The TTC has an expensive fare evasion problem. Here's why some riders say they ride for free
‘If the machines don’t work people are not going to get off, they are going to go all the way,’ rider says
In the wake of the TTC's estimated $61 million loss in passenger revenue in 2018 due to fare evasion, some customers want the transit company to know that they want to pay, but they simply can't.
Toronto's auditor general reported Thursday that an audit has found the TTC lost 5.4 per cent of total passenger revenue last year. The report shows an additional $3.4 million in revenue loss for 2018 due to malfunctioning Metrolinx equipment.
"If the machines don't work, people are not going to get off," said Vinny Fratila, a streetcar rider.
"They are going to go all the way. It's not our fault. I want to pay but if it's broken, what? Just get off and wait for a next one? They have to fix their machines."
Andra Roston, another streetcar rider, says some people genuinely want to pay; and they even try to pay but are unable to do so.
"Sometimes the Presto machine is broken, or if you get on at the back of the streetcar, that machine is broken but you can't get to the front of the streetcar to actually tap your card," she told CBC Toronto.
"Sometime the machines won't take you card or return your change. I think that, for the most part, I definitely watch people try their best to pay . . . and they can't."
Broken machines not the only problem
For other streetcar riders, a broken machine is not the only problem; overcrowding is also a factor.
Celestine Nema says she takes the streetcar twice a day each weekday; and sometimes it's not that people don't want to pay, there's simply no space for them to do so.
"It's just so full. People are literally stuck in here like sardines. I don't know how people, especially if you're paying by tokens, how you get to the machines when there's, like, so many people in here," she said.
"It's just unfortunate but I just don't see how that would be possible. Sometimes you are stuck at the door until you get to your destination."
Nicolas Plande agrees, saying he too rides the streetcar every day and a lot of times he does not pay because he can't get access to the machines due to overcrowding.
"I pay but we have a lot of problems with those machines and sometimes it's very packed and you can't have access to those machines," he said.
Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler's listed 27 recommendations in her report to decrease fare evasion rates and boost passenger revenue.
Her recommendations include reviewing current problems with the way TTC fare gates function; and developing and implementing short and long-term strategies to fix them to reduce revenue loss.
People have an obligation to pay, TTC spokesman says
Stuart Green, a spokesperson for the TTC, while being empathetic with customers on "busy vehicles," said even overcrowding is not an excuse for not paying.
"People who really want to pay will find a way to do so," he said.
"We understand that it's difficult to get to a machine. What we ask people to do is if they are stepping off they can tap as they are getting off or tap as they're getting into a subway station."
Green also said fare evasion speaks to people who deliberately don't intend to pay. And he is reminding offenders that fare evasion amounts to theft.
"It's fraud and it's taking $60-to $64-million out of the pockets of the TTC, which means we can't deliver service which we could otherwise deliver. That's a lot of money for service delivery which goes missing," Green said.
"People have an obligation to pay. If you get caught on the system not paying, even if you intended to pay . . . that's not acceptable."
With files from Kelda Yuen