TORONTO - Commuters in the Greater Toronto Area will get a refund if their trains are more than 15 minutes late, under a revised promise by Premier Dalton McGuinty that includes several exceptions.
The refunds, which the Liberals would implement next year if they are re-elected this fall, will not apply to extreme weather, police investigations, accidents or medical emergencies. They will also target trains that are 15 minutes late, not 20 as originally suggested.
"In those circumstances over which we have control, like equipment failure or the management of the tracks, including sharing with other users, we take responsibility for those kinds of things," McGuinty said while making the announcement at a GO station west of Toronto.
"We tested the waters on that, we listened to GO train users and they said overwhelmingly, they loved the idea."
The governing Liberals floated the $7-million trial balloon in June, but didn't make it an official promise until Wednesday, because they wanted to hear from riders first.
The government and GO Transit will still have to sort out how exactly customers will get the refunds.
GO trains are on time 94 per cent of the time, noted Bruce McCuaig, CEO of Metrolinx, the provincial-funded agency that runs GO Transit.
About 70 per cent of the tardy trains would likely qualify for the reimbursement, he added, and travellers already using the debit-style Presto card would be able to get automatic refunds.
Those buying delay fares still have to go see a ticket agent once they arrive at a given station to get their money back until the agency devises a better solution.
"Our objective isn't to issue refunds, our objective is actually to minimize the amount of times we are issuing a refund because this is all about improving customer service," McCuaig said.
NDP critic Cheri DiNovo said the plan, expected to cost between $6 million and $7 million a year, was "years late and millions short."
"Shaving five minutes off is good news but it's not the news that we're waiting for, we're waiting for major infrastructure investment in transit," said DiNovo, whose party has promised to stop fare hikes for public transit by subsidizing the system across the province.
"If this is as good as it gets, this isn't going to solve the gridlock problem in Toronto."
Progressive Conservative critic Elizabeth Witmer dismissed the proposal as a "gimmick," but wouldn't say whether the Tories would support such a rebate if they win the Oct. 6 election.
"It was just a phoney announcement and an attempt to get a little publicity," she said.
"If it's like anything else Dalton McGuinty announces, such as the fact he wasn't going to raise your taxes, we all know what's going to happen, they won't be able to honour it."
The GO plan is similar to other money-back guarantees that the province has in place for other services, such as delivering birth certificates.