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The Globe and Mail

Jump in fare evasion cost TTC $22-million in 2010

TTC users come and go through the entrance to the TTC in Toronto on March 1, 2011.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The TTC lost more than $22-million to fare evasion in 2010, nearly double the previous year's figure, according to a draft report that says the transit agency needs to regain its old policing powers to curb the problem.

"We need to figure out why [fare evasion is on the rise,]rdquo; said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a member of the Toronto Transit Commission. "The obvious answer is that we need better enforcement."

"Fare is Fair," an internal Feb. 11 report obtained by The Globe and Mail, says the fare-evasion rate rose to 1.6 per cent in 2010 from 0.8 per cent in 2009, when the system lost just over $11-million to customers who didn't pay.

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The worst culprits were riders who slipped by with expired transfers, followed by those who flashed ineligible Metropasses and others who snuck in the back door of streetcars without paying.

There's no obvious explanation for the spike in fare cheating uncovered in a routine audit last spring, the TTC's chief general manager said.

"We don't know if it's a one-off. We think it might be," Gary Webster said. "There's nothing significantly that's changed out there."

Although it happened after the audit, there has been a significant change to the way subways, streetcars and buses are policed: Transit guards officially lost their "special constable" status Feb. 1.

The TTC used to employ 62 front-line transit guards whose special-constable status gave them the authority to carry pepper foam and arrest riders suspected of committing crimes.

The Toronto Police Services Board voted last fall to strip the TTC's officers of that power as the police force raised the number of cops patrolling the transit system to 80 from 38.

Now the TTC has 42 front-line "transit-enforcement officers" who can only ticket riders for provincial offences such as trespassing and failing to pay a fare.

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"It is imperative that TTC senior management gain Commission support to re-open the dialogue with the newly appointed Toronto Police Services Board and to engage the Board in a meaningful discussion to reinstate the status of TTC Special Constables," the report says. "Any lesser authority for Transit Enforcement Officers presents an enhanced risk ... to officer safety while diminishing the effectiveness of the TTC's revenue protection efforts."

Now that they've lost their old policing powers, transit guards should focus heavily on ticketing fare evaders, the 42-page report recommends.

It goes on to suggest where and how the TTC's officers should be deployed - almost entirely on the subway, except for two officers patrolling the Queen streetcar on weekdays.

It also reveals how many $395 tickets the transit authority aims to hand out for fare cheating in 2011.

Of 6,000 provincial-offences tickets projected to be issued on the TTC this year, approximately 3,000 are expected to be for fare evasion, which would rake in $1.03-million in revenue, the report says.

But TTC brass believe the new focus on fare cheats can increase the haul.

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"With [transit-enforcement officers]focus on instituting strong fare enforcement protocol, exceeding the initial projection by up to 33%, approximately 2,000 Provincial Offences Tickets bringing the total close to 8,000 tickets, is believed attainable," the report says.

Mr. Minnan-Wong warned the TTC can't let fare evasion spin further out of control.

"I've talked to bus drivers who admit that on certain bus routes the fare box has become a donation box because they are too afraid to challenge fare jumpers," he said.

"I certainly don't refer to our fare boxes in the same manner," Mr. Webster countered. "Our operators are encouraged to collect their fares and they do."

Meantime, the TTC voted Tuesday to eliminate discounted Metropasses for part-time postsecondary school students.

Off the rails: The TTC lost more than $22-million to fare evasion in 2010. Here's how fare cheats beat the system most often, ranked by approximate lost revenue:

Transfer abuse: $16.57-million

Metropass abuse: $2.17-million

Proof-of-payment program (when riders use the back door of the streetcar without paying): $1.23-million

Spurious receipts: $1.16-million

Illegal entry: $802,000

Day-pass abuse: $120,000

Source: Fare is Fair: A Comprehensive Revenue Protection and Order Maintenance Strategy for 2011 and Beyond. Draft report.

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