of our York community members live in the 905 area and rely on affordable transit to access the campus. We remain concerned that the additional extra TTC daily fare for GO Transit Bus riders may pose a financial barrier for our community, in particular for our students.
The University will continue to advocate for affordable transportation options for our community that includes implementation of full fare integration that reduces the financial burden on our students, faculty, and staff.
According to Tuesday's release, Metrolinx "will be bringing forward solutions in the near future to help our customers travel through the region using different methods of transit." There is no word yet on whether or not any of those solutions will be ready in time for April 1, the first day commuters will begin to feel the sting of an extra $1.50 per ride.