Toronto Transit Commission’s prolonged fare evasion issue does not seem to improve. In 2018, TTC lost $61M to fare evasion, according to Toronto’s auditor general report. This figure implies 5.4% of total passengers skipped the fare. It also triples the estimate the agency has consistently defended over time.
The bus is the public transport service which amounts the most loses with $30.1 million. It is followed by the subway ($18.4M) and the streetcars ($12.M). Nevertheless, the latter leads the ranking in relative terms. Based on the weighted average, streetcars accounted for 15.2% of loses. Buses were second with 5.1% and the subway third with 3.7%.
The report also says the operator lost an additional $3.4M million due to malfunctioning Metrolinx equipment. Therefore, total loses in revenue in 2018 amount to $64M. This final figure might even be higher since the report states it “is probably understated”. The reason is that they could not quantify the loss to fare gate malfunctioning and the use of crash gates at subways.
How people fare evade at TTC
Some TTC commuters skip the fare intentionally. Surveillance cameras have caught fare dodgers jumping gates, squeezing between them or tailgating behind someone who does pay.
Another common fare evasion practice is misusing PRESTO child cards. Under the current fare policy, children who are 12 year old and under can ride TTC for free. There is no visual distinction between these child cards and the others, so adults are taking advantage of it. In only six weeks of audit observation period, TTC fare Inspectors identified 56 subway riders and 22 bus riders who were fraudulently using a Child Presto card.
Other passengers state machine malfunctioning blocks them from paying. “If the machines don’t work, people are not going to get off and wait for the next streetcar” argues a commuter. Also, overcrowding is another factor. Sometimes people want to pay, but there is simply no space for them to reach the machines.
Ways to fix the situation
In order to decrease fare evasion and boost partnership revenue, the report lists 27 suggestions. These include raising customer understanding of the importance of paying, expanding the fare evasion program to buses and reviewing fare gate functioning, among others.
Regarding the misusing of cards, the document recommends differentiating child PRESTO cards from adults cards. This could be done by using different colours and/or sounds when validating. The report even suggest temporarily eliminating the card.
Parallelly, TTC recently approved a 10% fare hike to collet an extra $25.8M in passenger revenue. The increase will become effective on April 1st if the city council accepts it. The transport agency also plans to increment transit inspection. Specifically, TTC wants to add 45 fare inspectors, 22 transit enforcement officers and 3 administrative support officers.