The Public Works Committee has approved a plan from city staff to adopt new fare policies proposed at it’s meeting Monday morning. The plan would see fare parity between DARTS and the HSR as well as eliminate the voluntary pay policy that has been in place for more than a decade.
With the passing of the “Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act” into law one of the required parts of the act included fare parity between traditional transit and specialized transit in municipalities. This means that users of specialized transit such as DARTS must not pay more than riders of traditional transit such as the HSR.
Currently DARTS has a single fare type with all users paying $2.35 per trip. While the cash fare for all users of HSR is $2.55, the cost for an adult ‘bus ticket’ or tap of the Presto fare card is only $2.00. Student tickets cost just $1.65.
Therein lays the disparity.
Under the proposed change DARTS will adopt the fare structure of the HSR and all it’s fare categories, thus reducing the adult fare for riding DARTS from $2.35 to $2.00 as of January 1st, 2013. After that date any users who have tickets for the specialized transit system, which will then cost more than standard fare, will be able to have these refunded in the new year.
Another change to be passed is the discontinuation of the HSR’s voluntary pay policy for riders making use of personal mobility devices (scooters, wheelchair, etc) or four point canes. The policy change, which is unique to the city, was welcomed by counselor Russ Powers.
“I am supportive particularly of the elimination of the voluntary fare,” counselor Powers said. “I hate to say this but I see abuses of people who are fully mobile yet are capitalizing with implements in order to take advantage of this.”
The change will also end free fares for CNIB card holders. As part of the AODA law it can be seen as discriminatory as persons with unseen disabilities may be excluded from the voluntary payment policy.
It is estimated that there are some 300,000 Voluntary Pay ‘free rides’ taken on board HSR buses every year. Riders paying a regular ticket fare would add $600,000 to the amount taken in by buses at the farebox. Some of that revenue could be put towards additonal required costs if demand for the specialized transit service increases.
The HSR will also introduce a monthly senior’s pass which will cost about $20 per month and a single senior ‘ticket’ priced at $1.65 in 2013. As the transit system is looking to eventually phase out paper media these fare options will only be available on the Presto fare card later in 2013.
Don Hull, the Director of Transportation, made it clear that the HSR has no plans to stop producing paper media any time in the near future. Usage of Presto on DARTS buses is currently not possible as Metrolinx, the provincial body repsonsible for the roll out of the Presto fare card system, doesn’t have a solution for specialized transit.
These plans, once approved by city council, will take effect January 1st, 2013.