Is OC Transpo's fare structure too complicated? Officials at OC Transpo believe so.
As part of the Presto smartcard program, which is slated to launch in the spring or summer of 2012, OC Transpo also wants to revamp the entire fare structure.
The current fare structure may be complicated to tourists and first time users, but it is still easy to learn. A regular transit user in Ottawa isn't still trying to learn the fare system, which haven't drastically changed in at least 15 years. While not difficult to understand, the strangest OC Transpo fare category is the O-Train fare. It is more expensive than the regular fare of two tickets. This means that it is cheaper to pay two tickets on a bus and use a bus transfer for the O-Train than it is to buy an O-Train ticket and use it as a transfer on a bus. There are no separate fares for rail vehicles or subways in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Edmonton, and Vancouver, so why does Ottawa have a distinct rail fare category?
Apparently, the new fares will be more simple and equitable. For simplicity, one would think that express fares would be gone, but that likely will not occur because that would lead to a trunk and feeder system, which has been scraped until the new LRT begins operation. Maybe, it's the actual fare itself that will make it easier. Presto cards handle all types of fares including passes. If you don't know whether to put in two tickets or three, Presto should be able to make that decision for you.
As for making this more equitable, age related fares already exist. So, the only other equitable issue is the travel distance and this issue is partially solved by express fares.
Transit fares in Ottawa aren't much more complicated than other Canadian cities. Calgary and Montreal's fare system is a bit more simple since they do not use "express" service to the suburbs. Toronto has a few express routes from downtown to residential areas, which require a separate fare similar to ours. Vancouver uses zone fares, which could be confusing if you are a tourist. Your fare would cost more if you were to travel through multiple zones in Vancouver.
With the new Presto card, it is understandable that OC Transpo may have to make some changes to its current fare system. But, if the issue is the complexity of present fare system, we should have seen a revamped fare structure many years ago.