ttc presto scam

People have been riding the TTC for free with children's Presto cards

The TTC's fare evasion problem—read: the rampant explosion of people taking streetcar, bus or subway rides in Toronto without paying for them—is way worse than the transit agency had ever estimated, according to a newly-released Auditor General's report.

A total of $61 million dollars were stolen, essentially, from the TTC in 2018 alone—more than three times the amount transit officials had publicly reported in the past.

This, based on data analyzed in a report that will be presented at a TTC Board meeting next Wednesday.

"Based on our review, TTC's fare evasion rates are: Streetcar 15.2 per cent, Bus 5.1 per cent, Subway 3.7 per cent," reads the 89-page subject report, which is only Phase 1 of a larger audit looking at TTC operations.

For the record, that $61 million doesn't even take into account all the money lost thanks to broken Presto machines.

Malfunctioning Metrolinx gear is estimated to have cost the TTC another $3.4 million in lost revenues, though the Auditor General herself admits that the amount is "probably understated, as we were not able to quantify the loss due to the malfunction of TTC's subway fare gate equipment and the use of crash gates at subway stations."

Toronto's Auditor General includes 27 different recommendations for the TTC in her report, all of them pretty straightforward: things like campaigning to raise customer awareness, expanding current fare inspection efforts and installation of security cameras at subway station fare gates.

Several recommendations stem from a rather surprising discovery, however, about how, exactly, some people manage to avoid paying for transit.

"There is significant risk of fraudulent use of the Child PRESTO card," reads the report.

"Under the current fare policy, children 12 years of age and under can ride the TTC for free. During our six weeks of audit observation work on all three modes of transit covering many different times of the day on TTC, we did not come across ANY children aged 12 and under who were using the Child PRESTO cards."

Kids may not be using the cards, but at least 56 adult subway riders and 22 adult bus riders were found to have been using them fraudulently during the observation period to ride unlimited for the one-time cost of $16.

The rouse highlights an important flaw in Metrolinx's soon-to-be-standard Presto card system: Kid cards and adult cards look exactly the same.

Thus, the report asks that TTC executives approve the exploration of "ways to provide a Child PRESTO Card that is visually different from an Adult PRESTO card."

It'll likely take some negotiation between Metrolinx and the TTC to make this happen, but redesigning the Presto cards for 12-and-unders could help put a cork in at least one of the many holes leaking money for the TCC.

One thing's for certain: The city can't afford to ignore shady hacks like this one very much longer.

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