Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Montreal first North American city with German/London style fare pass good on all transit, even local railroad services

"One network, one schedule, one ticket." Hamburg in Germany pioneered the VV, or transport association, which links all transit service providers in an area into a single group, providing an integrated transit system with a fare payment system that integrates all modes.  That means bus and underground, commuter railroad, ferries, and if present, trams.  (The VV model has been adopted in Austria and Switzerland too.)   

-- "Verkehrsverbund: The evolution and spread of fully integrated regional public transport in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland," International Journal of Sustainable Transportation
-- "Branding's not all you need for transit," 2018

After the initial idea, which was focused on making transit easy to use, it took many years to get all the transit agencies on board, but over time, the Hamburg VV spread into neighboring states, and then was adopted as a national policy.

Germany's passenger railroad services are run by Deutsche Bahn, the national railroad, at multiple scales, including commuter railroad services around cities.  Over time, DB agreed to integrate these services, called S-bahn, into VV programs.

According to a brochure published by the MVV, the transport association serving Greater Munich in the German State of Bavaria, the association:

carries out key tasks which include creating a joint tariffs and fares structure, distributing revenues, planning, controlling tenders and contracts with regard to regional bus transportation, system marketing as well as market research, providing customer information across various transport companies, in particular web-based timetable information across the association, conceptual transport planning as well as traffic and transportation research. In addition, the transport association passes on its expertise to third parties on a consultant basis.

London has a similar fare system if you live there, where the weekly TravelCard covers bus, subway, tram, light rail and local railroad services called the London Overground, which used to be run independent of Transport for London, so they weren't included in local transit fare systems. Unlike the systems in Germany, ferry travel is separate. (Liverpool includes ferries in certain passes, but not excursion ferry travel.)  More recently, intra-London trips on National Rail are also covered in the TravelCard pass system.

US transit pass programs don't include railroad (or ferry) services.  US transit pass programs may integrate bus, subway and streetcar services, but "never" local railroad services.  

Although recently there are a couple of special exceptions, on equity grounds like in Boston, which includes in-city transit on the Fairmount rail line ("Boston’s Fairmount Line Could Be a National Model for Commuter Rail, But It’s Not There Yet," Streetsblog) and Chicago ("South Cook County Fair Transit Pilot for railroad as local transit").  I don't know of local ferry services, even when offered by the transit authority, being included in transit pass programs.

WMATA, the system in greater DC, is unusual is that it charges by mode, meaning you pay separate fares for subway and bus, even if you use both on one integrated trip.

Most US cities don't have an extensive set of intra-city railroad stations, although Boston, Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia are the exceptions.  Montreal and Toronto have a fair number of in-city train stations, but not at the scale of a network.

There are initiatives  to include some railroad services in transit pass products in New York City ("Relief for New York City’s Transit Deserts? Commuter Trains Might Help," New York Times), and consideration of it in Philadelphia ("SEPTA releases options for future of Regional Rail," Mass Transit).  LIRR and Metro-North are testing $5 flat fares for in-city travel, but that's still almost double the single trip subway/bus fare ("Flat fare $5 CityTicket sales ‘soared’ on LIRR and Metro-North," AMNY).

I have recommended the consideration of such in DC and Baltimore ("One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example," 2015), but hadn't thought about it so much wrt the Virginia Railway Express but should.  If MARC and VRE were to merge ("A new backbone for the regional transit system: merging the MARC Penn and VRE Fredericksburg Lines,") it would be a no brainer.  But to be beneficial, there would have to be an expansion of train service within the cities, complementing local transit.

Free local transit as an add-on benefit for railroad riders.  I know of four examples where railroad riders can ride local transit for free, while no additional charge railroad access isn't extended to local transit pass users in those systems.  

In Baltimore, pass holders for MARC, the railroad service, can ride local transit (bus, subway, light rail) for no additional charge. And they can ride Metrobus in the DC area, and local transit in Montgomery  and Frederick Counties for free as well.   VRE pass holders within Northern Virginia have free access to Metrobus, Fairfax Connector, and Omniride to and from train stations, but not throughout the day, unlike the benefit for MARC riders..

In Southern California, Metrolink train riders can ride local transit for no additional charge, including subway and light rail, by scanning the QR code on the ticket. 

In North Carolina, the State DOT provides Amtrak riders with free access to local transit (bus) ("North Carolina DOT negotiates free bus transfer access for Amtrak users," ). 

Montreal: the first North American transit system to include railroad services in all transit passes. Montreal has long been a leader in transit practice and policy, and sustainable mobility ("Is Montreal the number one city for bicycling in North America?" and "One more thing about Montreal as a `bike city`").  The city transit agency long ago integrated local car sharing and bike sharing into their transit pass.

charlie calls our attention to how Montreal's regional transit authority has created a set of regional passes all of which include access to railroad transportation ("How Much New Montreal Area Transit Fares Will Be Depending On Where You Live," MTL Blog).  From the article:

On July 1, the regional transit authority, the ARTM, is introducing new transit fares in Montreal, Laval and Longueuil, completing the rollout of a simplified pricing system in the whole metro area. 

The new scheme divides Greater Montreal into four zones: A, B, C and D. Fares will depend in part on the zones transit riders need to traverse to reach their destination. 

 Excitingly, commuters in every zone will have access to single fares that cover all modes of transit: bus, metro, exo train and the forthcoming Réseau express métropolitain light-rail network.

This is a BIG DEAL.  And the closest any North American city is to the VV model. (What's interesting in the VV model is that it frequently crosses jurisdictions, whereas in the US, cross-jurisdictional integration, especially across states, is exceedingly rare.)

Historically, the City of Montreal has had an integrated transit pass (STM is the transit agency, which like MUNI in SF operates only within the city, with the exception of a small portion that connects to one of the adjacent suburbs).

Like other big cities, it didn't include railroad access, because those services were run separately, by a regional railroad authority under the Provincial government.  A few years ago, the Province and the cities reorganized transit planning and service delivery, providing a path for integrating railroad services into the local transit program.

Thinking about transit fares as a design product.  "Branding's not all you need for transit" lays out three elements for transit success: (1) integrating services; (2) applying the design method to transit/treating transit as a "design product;" and (3) branding.  

The idea of "one network, one schedule, one fare" brings this all together.  But too often, transit fares aren't thought of as a design product, more as something to generate revenue.

So I've been thinking about laying out a way to think about this, although this is at best a draft.

Transit passes versus transit fare cards/contactless travel versus cash.  Note that most systems have introduced fare cards and now various phone-based apps, to pay for transit.  This is to reduce costs from handling cash.  As a result, fare card holders usually get discounted fares compared to the one off price of paying for a single ticket by cash or credit.

Sometimes people confuse the idea of transit passes, paying for transit a week or month at a time, as the same thing as the transit card.  They are a form of payment, and may or may not be integrated into fare card systems.  In many places, legacy railroad passenger services haven't been integrated into regional fare card systems. (For example, London, there are card readers.  For LIRR and Metro North and MARC and VRE they use conductors.  The "new" SMART rail in Sonoma and Marin Counties, was able to integrate fare card readers from the start.  Etc.)

Tickets not passes (but may be used with a transit card)

  • Single Fare ticket cash/credit
  • Single Fare using a transit card (usually even single tickets are cheaper using a fare card, compared to a cash/credit fare)
  • transfer free or an extra charge (some systems charge a flat fare per trip, often with a time limit, some charge more for transferring to another bus or mode)
  • All Day Pass (often excludes use during the morning rush)
  • Daily Fare Ceiling/Capping (London has a maximum per charge per day for rail services and bus services)
  • Special Event Transit (some places include free transit with sports and concert tickets, "Seattle Kraken expansion hockey team sets new standard for transit benefits in transportation demand management: free transit with ticket")
  • Evening and weekend passes (Melbourne was an early innovator,  may be discontinued in favor of fare capping)
  • Group Fares (cheaper price for multiple people compared to each paying individually)

The point of a pass is that it is discounted in price compared to the cost of paying a fare separately for each trip (traditionally, although they changed as ridership dropped, the WMATA system's passes weren't especially discounted).

Usually sold on a weekly or monthly basis.  Some places offer an annual pass, paid at one time, discounted from the cost of 12 separate monthly passes (German VV systems, Switzerland).  

  • Transit Pass (weekly or monthly)
  • Transit Pass for Youth (free or charged)
  • Transit Pass for Low income riders (free or charged, various eligibility criteria)
  • Transit Pass for Seniors (usually discounted, sometimes free)
  • Fare Capping (maximum amount that you will pay in a day; London charges separately for rail capping and bus capping; London and Melbourne were early adopters)
  • Pay as you go Transit Pass (for equity reasons, some systems are implementing pay as you go fares, which once you pay the equivalent of the cost of a transit pass, it stops charging for the rest of the pass period.  See the Transit Cooperative Research Program report, Fare Capping: Balancing Revenue and Equity Impacts.)
  • Tourist passes (special prices, usually for a multi-day period, usually local like the Hamburg Tourist Card or SF Visitor Pass, but may include national transit services, e.g., Eurail pass, may be for one person or multiple people)
Bundled services with passes 
examples, not a comprehensive list
  • subway/bus/light rail (Boston/Philadelphia)
  • subway/bus (New York City)
  • subway/light rail, bus, streetcar, cable car (SF)
  • railroad, subway, bus, ferry (Hamburg)
  • railroad, subway, bus, light rail/tram (Munich, Berlin, London)
  • railroad, subway, bus, light rail* (Montreal) * = forthcoming
  • subway (which is actually railroad), bus, ferry (Liverpool)
Bundled services with railroad service
  • free local service with railroad ticket or pass--Southern California Metrolink
  • free local service with railroad pass--Baltimore/MARC (it's important to note that this includes free transit service in Baltimore, but not subway service in Washington)
  • free local service to and from the train station for Virginia Railway Express
  • free local bus transfer for Amtrak riders getting off in North Carolina (NC By Train Transit Pass)

Free transit
examples, not a comprehensive list
See "No Fares," Tyee and "Revisiting free transit in the wake of the decision in Kansas City ... and Lawrence, Massachusetts," 2019)

  • free route: bus lines (Boston is testing this, the 500 route in Salt Lake provides service to the State Capitol)
  • free route: circulator services/core transit services (Baltimore Circulator, Savannah core)
  • free route: shuttles
  • free zone: fareless zones in the core, usually for rail, but sometimes including bus (Calgary, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Melbourne)
  • free system: for residents not visitors (Talinn, Estonia, Kansas City, Banff instituted free transit for residents at the end of May 2022)
  • free system: for all users--college towns (Chapel Hill)
  • free system: for all users--resort towns (Park City, Aspen)
  • free system: for all users--an entire country (Luxembourg, for transportation demand management reasons)

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At 10:18 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

The large Pdf link should be required reading.

I find it curious that nobody is talking about the Montreal thing.

Also, the cost recover in the German systems is far better than anything the US can produce.

Table. 8.4

1990 2016 Core city
HVV (Hamburg) 62 72 90
MVV (Munich) 58 80 100
VOR (Vienna) 63 55 69
VBB (Berlin) n.a. 55 74
ZVV (Zurich) 57 65 71
VRR (Rhine-Ruhr) 35 52 n.a.

Again almost a predicate for a VV is running a core operation at close to break even.

Metro rail could. Metro bus could not.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I was lucky to be introduced to VV in Hamburg, where it originated. And to see the amazing integration between underground and S Bahn. And only after to go to London.

Likely the VV model influenced London in terms of the development of the Overground. Fwiw, while writing this I was thinking about how transit systems in London, Paris, German cities are so innovative (eg London and the transit card, Oyster) while there is no real overall standout in the US.

2. Wrt fare recovery/Germany, that's what happens when you prioritize transit as the primary (and privileged) mode of urban mobility, complemented by population concentration as opposed to metropolitan population deconcentration.

New York, Boston, Chicago, parts of New Jersey, to some extent Philadelphia, and DC before Metrorail disintegrated are the exceptions, but it has been a struggle in the face of national and state policy all in on the car.

Montreal! and to a lesser extent Toronto.

New York, Mexico City and Montreal are the top in North America. Mexico City a bit different because transit dependence is higher there.

Fwiw, Engwicht, who developed the concept of transportation demand management, suggested that car users pay "reparations" for the harm they impose on the success of transit.

The other thing about Germany, which is equally committed to car manufacturing as a fundamental force in the economy, is that they developed a heterogeneous approach to mobility with differentiated policy for cities and shorter trips (transit) and longer, more individualized trips where cars may work better, although still supporting longer distance passenger train service.

By contrast, the US went all in on the car regardless of appropriateness.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

In the early 60s when the VV model originated, the German car industry was still weak, and people didn't have the income to rely on car transportation. So transit as a design product got stronger with the VV midel, just as incomes wete rising, and the car industry was shifting into a new gear and eventually significant success.

At 9:35 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Yes, to me the Germans are the epitome of the car light.

Cars should be reserved for wealthier people; if you are young you should not own one and rely on public transport.

Swedish expression -- "Volvo, villa, vovve"

Car, house and a dog.

Of course that isn't accepted in the US. Plenty of young people with dog.

So I agree with your point that the Germans can think two things at the same time -- find ways to make short term terms more car-undependant and recognize that cars are useful for other types of trips.

The push for the VV seems to be the same resource crunch as what got BART/MART/WMATA funded.

and likewise we're now dumping billions into new transit projects which will go nowhere. America as a constant series of bubbles.

In nay case, made me look at numbers.

Public investment in the Berlin state budget: education and transport are falling short"

From 2016.

I can't find a single number for the transit budget, figure 5 gives a per capita number:

80 euros per person in Berlin, 120 in hamburg.

A rough calculation in the DC metro areas spends about 800 dollars per person for the WAMTA budget. 4.8B (operating and capital) and around 6 million people in the metro area.

about 400 if you only include the operating budget. 2.4B.

Off the top of my head now I can't telly you what the federal contribution is but let s say half --including the hidden federal subsidies for riders.

That is still 200 dollars per person, which is a lot more than Hamburg in 2016.

Management, not finance.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I don't fully understand why infrastructure is cheaper in Europe (like building the Bilbao subway). That being said they get so much more.

The kind of transit integration that is rote there in many cities in many countries is unimaginable here.

Even while British rail is derided on the co tinent, it's so much better than the US albeit expensive.

Although it is due in large part to the lag on the onset of automobility and the maintenance of core cities whereas ours hollowed out.

2. That makes management harder here. But not impossible. But also the support of higher levels of government. Here, that's minimal compared to continental Europe--the Brits have f*ed up transit pretty badly too through privatization. Even Lindon has been affected, but because it (and Liverpool's rail) is mostly excepted it is the exception that proves the rule.

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

WTOP: Metro expands $2 flat fares for weeknight travel.


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