The Ontario government released its finalized transit fare integration plan for the Greater Toronto Area on Monday, saying it will include the TTC and begin later this month.
The One Fare program means transit users will effectively pay only one fare no matter how many buses, trains, or streetcars they transfer between, including across different cities in the region.
It is set to come into effect on Feb. 26. The program will see the province, via Metrolinx, reimburse local transit agencies for lost fare revenue.
"This program will be a game changer for transit riders," Premier Doug Ford said at a Monday news conference at Downsview Park GO station in Toronto.
"It will provide people with more transit options and more convenience."
The provincial government has earmarked $67 million over two years for the initial phase of the program, Associate Minister of Transportation Vijay Thanigasalam said, adding that the entire program will cost about $117 million annually.
Thanigasalam said the province isn't done with fare consolidation.
"Our goal is to go to the next phase, to talk to and have dialogue with other municipalities beyond the GTA corridor so that we can bring the one-fare program into other regions," he said.
There is an option to extend the program based on results, according to the province, which estimates it will save GTA transit users about $1,600 per year and encourage some eight million additional rides in the region annually.
"That means someone living in Barrie can take a Barrie Transit bus to the GO Station, ride the GO Train to here, Downsview Park Station, and take the subway to the TMU campus, all with one fare," Ford said.
The long-awaited rollout of the One Fare program builds on earlier ride integration agreements between local transit services and GO Transit.
In March 2022, the province scrapped local fares for customers using the GO system to connect to 12 municipal networks throughout the wider Golden Horseshoe region, including several in the GTA. Toronto and the TTC, however, were not included in that agreement.
Commuters ride an escalator and walk the stairs at a TTC subway station in Toronto on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)
The full list of transit agencies in the finalized One Fare program include GO Transit, TTC, Brampton Transit, Durham Region Transit, MiWay and York Region Transit.
"It's a Godsend," said Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, adding that it will help save her money when commuting to her favourite Chinese restaurant in Scarborough.
"It's more convenient and it's more affordable."
Monday's announcement was welcomed by the Toronto Region Board of Trade, which published a series of reports advocating for fare integration across the cities that make up the GTA.
"For decades, riders have voiced their frustrations about the burden of paying double fares when crossing municipal boundaries and the challenges of navigating a fragmented transit system," the board of trade said in a statement.
"Now, transit riders will finally benefit from a system that encourages them to leave their cars at home and opt for more convenient and affordable options," it added.
In its various reports, the board has argued that fare integration will help businesses address workforce shortages by making transit less expensive and also ensure better use of billions of dollars of transit infrastructure expected to come online in coming years and decades.
Ontario's Liberals are "pleased" with the fare consolidation, but they will be watching to ensure the TTC is made whole by the province, said transit critic Andrea Hazell.
"This announcement does not change one startling reality: the TTC and other municipal transit agencies are underfunded and at risk of hiking fares and reducing service in our affordability crisis," she said in a statement.