Posts Tagged: Next Vehicle



Toronto Transit Commission to Charge Riders For Next Vehicle Information

An article in yesterday’s Toronto Star caught my eye. Apparently the Toronto Transit Commission is preparing to charge its riders 15¢ for every sms they receive from the system’s next-vehicle text system. Says The Star:

TTC staff want to charge customers 15 cents to use the next-streetcar text message system when the service expands to include buses later this year . . . The first two texts would be on the house, according to a staff report going to city hall Wednesday. Customers would only be charged for the third and subsequent text messages sent within a 24-hour period.

I’m torn about this one.

The TTC is an almost perpetually underfunded agency and looks for revenue wherever they can find it, but this seems like penny-pinching at its worst. According to the article, the total savings/revenue this scheme would generate is roughly $400,000 CAD, a mere drop in the bucket for an agency that has an annual operating budget that approaches nearly $1.5 billion.

At the same time, this is exactly the kind of model I advocate for when I talk about things like the Freemium Model of Public Transit. The difference, of course, being that with a Freemium model a basic service is incredibly discounted or offered free of charge and revenue is recouped through alternative means (such as 15¢ next-vehicle texts). The TTC, meanwhile, is rather expensive by North American standards with nearly constant fare hikes over the last decade.

I’m also not entirely sure about the whole idea that the first two texts (per day) are free and only the subsequent ones are subject to a charge. On the surface this looks like a fair and logical policy. After all, most people are only going to make two trips on transit per day – once to work and once back home. Two free texts should theoretically be enough for the average user.

The problem with this line of thinking, however, is that it presumes that a single text is going to be accurate and reliable which is questionable given the TTC’s significant reliability and schedule adherence problems – especially on its streetcar lines. One can receive a text saying that the next vehicle will arrive in 5 minutes only to find out two minutes later that it will be there in 7.

I know of several people who therefore opt to receive a half dozen texts prior to actually heading out the door to ensure they have the most up-to-date information and aren’t stuck lingering at a transit stop. For those people, two texts will simply not be enough, but not through any fault of their own.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this policy and would love to hear what you all think about it.

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