STM sweetens late fare increase with money-savers

With only two (weekend) days left until people start buying passes for 2010, the STM finally announced its fare schedule for the new year, 17 days after what we would normally consider a deadline.

There are modest increases – the price of a regular monthly pass goes up 2.2% to $70 – but the price of a cash fare remains frozen at $2.75 ($1.75 reduced fare), and the price of one-day and three-day tourist passes is actually going down significantly.

The transit agency is also sweetening the deal with some incentives.

First, the table:

Regular Reduced
Monthly CAM $70 ($68.50+ 2.2%) $38.75 ($37 + 4.7%
Weekly CAM $20.50 ($20 + 2.5%) $11.50 ($11.25 + 2.2%)
Three-day tourist pass $14 ($17 – 17.6%) N/A
One-day tourist pass $7 ($9 – 22.2%) N/A
10 trips (Opus card only) $21 ($2.10/trip, $20 + 5%) $12 ($1.20/trip, $10.75 + 11.6%)
Six trips $13.25 ($2.21/trip, $12.75 + 3.9%) $7.50 ($1.25/trip, $6.75 + 11.1%)
Single fare $2.75 (no change) $1.75 (no change)

Like the AMT and STL, the STM is putting forward an annual Opus subscription that would save the hassle of waiting in line on the first of every month. However, unlike the STL and AMT system, the STM does not offer a 12th month free under this system. It has practical advantages, but no financial ones. (Also, ironically, because the STM was so late with this announcement, it’s too late to sign up for this for January.)

For those eligible for reduced fare, a similar system over four months does offer a financial advantage. In effect, those who pay the $148 in advance will be spared the fare increase and pay only $37 a month. Assuming they have $148 of unexpected mad money to spend, which all people on reduced fares obviously do.

For those who care, the STM is allowing people with Air Miles to use them to buy passes. It’s 610 for a regular-fare monthly pass, 330 for a reduced-fare pass. This works out to 20 miles a day, or 10 miles in each direction on a regular fare, which actually sounds pretty accurate when you think about it. The STM suggests this as a “great present” – presumably with a straight face. This will be available from Dec. 23, so you can use it for your January pass.

Cheaper to be a tourist

It’s kind of buried in the press release that the STM “with adjust the prices” of tourist passes, but they’re actually going down by a considerable amount (18% and 20%). This changes the dynamics of when to get these passes.

A one-day pass is worth 2.5 cash fares, or 3.3 trips when you buy them 10 at a time. Which means if you’re planning 3-4 trips in a day, it makes much more sense to get a one-day pass. Similarly, the three-day pass is $14, which is 5.1 cash fares or 6.7 Opus trips, working out to 1.7 and 2.2 trips per day respectively. So if you’re having a friend over from out of town, and planning to use public transit, the three-day pass makes much more sense now.

It also puts more distance between the three-day pass and the seven-day weekly pass at $20.50. Of course the weekly pass still has a set week (Monday to Sunday) even though it’s only available on Opus and changing that would seem easy enough to do. The three-day pass is over any three consecutive days.

And the politics

There’s a bunch of stuff about partnerships and service levels in the press release that even I glazed over. Feel free to read it if you like that stuff.

It should be noted that this fare increase was not approved at a public meeting of the STM board. I’m not sure what secret gathering occurred to come up with this, but it wasn’t done democratically.

And the opposition wasted no time speaking up issuing populist press releases. Richard Bergeron says the modest increases are still too much and he’s calling (after the fact) for a freeze in transit fares for 2010.

Vision’s Elsie Lefebvre just whines, saying hikes are “unacceptable” but implying they’d be okay with it if it was just the rate of inflation. This is particularly hypocritical considering Brenda Paris, who’s now with Vision Montreal, was on the STM’s board for all those years, and I didn’t hear a peep of complaint out of her when they approved all those fare increases.

21 thoughts on “STM sweetens late fare increase with money-savers

  1. Jim J.

    I’m not sure what secret gathering occurred to come up with this, but it wasn’t done democratically.

    I’m waiting with baited breath for you to adopt this same level of zeal for transparency when it comes to, for example, allowing Gazette editorial board meetings to be open to public attendance.

    You know, just so the public can really see for ourselves the robustness of that wall between editorial and advertising. (Because “trust us!” doesn’t really hold much water, as I’m sure you’d agree.) Or, for example, to see the process by which it was decided to endorese Tremblay. Or any other number of myriad decisions taken in support or opposition to a variety of issues.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I’m waiting with baited breath for you to adopt this same level of zeal for transparency when it comes to, for example, allowing Gazette editorial board meetings to be open to public attendance.

      I don’t pay taxes to the Gazette. And what’s printed on the editorial page doesn’t affect me financially.

      Reply
      1. Jim J.

        I don’t pay taxes to the Gazette.

        This is, of course, a predictable response, and the point is conceded, although I wonder what kind of subsidies local media receives through various and sundry provisions of the overall taxation system in Canada and Québec.

        However, you are always asserting that newspapers and other local media are incredibly important to the communities that they serve. Yet you think that they shouldn’t be open to the same level of public scrutiny that local governments are?

        And what’s printed on the editorial page doesn’t affect me financially.

        In the most direct way, probably not.

        But imagine a series of forceful editorials that were, say, in favour of raising local taxes in order to cover certain expenses – say, like public transit, perhaps? – might provide enough political cover for local officials to choose exactly that approach.

        Unless, of course, you are conceding that what a newspaper prints in its editorials doesn’t matter.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          This is, of course, a predictable response, and the point is conceded, although I wonder what kind of subsidies local media receives through various and sundry provisions of the overall taxation system in Canada and Québec.

          Though I don’t have access to The Gazette’s budget, my understanding is that newspapers don’t receive much money from the government (unless you include those vaccine ads from the health minister). Certainly if you were to compare it to the aerospace industry, or television, it’s not a subsidy sinkhole. Newspapers aren’t regulated by the government, so anyone can just start one.

          However, you are always asserting that newspapers and other local media are incredibly important to the communities that they serve. Yet you think that they shouldn’t be open to the same level of public scrutiny that local governments are?

          Well, no. I think media should open itself up to its audience, but governments should be entirely transparent. The former would be nice to see, the latter should be (and is) the law.

          But imagine a series of forceful editorials that were, say, in favour of raising local taxes in order to cover certain expenses – say, like public transit, perhaps? – might provide enough political cover for local officials to choose exactly that approach.

          Unless, of course, you are conceding that what a newspaper prints in its editorials doesn’t matter.

          I’m told that Words Matter(TM). But newspaper editorials only have power if people act based on them, which only happens (or should only happen) when they agree with them.

          Reply
          1. Jim J.

            my understanding is that newspapers don’t receive much money from the government

            Unless, of course, you account for the write-off on advertising expenses that businesses take advantage of to purchase ads in the paper. This is, I would assert, a staggeringly massive taxpayer-funded subsidy of newspapers’ (and other media) revenue.

            Without that write-off for advertising expenses, I would surmise that many newspapers would find themselves belly-up in about six months’ time.

            Reply
              1. Jim J.

                No, you’re understanding perfectly well. But to assert that it is not a massive tax subsidy to a newspaper’s revenue is completely false.

                To put it another way, if the tax code was re-written to eliminate the business deduction for advertising expenses, would newspapers suffer financially? Since the answer is obviously “yes,” ergo, newspapers – and other media – receive an indirect transfer of funds from the government (or, more accurately, taxpayers).

                Also, one could easily count newspapers’ exemption from GST as a taxpayer funded subsidy.

                You attempt to make it sound as if newspapers (I’ll use “newspapers” interchangeably with “media”) are somehow completely removed and disinterested, dispassionate and neutral arbiters and are untainted by such worldly concerns, when the truth is they are lined up at the public trough just like every other business. They are a special interest just like public sector unions or a defense contractor.

                For example, the Canadian Newspaper Association is a registered lobbyist in Ottawa, whose mission statement includes:

                These interests include such issues as freedom of the press, telecommunications, taxation, employment standards, postal affairs, environmental matters such as recycling, freedom of information, privacy, copyright, access to the judicial system, electoral laws and defamation.

                Note the word “taxation.” If newspapers didn’t receive money from the government, why bother being interested in issues of “taxation?”

                Don’t pretend that newspapers aren’t like any other business, fighting for their slice of government largesse, whether direct or indirect.

              2. Fagstein Post author

                But to assert that it is not a massive tax subsidy to a newspaper’s revenue is completely false.

                Pens are deductible business expenses too. So are all other legitimate business expenses, because they are exactly that – business expenses. Are these also “massive tax subsidies”? Advertisers also still pay GST and QST on ads.

                Also, one could easily count newspapers’ exemption from GST as a taxpayer funded subsidy.

                Except newspapers don’t profit from it. All it means is that consumers pay a few cents less every day for their papers. And plenty of stuff is exempted from the GST: books, food, rent.

                Don’t pretend that newspapers aren’t like any other business, fighting for their slice of government largesse, whether direct or indirect.

                I’m not. I’m arguing that there isn’t much “government largesse” for newspapers, at least not yet.

  2. Nick

    I’d like to point out that there would be significant financial gains for the STM to implement a 12 month subscription.

    With a monthly Paid subscription the STM receives $70/month. Lets assume a monthly compounding interest rate of 3% annually. At the end of the year they will have the $840 + $11.65 in interest. With an annual subscription the STM receives $840 (12×70) at the beginning of the year. Apply the same monthly compounding interest rate of 3% annually and they will have $840 + $25.55 at the end of the year. They will have $13.90 more in they’re pocket. I admit, alone it’s not very impressive, but if you multiply that by every person who would purchase a yearly pass and you’ve got a significant financial gain. More if they can get a daily compound at a higher interest rate, but the principal is the same. They’re idiots not do to this.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      It’s not clear what payment method the STM will demand for this subscription service. It might not be everything in advance, but once a month before the 15th. So it wouldn’t be that beneficial.

      Reply
  3. Maria Gatti

    Interesting about the tourist passes – that means they can be worthwhile for someone who has a lot of errands to run in a single day, as it very soon pays off. I’m always trying to calculate this: I don’t have a monthly pass as I mostly – but not exclusively – work at home but do take public transport at least a couple of times a week in winter months.

    Reply
  4. adski

    If there was a competing public transit company in Montreal, the quality of service offered by the STCUM would probably increase exponentially.

    Without any competition, they couldn’t care less. Metro stalling or breaking down every week, rude staff, asshole bus drivers, power trip, etc…

    Put them the free market, and all that would end. They might even be nice to you once in a while. Or at least make an effort.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I would argue the STM does actually care. Metro stalling and breakdowns are because of 40-year-old equipment that they need to replace. Staff rudeness is not as big a problem as you make it out to be – there will always be bad apples in a company this large.

      A free market transit service would be at least three times as expensive, and the primary goal wouldn’t be to serve the customer but to make money off you.

      Reply
    2. Jim J.

      If there was a competing public transit company in Montreal…

      Considering the level of existing infrastructure (tunnels, track, signalling equipment, maintenance facilities, above-ground installations) and rolling stock (buses, metro cars, AMT train cars), how precisely do you propose that a private enterprise could establish itself to be in competition with the STM?

      Would a private enterprise buy its own buses, build its own bus stops, dig its own metro tunnels, purchase rights-of-way to run commuter trains? The level of capital investment would be staggeringly high.

      The only solution would be to carve off and privatize parts of the STM itself which, from a political standpoint, is completely unrealistic.

      Reply
    3. emdx

      If there was a free market for transportation, only downtown would be served.

      People beyond Métropolitain/Décarie/Papineau would have to walk.

      There used to be a free market for public transportation, until all the various non-overlapping streetcar companies were gobbled-up by the Montréal Tramways Company (except for the Montréal & Southern Counties); this was many, many, many, many moons ago.

      And eventually, thanks to the creative accounting designed to suck as much money from the public as possible, and thanks to non investment in infrastructure and rolling stock, the MTC became bankrupt and had to be taken-over by the City.

      It’s really funny how little right-wing punks put forward their brain-dead economic ideas without knowing that in the past, such ideas precisely died of a painful death because they never were viable in the long-term.

      Reply
      1. adski

        “It’s really funny how little right-wing punks put forward their brain-dead economic ideas”

        Right wing economic ideas?

        Bro, you are jumping to conclusions. Based on one post, you’re confusing me for Milton Friedman.

        Take a chill pill.

        Reply
  5. Richard

    I know I’m really really late to this party, but I was wondering.. If I buiy the 1 or 3-day pass on the OPUS, is it still 1 calendar day (i.e., if I buy it at 8:00pm on June 1st, it’s only good until 11:59pm) As I believe it was with the old scratch(and win!) cards, or is it 24 hours (ie if I buy it at 8:00pm on June 1st, it’s valid until 8:00pm on June 2nd)? ANyone know for usre? It’s not clear on the STM site, at least not to my reading of it.

    Thanks

    Reply
  6. Pingback: STM fares for 2011: Another hike – Fagstein

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