Saturday, May 13, 2006

Deals for taking transit? - Metropass Affinity Program

Should monthly pass holders on public transit receive deals at local stores and from the government? Well that is just starting to happen in Toronto and in Canada slowly but surely.

Today I just stumbled accross the Metropass Affinity Program. This website lists stores that are willing to give discounts to TTC Metropass (the TTC's version of a Monthly Pass) holders as well as the closest subway station or transit stop to the commercial enterprise offering the discount.

The problem is that the TTC doesn't even mention the discounts available on their website. You would think the TTC would encourage businesses within Toronto to offer discounts to Metropass holders. Perhaps that would encourage more people to purchase the Metropass and help towards gradually increasing public transit ridership in Toronto. Seems to me the TTC has missed out on a great no cost opportunity to market the monthly Metropass.

A while back in March and April, York Region Transit (YRT) and Ikea Vaughan offered a deal to monthly pass holders. YRT Monthly Pass Holders could receive 10% off all Ikea purchases over one hundred dollars. It also helped that York Region Transit serves that store fairly well with both a VIVA stop and local service relatively close to the store. Now if York Region Transit could only figure out how to get an Ikea bed from the store to a customer's home :)

Providing value for money is what most customers are looking for. That is what transit agencies should be looking to provide in order to encourage people to get out of their cars and take transit. Teaming up with local retailers to provide deals helps both the transit agency and the local retailer. The transit agency gets the paid fares and needed revenue, while the retailer receives the customers while not having to provide a parking spot to that customer if the client decides to take transit instead of driving.

Government would wish to provide the same deals to transit pass holders as well. The Canadian government in its recently unveiled budget promised to provide a tax credit to monthly public transit pass holders. With the introduction of this tax credit, transit riders across Canada can travel for free every one of twelve months.

Not all government officials were happy with that. TTC Chairman and Toronto Councillor Howard Moscoe called on the government to instead use the money to help local transit agencies reduce fares. What Mr. Moscoe fails to notice is that the Ontario Government has been sending "budget bailout" money to Toronto under the guise that it is meant for TTC system improvements. What has resulted, if you fall the creative accounting, is the Ontario Governments money is directed toward the TTC system while an equal amount of city money is withdrawn. What results is no improvements are made to expand the TTC system and fares keep rising.

So Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper came up with a different plan. Why not give monthly transit riders a tax credit for riding public transit. This way the people that benefit the most from a public transit system receive the most benefits instead of the governments extracting money from the transit system when another source of government funding comes in.

Hopefully ridership in Canadian public transit will increase. Especially in Toronto because of the actions of transit advocates like those at the Metropass Affinnity Program.

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