OC Transpo Proposes Prepaid Discounted Fare to Attract Hybrid Workers

OC Transpo is considering implementing a subscription-type, prepaid discounted fare to entice hybrid workers to utilize buses and the O-Train.

The idea for this new fare structure stemmed from Barrhaven West Coun. David Hill, who directed staff to explore the development of a subscription model with discounts akin to those received with a monthly pass for commuting five days a week.

According to a report presented at the Transit Commission meeting on September 14, it is indeed feasible to offer “prepaid discounted fares within a limited period of validity” as an alternative to the monthly pass.

Under this proposed option, customers would purchase a discounted fare product that is valid for a specific number of trips over a designated time frame (e.g., 12 trips over 14 consecutive days). Any unused travel credits would expire at the end of the validity period.

Should the Transit Commission decide to proceed with the discounted fare, more detailed options will be presented during the 2024 budget debate. The price, number of travel credits, and length of the validity period for the subscription-style fare would be determined by the Transit Commission and Council.

Certain limitations would apply to the subscription fares, including the technical constraint that the smartcard cannot hold more than 31 travel credits. Additionally, the validity period of the ticket should not coincide with that of any unlimited passes to avoid confusion. The validity period of the ticket should not exceed approximately three weeks to minimize the risk of bending causing damage to the smartcard’s electronics. Lastly, the price and validity period of the ticket should not compete with the current monthly pass.

The report further outlines that customers who make a minimum of 40 trips per month presently receive a 15% discount on the single-ride fare. The break-even point for a monthly pass is 34 trips per month.

OC Transpo presently offers single-ride fares, unlimited passes for one, three, five, or seven consecutive days, and an unlimited monthly pass.

To purchase the discounted fare ticket, customers would utilize OC Transpo ticket machines at O-Train stations, 12 Transitway stations, or the OC Transpo offices on Belfast Road. The ticket itself would be a paper smartcard, and riders would tap the card each time they board a bus or enter an O-Train station.

The proposed subscription-type fare is a response to the decline in transit ridership and fare revenue experienced by OC Transpo due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many downtown office workers either working from home or adopting a hybrid schedule, the transit service is projecting a $51 million fare revenue shortfall for 2023 and a $35 million fare revenue deficit in 2024.

If approved, OC Transpo aims to launch the subscription-type discounted fare by mid-2024.