High school student designs TTC rewards program to convince people to ride

Apr 25 2023, 4:37 pm

Some TTC customers may feel discouraged from riding transit in recent months. Between a rise in crime and service cuts, not to mention the fare hikes and overdue Eglinton Crosstown, there are several factors pushing would-be passengers to other modes of transit, a problem that one local high school student may have found a solution to.

Zarif Ali, a Grade 12 International Baccalaureate student, has designed a new app called Transit+, envisioned to encourage transit use in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) and, by association, improve the quality of life for people residing in the region.

Ali tells blogTO that the app is “designed to address the challenges faced by the TTC and Metrolinx while incentivizing public transit usage over cars for trips under one hour.”

While the app is more of a design and planning exercise than something you can actually download onto your phone, it offers up an interesting “what if?” based on a very real example that exists today.

transit+

Transit+/Zarif Ali

In addition to telling users when their next ride will show up, the app uses a rewards-based program as part of what Ali describes as a “streamlined mobile experience to offer commuters a comprehensive overview of the transit system,” taking inspiration and cues from the success of Hong Kong’s MTR system.

Similar to Hong Kong’s amazingly named Octopus Card and its user perks, Ali envisions a TTC and Presto system that operates like a Starbucks rewards card but for public transportation.

The Transit+ vision would offer riders benefits like free rides, discounts from vendors operating in transit stations, and even access to top-tier attractions in exchange for doing their part to lower greenhouse gas emissions by riding mass transit.

The app proposes several other features that could streamline transit use, aiming to create an all-in-one solution by including an option for digital fare payment that would allow users to tap on with their phones via the magic of near-field communication, adding an extra layer of security over standard Presto cards.

Of course, all of this interconnectivity with existing fare infrastructure means that the app — despite the work that has been put into it — will not be able to operate as intended without immense cooperation between the designers, the TTC, and Metrolinx.

“I have conducted extensive research and created a detailed report outlining the problems faced by Toronto’s transit systems, and the financial model supporting its feasibility,” Ali tells blogTO.

If implemented, Ali claims that the system would allow the TTC and Metrolinx to “increase revenue and reduce dependency on government subsidies.”

Jack LandauJack Landau

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