This month, in anticipation of Jack Frost nipping at my heels, I've retired my bike and opted for the better way. On November 3, otherwise known as payday, I muster up $98.75 and head to Yonge and Bloor, only to be greeted by a surly Toronto Transit Commission collector guy who taps a sign that says "Metropasses sold out." So when will they be getting more in, I ask. The man shrugs. "What do I do then?" His answer is curt. "I dunno. Buy tickets or tokens."
Disgruntled, I rustle up a single fare and head to other stations, six of them, in fact: Sherbourne, Rosedale, St. Clair, Summerhill, Davisville and Eglinton. No passes to be found and zero help from TTC staff.
At the last booth, the collector admits the whole transit system is sold out and that he has no clue if they'll be getting more.
Not getting any help on the front lines, I contact TTC vice-chair and Ward 21 (St. Paul's) councillor Joe Mihevic. "We're a victim of our own cause," he tells me.
Since September, passes have been transferrable, and that has created mass demand hence the shortage. "We're adapting to the new system, and Toronto is, too. Live and learn," he tells me.
Normally, the TTC sells 170,000 to 175,000 Metropasses and prints 200,000 each month purely a marketing decision that doesn't involve the board, says Mihevc. This month, sales went through the roof, and the TTC just wasn't prepared.
Like, didn't they know the new program would fly? What kind of planning for failure is this anyway?
Ward 15 (Eglinton-Lawrence) counciller Howard Moscoe, the commission's chair, offers another reason for the short supply: the Volume Incentive Pass (VIP) program, introduced last week, which signs up workers in a number of institutions and lets employees subscribe and buy passes in bulk. Again, can't they count?
Next morning, I call the TTC's complaint line. A customer rep tells me there are a "limited number" of passes at Davisville and to "hurry up and get there." I rush to the station and breathlessly gasp, "Metropass?" The lady behind the booth solemnly nods. Thank fucking Christ.
Moscoe said he "apologizes to all the people who didn't get their passes this month, but they should go out and get them early." Yeah, and then we would all have been the first to know there weren't enough.
And don't expect more passes to be available later in November. Apparently, they take three months to make because of the magnetic strip. The printing is outsourced, and each pass costs 50 cents. "We don't want to print too many. It'd be a waste of money," Moscoe says. Well, not if you could have sold them all.
So commuters this month are basically screwed. Mr. Chair suggests subscribing to the Metropass yearly so you don't miss out each month, which doesn't make sense if you cycle half the year. By the sound of it, the TTC is gambling that this won't happen again next month, betting on data indicating that December is a slow month for pass purchases because people go on vacation and prefer to buy weekly passes instead.
But the holidays are around the corner, and subway cars will soon be crammed with tired, angry shoppers and big Old Navy bags. Not until the new year will an extra 50,000 passes be added to the monthly print run.
In the end, the process of getting hold of this piece of plastic cost me an extra $22.50 in fares on top of the hefty Metropass price. The better way? Not this month.