ttc fare evasion

Fare evasion cost the TTC more than $70 million last year

Nearly six per cent of all public transit riders in Toronto are regularly taking the bus, subway and streetcar without paying, according to a new report from the TTC — with a heavy emphasis on streetcar.

The report in question, set to go before the TTC's Audit and Risk Management (ARC) Committee next week, suggests that the transit agency lost a whopping $70.3 million in "uncollected renvue" over the course of 2019 alone.

This is up from the estimated $64 million lost to fare evasion in 2018, though it's important to note that the numbers were determined using slightly different methodologies.

Further to that, the astronomical figures cited in the ARC's latest report are based on a six-week-long fare evasion study that commenced in November of last year.

"To estimate an overall and representative fare evasion rate, ARC staff observed TTC Special Constables in plain clothes conducting proof-of-payment inspections and enforcement activities," explains the report.

"The observations took place between November and December 2019 on 186 streetcars (9 routes), 117 buses (52 routes) and 38 subway stations for a total of 196 observation hours."

Streetcar riders were found to be the worst offenders by far in terms of fare evasion, with 15.9 per cent of them failing to tap their Presto cards or buy tickets on board.

Presto machines were working 95 per cent of the time, according to the report, even though some customers who "had made no attempt to pay using the machines" later blamed their free rides on faulty readers.

Bus riders evaded fare 6.3 per cent of the time over the course of the study period, either by way of boarding without paying or by the fraudulent use of childrens Presto cards.

Subway riders were the least likely to try and defraud the TTC, with 1.9 per cent fare evasion rates posted at main entrances and 4.9 per cent secondary entrances.

"Following closely behind tapping customers (i.e. tailgating), entering through the open dedicated legacy fare media line without paying and fraudulent use of Presto child cards were the most common types of evasion noted in subway stations," notes the report.

Tracking behaviours such as these was an important part of the six-week fare evasion study, which sought not only to get new data but to glean some insight into why people don't pay for rides and how they get away with it.

"Social media further suggests that knowledge of the TTC's inspection practices and monitoring the vicinity of TTC Fare Inspectors and Special Constables allows certain customers to circumvent the existing enforcement model," reads a portion of the report.

In other words, people are warning each other online when they spot fare inspectors on the TTC.

A whole new crop of transit cops are expected to start working by the end of this year, bringing the TTC 's roster up to 111 Fare Inspectors and 72 Special Constables, and more customer awareness campaigns are in the works as well.

These measures alone won't solve the TTC's fare evasion problem, however, according to the ARC report.

"In our professional opinion, the success of a Revenue Protection Strategy is highly dependent on building a fare compliant culture," it reads.

"Specifically, a culture shift towards fare compliance and a reset of social norms are needed to disrupt negative customer behaviour."

Good luck with the "reset of social norms" there, TTC.

Lead photo by

Boris T

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