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Fare evasion cost TTC nearly $124M last year, staff report says

A TTC streetcar is pictured here at King and John Streets in Toronto. (John Rieti/CBC - image credit)
A TTC streetcar is pictured here at King and John Streets in Toronto. (John Rieti/CBC - image credit)

Fare evasion cost the TTC $123.8 million last year and nearly 12 per cent of riders did not pay their fares, according to a new study by transit agency staff.

In a report to the TTC's audit and risk management committee this week, TTC staff said the fare evasion rate nearly doubled between 2023 and 2018, when the rate was about six per cent and fare evasion cost the system $60 million to $70 million a year.

The highest fare evasion rate last year occurred on streetcars, at 29.6 per cent. That was followed by a fare evasion rate on buses, at 12.9 per cent, and 6.3 per cent at subway stations.

The report said an additional $17.1 million was lost in 2023 due to cash fares not paid in full.

Last year, 94 per cent of people who used child PRESTO cards did so fraudulently, the report added.

Fare inspectors, who number about 100 system-wide, are only issuing about 100 tickets per week, the committee was told on Tuesday.

The TTC has responded to the report with a new marketing campaign to promote fare compliance. The campaign, announced on Thursday, will remind riders of the importance of paying their fares and warn those who steal rides that they will be fined.

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said the TTC has a number of security measures in place including cameras and emergency alarms, but added the transit system will add 56 special constables this year.
TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said the TTC has a number of security measures in place including cameras and emergency alarms, but added the transit system will add 56 special constables this year.

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green says the agency is very concerned about lost fares. (CBC)

TTC Stuart Green said on Thursday that the transit agency is already ramping up fare enforcement with officers riding high priority routes at busy times. But the revenue lost to fare evasion is of great concern, he said.

"It's time for us now to start getting serious," Green said. "Right now, we really need to start getting some of that revenue back and recapturing it because theft of TTC rides is not acceptable."

Green said the transit agency has videos of people crashing through, sneaking around and jumping over gates and the TTC is already taking steps to stop that behaviour.

"We know that there is a wilful decision to not pay the fare," Green said. "Today the TTC is not free so we need people to pay their fares."

Report says TTC strategies not curbing problem

The report noted that strategies adopted by TTC are making the problem worse.

"Corporate fare compliance strategies have unintentionally contributed to fare evasion," it reads.

For example, it said TTC policy does not require customers to have proof-of-payment on buses and in stations. As well, because of TTC policy, customers are used to "not being questioned or stopped by frontline employees if they do not pay."

To reduce fare evasion, the TTC should consider "constructing new physical barriers, enhancing technology, adjusting fare gate configuration and only allowing front-door boarding on buses," the report added.

The committee asked staff to return in May with a thorough action plan to address the problem.

Councillors call for better enforcement

At city hall on Thursday, two councillors said the fare evasion numbers are unexpected.

"We need to get better at fare enforcement," Coun. Brad Bradford said outside city council chambers.

"In a world where this council has decided to increase service levels, not increase fares, and we're shipping out 10 per cent of our revenue to fare evasion, I would say it's time we get serious on that."

Coun. Brad Bradford, who spoke to reporters after the budget vote, says: 'At a time when people are paying more at the grocery store, more at the pump, more in rent, more in interest rates, this council and the mayor just passed the largest tax increase that will not make life more affordable. It will make it more expensive to live here in Toronto.'

Coun. Brad Bradford says: 'In a world where this council has decided to increase service levels, not increase fares, and we're shipping out 10 per cent of our revenue to fare evasion, I would say it's time we get serious on that.' (CBC)

Coun. Dianne Saxe, a TTC board member, said she would like the TTC to develop a plan to deal with fare evasion because the the agency cannot afford to lose so much money.

"I'm appalled," Saxe said. "We have an enormous problem. We need to dramatically get serious about it. People need to pay when they take transit or we can't afford to keep running the system," she added.

"We do also need the use of force policy to be approved so that there can be a response when someone just ignores a ticket collector or a fare inspector and walks away."

Saxe said she thinks the response from TTC management is inadequate.

"We have a well-documented series of problems. And I expect them, for each problem, to propose a solution."

Saxe said the solutions need to have timelines and allocated resources to enable the TTC board to make a meaningful decision.

Advocate says enforcement will hurt vulnerable people

One transit advocate, however, said stricter enforcement is not the best way forward.

Shelagh Pizey-Allen of TTC Riders
Shelagh Pizey-Allen of TTC Riders

Shelagh Pizey-Allen, spokesperson for TTCriders, says stricter enforcement will 'only going to result in violence and harm for the lowest income and most vulnerable people in our city.' (Submitted by Shelagh Pizey-Allen)

Shelagh Pizey-Allen, spokesperson for TTCriders, said she is urging the TTC to find other solutions to make up for lost revenue.

"That's only going to result in violence and harm for the lowest income and most vulnerable people in our city," she said.

"We can be a bit more creative and make sure we're taking an evidence based human rights approach. I know people are having this reaction because the numbers sound big, but we have to think about what is the impact going to be on the most vulnerable people who cannot afford a $425 fine and their lives could be ruined over it."

In a news release on Thursday, the TTC said it has increased staff to improve fare compliance and safety and security. That means it has hired fare inspectors, special constables and 130 new staff at subway stations who will be at secondary entrances to prevent gate crashing.

The TTC has also created a new complaints office that will accept complaints about the conduct of an individual fare inspector or special constable.

"Customers can expect to see increased fare inspection activity and more staff at locations known to be prone to fare evasion. Transit fare inspectors will be patrolling the downtown streetcar network and transfer points in stations and there will be an increased presence of supervisors and special constables on the bus network," the TTC said.