Transit Fares to Increase

If Council approves staff recommendations coming to Council at the next Committee of the Whole meeting on December 6, transit fares will increase.  Cobourg’s Transit is currently heavily subsidised – riders pay $2.00 per ride and Cobourg taxpayers pay another $4.88 to cover costs (based on 108,372 riders in 2019).  Total taxpayer subsidy in 2019 was $707K * – numbers for recent years are worse because of fewer riders during the pandemic – details below.  In 2022, revenues from fares are budgeted at 7.5% of operating costs – capital costs are extra.  As reported earlier, during the 2022 budget review, Councillor Darling commented that the cost of Transit to the Town in 2022 of $1,069,024 was a lot for the few riders carried – someone remarked “perhaps supplying taxi chits would be cheaper?”

Transit Bus
Transit Bus

The new “On-demand” trial might be a way to reduce costs and increase ridership – especially when there are three smaller and possibly electric buses – but this will take a year or two.

Staff makes the case for a price increase by stating that:

  • Services have improved although prices have not increased. For example, the On-Demand system currently undergoing a Trial covers the whole Town and not just the old routes.
  • The recoverable expenses generated from ridership revenue is a small fraction (~10%) of the costs incurred for capital works, operation, and maintenance of the transit system. In order to further enhance the transit system and recover costs, transit fares must also be increased from time to time. 
  • In 2014, a review of the Town of Cobourg’s transit system was completed by IBI Group to provide recommendations for improvements such as providing more reliable and accessible buses, more shelters, more staffing, and subsequently increasing fares. The recommended fare increases were as follows: Increase single ride cash and ticket fares from $2.00 to $2.50. Eliminate discounted single ride tickets, increase senior monthly pass rates.

Revenue is not just Fares (numbers from approved 2021 budget and draft 2022 budget – see links below):

  2019 actual 2020 actual 2021 budget 2022 budget
Expenses $1080K* $966K $1,260K $1,402K
Fares $67K $12.2K $50.4K $65K
Passes $45.9K $9.6K $34.4K $40K
Tickets $24.4K $4.9K $18.3K 0
Bench Advertising $3.6K $8K $8K $8K
Reserve – Transit Safe Restart       $16.5K
Provincial Subsidy $231.5K* $213.8K $205K $203K
Total Revenue $372.6K $248K $316K $332.5K
Net cost to Town $707.6K* $717.7K $944K $1,069K
Fares – % of expenses 12.7%* 2.8% 8.2% 7.5%

  * Corrected numbers – thanks Bryan

Based on fares collected in 2020, I estimate ridership dropped to 49,193 (from 108,372 in 2019).

The YTD (to October) fare revenue for 2021 is $26K – well below 2021 budget expectations but already equal to all of 2020.

Note that Capital costs are in addition to the above operating costs although the Province has provided Capital subsidies to help buy busses.

Current Fares and Increases

Single fares are $2.00 (last increase was 2006) and when smart cards are introduced, it’s intended that they may be purchased for 10 or 20 rides although not at a discount. (In 2019, 10 tickets could be bought for $16).

Proposed Fares per Staff proposal

Year Fare Total Projected Revenue
2019 Note $2.00/$1.60 $91,650
2022 $2.25 $109,983.38 / $54,991.69*
2023 $2.25 $109,983.38
2024 $2.50 $122,203.75

*COVID19 impact 50% reduction in ridership projection.

Monthly passes are not currently available but it’s intended to make them available as a smart card.  Current pricing would be $60 (adult), $30 (senior) and $50 (student).

Monthly Passes per Staff proposal

Year Proposed Fares Total Projected Revenue
   Adult Senior Student  
2019 Note $60.00 $30.00 $50.00 $45,410
2022 $62.50 $36.25 $48.75 $51,995.00 / $25,997.50*
2023 $62.50 $42.50 $48.75 $57,088.75
2024 $65.00 $48.75 $48.75 $62,887.50

*COVID19 impact 50% reduction in ridership projection.

Note: 2019 numbers provided for comparison.

Council approved these proposed increases, but they will need to be ratified at the Regular Council meeting on December 13.


Transit Budget pages – source of numbers

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2 years ago

I have used the On Demand bus service several times and found it extremely convenient, and economical. The buses have been on time, & the drivers friendly. I will not mind in the least paying a small amount more for this service.

2 years ago

John D,

Your report notes that the staff report states “….riders pay $2.00 per ride and Cobourg taxpayers pay another $4.88 to cover costs (based on 108,372 riders in 2019) The total taxpayer subsidy in 2019 was $529K.”

The data and conclusions provided in the staff report are misleading.

The data was taken from the “2019 actual” provided in the 2020 budget. The problem is that these amounts are for 10 months, not 12. The full year (12 months) 2019 numbers are available in the 2021 budget.

The $529K “taxpayer subsidy” is really $707.6K, 33% more.
2019 ridership is 112,226, 3,854 more than the 108,372 reported

The correct calculation of the subsidized cost per ride is $6.30. This is 29.1% higher than the $4.88 reported by staff.

The staff report indicates that the net operating costs for 2006 and 2019 were $329,357 and $528,491 respectively. This suggests that the cost increase from 2006 to 2019 was 60.5%. Using the correct 2019 actual of $707,574 the increase is 115%, almost double the reported increase.

Errors like this significantly diminish the report’s credibility.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bryan
Reply to  Bryan
2 years ago

John D,

In your comment you wrote, “….I believe the $4.88 is correct if you take the Town amount only and omit the Provincial subsidy…..”

The $4.88 was calculated using the 10 month 2019 actual numbers from the 2019 actual in the 2020 budget: $528,491/108,372 = $4.8766
The $6.30 is calculated using the correct 12 month 2019 actual numbers from the 2021 budget: $707,574/112,226 = $6.305

Both numbers are net of the provincial subsidy.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Bryan
2 years ago

Bryan, you mentioned that the total cost of our buses is much higher than the amount reported due to ignoring the provincial subsidy. Does the $707,574 include the capital cost for buses, construction of bus shelters, etc. If not then the actual annual cost must be $1.5 million or more. If so, that means that the actual cost per ride is considerably over $10 or about the cost of a taxi ride! Why have buses?

Reply to  Ken Strauss
2 years ago


You wrote “…total cost of our buses is much higher than the amount reported due to ignoring the provincial subsidy….”
This is not correct.
The $707K includes the $200K+ provincial subsidy.
The cost increase is due to the additional 2 months of financial activity. Staff reported transit cost of $528K (2019 actual) as reported in the 2020 budget. This is based on a 10 months period (Jan-Oct 2019). The $707K (2019 actual) as reported in the 2021 budget is for 12 months. Both amounts include the $200K+ provincial grant.

You are correct that these “costs” do not include capital cost for the busses, transit shelters, etc. Had these been included, the “cost” would be somewhat higher. Perhaps $1M or more.

Leona Woods
2 years ago

I wonder if the Town could add some routes on designated evenings during the holiday season to see the lights on the decorated houses and in the parks? Perhaps $5 for a 1 hour ride for adults, and kids free. Maybe serve hot chocolate (a service club might do that) at the pick up or drop off points. Could make a little money…..

2 years ago

Hey the Mayor has discovered Cobourg in his articles
most of which is old news , but May be he can discover what real Transit rider costs are in other areas like Toronto & Oshawa are and apply them here as well . After all our property taxes exceed Toronto by far or may be hand out a few more Taxi or Uber licences as you can never get a cab around here

2 years ago

Is there a detailed report available on the cost of the on-demand transit service during the pilot phase? And what regular riders thought about the service, was there a public survey? Is on demand service truly better and more value for cost? Fares and increases as well as services going forward need context for an informed discussion. To compare with 2019 stats, before covid and with a pilot project it does not seem all pieces are available. The budget sheets have some information. If all this info is indeed available, someone post details. Thank you!
Part 2 my edit. Some info I have added to explain my point of view. What I have heard and read 1. on demand requires booking to and from start points and destinations and is typically unreliable to get to work on time on a daily basis 2. too much personal information is required and this concerns some vulnerable persons c. regular bus stops are a form of wayfinding and people with certain disabilities rely on such forms of markers 3. and what is the carbon footprint of large or medium size vehicles travelling around Town with 1 or 2 people on board?

Last edited 2 years ago by MiriamM
Reply to  MiriamM
2 years ago

I was hoping that this site would raise the issue of the new transit service and how it is perceived by actual users as a matter of public interest, so some of us could make our experiences and our feelings known.

I have strong opinions on the matter, as do others I have spoken to.

Reply to  John Draper
2 years ago

I thought the new on demand service would pick up and drop off closer to my house than the old system. It is no better for me as I still have to walk to the bus stop and wait out in the cold .Not nice in the winter.

Reply to  John
2 years ago

Even worse is trudging home from the drop-off bus stop lugging heavy shopping bags through cold, windy and slippery streets.

Reply to  John Draper
2 years ago

As having been a regular rider of transit for the past 15 years to get to and from work, I find that the new system is working for the most part. They have been experiencing a lot of driver shortages and therefore sometimes 1 of the buses goes off the road with little warning, as I have experienced 3 times on a Friday afternoon. My real complaint is that there is we are using too many of the school buses now and those steps are hard enough for me let alone someone that is much elderly than me or someone with mobility issues. As a senior, I miss the bus passes and now have to purchase a roll of toonies every 2 weeks or pay the .36 cent surcharge to pay by credit card for the bus trip. We need these passes back for everyone and we need our reliable buses back. I thought the Town received lots of funding not too long ago announced by our representative from the Ford government, but I could be mistaken. I did have a problem at first with the app to book a ride but now it has become just a regular daily morning routine and it does give you many options of pickup and drop off within the hour, which is much better than the fixed route of once every hour. Thank you.

Reply to  MiriamM
2 years ago

For point 2, there are the standard information requirements for riders choosing to use credit cards instead of cash or purchased tickets.