ttc fare inspectors

Toronto is not on board with the idea of undercover TTC fare inspectors

The Toronto Transit Commission has a serious fare evasion problem, with more than $70 million in "uncollected revenue" now estimated to have been lost over the course of 2019 alone.

Dual reports set to go before the TTC's Audit and Risk Management Committee next Tuesday show that plans are in place to crack down further on people who don't pay for rides, though other measures — such as a full "reset of social norms" — are cited as crucial for stopping evasion altogether.

Until we, as a society, decide to join in on "a culture shift towards fare compliance" (as the TTC's head of Audit, Risk and Compliance put it),  we must all rely on education and enforcement to thwart freeloaders.

Education, enforcement, and plain clothed fare enforcement officers watching over us like Big Brother.

"Fare evasion happens when people board buses, streetcars or subways without paying, use a concession card for which they do not qualify to pay a reduced fare, or jump over or 'tailgate' through fare gates," reads a newly-released document outlining the TTC's updated Revenue Protection Strategy.

"To tackle this loss of revenue, the TTC has set a goal to improve revenue recovery by $10.2M in 2020."

TTC officials intend on doing this through a combination of physical changes at stations, technical improvements at fare gates and a new fare evasion impact awareness marketing campaign, among other measures — the most controversial of which involves fare inspectors on TTC vehicles.

First off, the number of transit cops is expected to soar after a brief "recruitment pause" brought on by allegations of racial profiling and brutality.

By the end of 2020, Toronto will have a total of 111 fare inspectors and 72 special constables patrolling its public transit system.

More controversial still is the fact that some of them will be in plain clothes.

"In accordance with the Revenue Protection Deployment strategy, Special Constables will be deployed to support revenue protection efforts in plainclothes," reads one point on the document's list of Phase One operations.

"Capacity to expand plainclothes deployment will be evaluated as additional resources are added in 2020."

On buses, officers in plain clothes will be deployed to locations that are "at high risk for concession card fraud," according to the document.

Streetcar riders can expect revenue protection workers "in uniform or in plainclothes " on several consecutive streetcars working in teams of four.

"It's going to be very hard to on a weekly basis not be bumping into constables and fare inspectors," said TTC CEO Rick Leary to the Toronto Star in a piece published Thursday.

"You're never going to know who's on board that could potentially ask you for your fare."

Toronto transit riders aren't exactly feeling the idea.

"Imagine the outrage if plainclothes police in unmarked cars randomly pulled over drivers to see if their insurance was up-to-date," wrote one in response to a tweet from Matt Elliot about the idea.

"And they not only did this to every person in the car, but every car in the vicinity. This approach is wrong and needs a serious re-think."

"Undercover fare inspectors suddenly confronting women on public transit and putting them on the spot without being identifiable as TTC staff: what could possibly go wrong?" wrote another person sarcastically.

Many on Twitter have been raising similar points about the potential problems that could come along with allowing plain clothes inspectors to demand peoples' IDs and force them off transit vehicles.

Undercover transit enforcers have already been working in Toronto, by the TTC's own admission.

They are said to carry Presto card scanners and hidden badges to show passengers.

The TTC's customer service account wrote in response to one critic on Thursday afternoon that "only Special Constables may work in plain clothes and they are identified with their Special Constable badge along with their photo ID card which identifies them as a Peace Office."

Regular fare inspectors will only work in uniform, according to the tweet, though this is not specified in the TTC Audit and Risk Management Committee's new report for action.

Lead photo by

PvOberstein/Wikimedia Commons


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