Transportation

Monthly HSR Pass Holders Not Counted

By Thom Oommen
Published March 04, 2008

Has anyone come across the new HSR fare boxes? They look really good and it's always nice to see investment in the system. However, when I first came across one a few weeks ago, I quickly realized that something was missing - and its absence speaks volumes.

I use a monthly pass. With the old fare boxes there's a swipe strip that I can run my pass through. Even though on every second bus the driver had put his or her timetable in the swipe strip, I was happy that at least some of my trips were counting toward ridership in Hamilton.

Ridership really matters. Gas tax contributions from the federal and provincial governments are tied to increases in ridership and population.

When you invest in transit and boost ridership you get more help from the other levels of government. So it's essential that the HSR track every single trip. By missing pass trips (like all those McMaster University students and me when I encounter a misplaced timetable) this ultimately hurts the HSR.

When I heard about the new fare boxes I thought this lacklustre ridership tracking might be resolved. I was shocked to discover that the new fare boxes don't track pass trips at all, just cash and tickets.

The HSR tells pass users (almost as an afterthought) to "flash their pass" to the driver.

Again, monthly passholders, who should be the prized riders of the HSR, get the shaft. Bad enough that it's a better deal to travel by ticket; but does the HSR have to ignore thousands of trips a month which could be used to increase funding?

I only hope the new Presto card, whenever it arrives, will encourage and reward monthly passholders like in other cities.

Thom Oommen is passionate about building truly sustainable communities. But far from technological solutions and other flights of fancy, he believes that the only way to build a just and ecologically responsible community is to embrace frugality and simplicity. He is currently focusing on actively learning the skills that will enable him and his community to face an unknown future with a measure of confidence. Check out his blog.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted March 07, 2008 at 20:46:48

As an accountant, I do find this rather disturbing. How can you run a complex transit system efficiently without such crucial information as total ridership?

Just think, management doesn't know how many riders the system has in total, with implications for funding from other levels of government, as Thom mentions above.

But even more importantly, perhaps, they don't know the total ridership by route, or by trip or by time of day or any other way that modern software could massage these figures. What about, for instance, determining the load factors on the very expensive articulated buses?

I would think that anlyzing their revenue as I suggest above, could help them in their planning efforts, which in turn might lead to a more efficient use of their equipment and their employees.

I suppose HSR management could roughly estimate the number of trips taken by monthly pass holders by assuming that they would make enough trips to make the purchase of a pass worthwhile. Or they could take a survey based on a random sample.

Oh well, maybe we will get Presto pronto.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 11, 2008 at 11:59:58

I'm starting to think that the sooner we get folks from Metrolinx having greater say into transit initiatives, the sooner it will start being treated as a legit form of transportation in Hamilton. You can find every stat imaginable for Hamilton's roadways, intersections, traffic count, volume, light timing etc.... since we got rid of the streetcars and trolleybuses Hamilton has looked at single occupany cars as the real transportation system, and everything else is for those who can't afford a car. I'm not sure where we went off the rails (literally) but it's time for someone to put us back on track.

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By PI (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2008 at 01:04:54

They know exactly how many passes they sell, but they don't care how many times you use it. After all, does it matter? Once you bought the pass, it would only make the HSR happy if you kept it in a box locked away in your attic.

So, the less you use your pass, the better it is for HSR. As long as you keep buying it.

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