Riders of the largest public transit operator in Canada’s biggest city, the Toronto Transit Commission, or TTC, will finally get an open-loop payments option by mid-2023. TTC-run buses, streetcars and subway will accept credit and debit cards and NFC wallets. A spokeswoman said the agency will charge the same fare for single rides with open loop as it does for customers tapping Presto closed loop cards.
For TransLink in Vancouver, those discounts (for closed loop) range from nearly 22% to just under 29%, depending on the zone. Most of the smaller agencies that have so far launched open loop in Toronto and vicinity do the same.
• TTC (Toronto)
• Metrolinx (Toronto)
• TransLink (Vancover)
Riders of the largest public transit operator in Canada’s biggest city, the Toronto Transit Commission, or TTC, will finally get an open-loop payments option by mid-2023. That will include the Toronto subway, a spokeswoman for transit agency Metrolinx confirmed to Mobility Payments.
Metrolinx, which runs the Toronto regional Presto closed-loop fare-collection system, has seen years of delays in extending open loop to TTC buses, streetcars (trams) and the four-line Toronto subway. Earlier reports of the move to open loop had focused only on Toronto buses and streetcars.
Metrolinx said new “devices” or terminals were now installed on 98% of streetcars and just over three-quarters of the reported 5,500 validators on board buses. TTC is installing new acceptance devices at subway fare gates, the spokeswoman added. TTC delivered just under 578 million rides in 2022, 48% of those on buses and 40% on the subway, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
In addition to running Presto, Metrolinx also operates two smaller transit operators in Toronto. Last summer, it launched open loop on its commuter rail operator, GO Transit, as well as rolling out open loop on its airline shuttle line, UP Express. It had run an open-loop pilot on the shuttle since October 2021.
Metrolinx also launched open-loop acceptance on three city-owned suburban bus agencies in the Toronto metropolitan area last summer and added four other area bus agencies in January 2023.
Most of the agencies in Canada that have launched open loop have enabled users only to tap Visa- and Mastercard-branded credit cards and these credentials in NFC wallets. But Metrolinx apparently believes acceptance of Canada’s popular debit card, Interac, will be ready in time for TTC’s mid-2023 launch of open loop.
“Metrolinx and the TTC are looking forward to delivering credit and debit payment to TTC customers in mid-2023,” the spokeswoman told Mobility Payments, noting that the technology “will cover the entire TTC system–buses, streetcars and subways.”
Vancouver transit authority TransLink, at present the largest agency to widely roll out open-loop payments in Canada, only introduced Interac debit acceptance in January 2023. That required a retrofit of terminals, nearly five years after TransLink originally launched open-loop payments, in 2018.
The absence of Interac no doubt contributed to the low adoption of contactless open-loop payments for TransLink, which stood only at 2% of trips as of the end of 2022.
But the main reason for the low adoption rate for TransLink and other Canadian agencies are that many charge riders the cash rate when they tap their credit or debit cards or credentials on smartphones and smartwatches, while giving closed-loop cardholders substantial discounts.
For TransLink, those discounts range from nearly 22% to just under 29%, depending on the zone. Most of the smaller agencies that have so far launched open loop in Toronto and vicinity do the same, though not GO Transit and UP Express. These two agencies offer parity with closed-loop fares. TransLink said it has talked about bringing parity between open loop and its closed-loop Compass card, but that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
The continued price disparity between open and closed loop also does not include concessionary discounts the agencies offer to seniors and other ridership categories or daily and monthly period passes. Both of these types of discounts are available with closed loop but not with open loop.
Toronto’s TTC has given no indication yet that it plans to give riders the same deal with open loop as it offers to riders tapping the closed-loop Presto card for buses, streetcars and the subway. Update: A TTC spokesperson told Mobility Payments that the agency will charge the same fare rate for single rides as users of Presto cards receive. End update.
Canada is not alone among countries that reserve open-loop payments only for single full-fare rides. Until they change course, it appears open-loop payments will largely be a fare payments method for occasional riders in these countries.
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