TTC riders, know your rights

Understanding fines, roles of fare inspectors

TTC riders, know your rights

Since the TTC implemented its Proof-of-Payment fare enforcement system in 2015, TTC riders have learned to live by an unofficial rule: if you evade your fare, you do so at your own risk. But what exactly does a rider risk? The Varsity takes a look into how Toronto transit operates so that you can know what rights you have while riding the TTC.

Fare inspection is upheld by fare inspectors and Transit Enforcement Special Constables, whose duties include conducting routine fare inspections onboard transit vehicles and overseeing TTC security, respectively.

The regulations concerning fare payment enforcement are enshrined in TTC By-law No. 1, which gives the TTC the authority to pass its own by-laws.

TTC By-law No. 1 was passed in October 2009 and accompanied by a comprehensive list of fines, both of which are publicly available on the TTC website.

Monitoring fare evaders was made somewhat more difficult with the implementation of the Proof-of-Payment system, since people were no longer barred from entering a streetcar or a bus through the back doors and could then potentially avoid the notice of the TTC vehicle operator.

The Toronto Star reported in April that, to combat a foreseeable increase in evasion with the new system, the number of annual fare inspections had increased from 938,000 to 3.7 million between 2015 and 2017.

According to the bylaw and corresponding fines table, refusal to pay a fare, and therefore failure to comply with provision 2.1 of the bylaw, could land you with a ticket of $235 and removal from the vehicle. Failure to provide a fare inspector with a piece of photo identification when requested costs $425.

What would happen, then, if a person did not have photo ID on them?

According to Mike DeToma, Senior Communications Advisor at the TTC, “They could face a fine if it was in relation to misuse of fare, or they might just be let off with a warning. It really depends on the circumstance.”

When it comes to physical force, DeToma clarified that the special constables receive “virtually the same training that police officers get in terms of use-of-force,” but are only authorized to employ physical force in cases of defence.

These special constables are distinct from fare inspectors in that they have been sworn in by the Toronto Police Service and have the same powers as a police officer to enforce the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Liquor Licence Act, and the Trespass to Property Act.

Earlier this year, the TTC came under fire when a video surfaced online showing two fare inspectors pinning a teenager to the ground, under circumstances that witnesses noted to be outside the bounds of self-defence.

In response to the incident, Ombudsman Toronto announced that it would be completing a full review of the TTC’s investigation file concerning the conduct of the inspectors involved.

Information concerning transit fare enforcement, TTC By-law No. 1, and a detailed fines list are available on the TTC’s website. For questions or complaints, students can contact the Transit Enforcement Department directly or the Human Resources Transit Enforcement Unit Complaints Coordinator.

Mayoral debate at Scarborough campus focuses on transit issues

Candidates discuss uploading TTC, transit affordability

Mayoral debate at Scarborough campus focuses on transit issues

TTCriders, an organization of transit users, and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) hosted a mayoral debate focused on transit on September 26.

Three candidates — former Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, lawyer and activist Saron Gebresellassi, and safe streets activist Sarah Climenhaga — took the stage at the Scarborough campus. The debate was moderated by The Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee.

John Tory, the incumbent mayoral candidate, was invited but did not attend. At the end of the debate, candidate Dionee Renée, who spells her name D!ONEE Renée, ­was invited to give a two-minute speech. She claimed ownership of the idea of free transit and underscored accessibility needs, which she felt had been lacking during the debate.

A Mainstreet Research poll released on September 26 put Keesmaat at 20.3 per cent, nearly 30 points behind Tory, who remains in the lead. Gebresellassi and Climenhaga both polled at around one per cent and undecided voters made up 27.4 per cent of the survey. The same poll found transit to be the most pressing issue in the mayoral election — overtaking concerns of housing affordability, crime and safety, and accountability.

Uploading the TTC to the province

All three candidates were asked about their stance on the provincial governments’ moves to take over Toronto’s subway system.

The proposal, made by the Progressive Conservatives during the provincial election, aims for the province to adopt major capital maintenance fees and control any expansion planning. Tory showed slight interest in the plan, however City Council voted 30–6 in favor of maintaining public ownership of the TTC. Premier Doug Ford, who campaigned on uploading the TTC to the province and whose party guaranteed the upload under a majority, became the centre of the candidates’ discussion.

Keesmaat proposed that any projects to upload the TTC should go through the mayor and the city council. She also emphasized the need for the TTC to remain a “public asset,” refuting any claims that turning the TTC private would raise capital funds or improve the transit system.

Agreeing with Keesmaat, Climenhaga commented on Ford’s ability to “do things even if we don’t agree with them” and supported the need to work with the premier on this issue.

Gebresellassi criticized Tory for his lack of strong leadership and underscored the need for mayoral leadership that would “stand up against Doug Ford,” particularly on the issue of uploading the subway to the provincial government.

ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY

Free transit

The first candidate to mention free transit was Gebresellassi, whose campaign is largely based on the idea of making Toronto the first metropolis in Canada to maintain a free public transit system.

Placing heavy emphasis on the idea of “transit as a fundamental human right,” Gebresellassi proposed eliminating corporate loopholes and using federal funding to finance her proposal.

Climenhaga took a moderate stance on the issue ­— labeling it a goal to be achieved through long-term investment in the transit system and a gradual reduction of fares.

Keesmaat heavily opposed the idea of free transit, criticizing not only Gebresellassi’s funding plans for the proposal, but also pointing out the resulting issues of overcrowding and the loss of the TTC’s operating revenue. She further underscored the need for more investment to develop transit expansion over the development of free transit.

“I thank [Gebresellassi] for putting the idea of free transit on the table, and I have to say it is a ridiculous idea that would ruin our transit system.”

During an interview with The Varsity, Gebresellassi pushed back.

“I think her position says it all. This is why we keep saying Jennifer Keesmaat is not a champion for working-class people,” a sentiment that was not brought up during the debate.

Additionally, Gebresellassi argued against claims that the plan would be difficult to fund: “As the 13th wealthiest city in the world, we could have free transit if we wanted to.”

Transit affordability for students

After the failure of the U-Pass referendum last year, postsecondary student fares for transit and the development of a student pass has been the focus of the debate on transit affordability for university students.

SCSU President Nicole Brayiannis opened the question portion of the debate by asking about affordable transit for students, especially those who commute long distances.

Keesmaat responded to the question by calling out the provincial government for stalling fare integration with GO, which would allow transferring from the TTC to GO without having to pay multiple fares. Inter-municipal fare integration as well as transferable regional fares were proposed for commuting students.

Taking a similar stance, Climenhaga agreed on the need for fare integration but also emphasized the need to work with the province on affordable student housing, zoning to make student housing development easier, and increased employment opportunities.

In her response, Gebresellassi proposed expanding the low-income transit pass, also known as the Fair Fare Pass, universally. Differing from the other candidates, she also highlighted the need for job opportunities and engagement outside of the downtown core and called for a multitude of plans that would encourage local hiring and youth training.

ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY

Protesters

In the middle of Climenhaga’s opening statement, protesters in the audience began shouting, “Where is Faith Goldy?” Picketers with signs that read, “Let Faith Speak,” stood in the back of the room.

Faith Goldy, a controversial mayoral candidate associated with white nationalists, was not invited to speak at the event.

The commotion prompted multiple audience members to stand up, resulting in loud protests both against and in support of Goldy.

A chant began from the protesters demanding: “We want Faith.”

The protesters were eventually asked to leave and were escorted out of the room. Goldy herself interrupted a debate just two days earlier, where she was escorted off stage by police officers.

The Toronto municipal elections will be held on October 22, and advance voting will take place from October 10–14.

Scrutinizing the new TTC two-hour transfer policy

While the policy seemingly benefits low-income folks, the PRESTO-only condition threatens structural violence against homeless people

Scrutinizing the new TTC two-hour transfer policy

While riding on the TTC is fairly straightforward, it is not necessarily enjoyable. Compare our transit system, for example, with Vancouver’s aesthetically superior SkyTrain system, which is a joy to ride and affordable for University of British Columbia students at just $41 a month. Meanwhile, U of T students are stuck with failed U-Pass deals, unaffordable transit costs, and transit officers with multiple complaints filed against them.

With the arrival of the two-hour transfer policy, however, it may seem that the future is bright for the TTC. In fact, we are receiving a benefit that is long overdue, and according to the only comment about the policy in Rocket-Riding Memes for Toronto-Oriented Teens — a Facebook group of over 1,000 members dedicated to TTC memes — the TTC finally “joins the civilized world.”

Discussing the policy, Mayor John Tory comments, “You can get on five times if you want to make five different stops, as long as it’s within the two hour period.” On the one hand, my immediate response is to ask where one could possibly go to make it to five different stops in two hours. On the other hand, I understand how being able to go to multiple stops in one transfer will lower the cost of living for low-income folks and students.

In this way, the policy is clearly a good thing: we no longer have to pay for briefly leaving a transit vehicle. For students, the main advantage is being able to commute to and from a one-hour class while only paying one fare. The more adventurous students could add extra tasks to that journey.

However, I’m opposed to the fact that the policy requires the use of a PRESTO card and is embedded in a plan to get rid of tokens by the end of 2019. This is not only because I’m suspicious of the increasing domination of technology in our lives, but also because I worry that the dominance of PRESTO is a manifestation of structural violence towards the homeless.

Simply put, phasing out tokens results in phasing out easy access to warm places to sleep for the homeless during winter. Being forced to have a PRESTO card, with its $6 start-up cost plus a minimum $10 initial deposit, puts a hamper on homeless entry into the TTC. Compound that with the difficulty in registering and confirming lost PRESTO cards when homeless, and we begin to see the insidious ways structural violence functions.

The policy, with its PRESTO-exclusive benefit, will not be the cause of these problems, but uncritical support of PRESTO-focused policies will normalize the structural exclusion of the homeless under the mask of progress. Fundamentally, the transfer pushes an ideology of individualism. While tokens can be and are distributed to those in need, PRESTO cards are not shareable. We would not drop our PRESTO cards into the cups of the homeless.

While the arrival of the transfer and the growth of the PRESTO system indicate that we’ve gained entry into “the civilized world,” we have lost the opportunity to share that world with others. If two-hour transfers are here, why can’t they be here for everyone? PRESTO users and non-PRESTO users alike would benefit from two-hour transfers, so why exclude service to one group of people?

In one sense, it’s not the TTC’s responsibility to take care of the homeless, but in another, a fundamental part of being human is to care about others. The two-hour transfer expresses the ideology that we are only responsible for ourselves. Public transit is in danger of becoming less and less public. So while the two-hour transfer improves serviceability, whom exactly the TTC provides their services to remains a vital question.

Eddy Wang is a fourth-year Cinema Studies and Computer Science student at Innis College.

U-Commute survey data details student transit use ahead of U-Pass referendum

Nearly 10,000 students from UTSG responded to the survey

U-Commute survey data details student transit use ahead of U-Pass referendum

U-Commute, an organization comprised of student representatives of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) and student unions from Ryerson University, OCAD University, and George Brown College ran a survey of their members from August 28 to September 28, 2017. The survey garnered over 16,000 responses, nearly 10,000 of which were from UTSG students.

A total of 9,946 full-time undergraduates at UTSG completed the U-Commute survey. Not all respondents answered every question, however. For example, 9,265 students answered to how they usually get to campus and 9,153 answered to which transit systems they used.

Students will be voting on a referendum to implement a U-Pass fee of between $282.50 and $322.50 per semester during this month’s UTSU spring elections.

UTSU Vice-President External Anne Boucher told The Varsity that she was happy with the survey’s response rate.

“Almost half of the surveys (roughly 7000) were distributed to students via paper copy. Surveys would be handed to all students entering a class, regardless of commute type, to ensure that responses weren’t only being imputed [to] commuter students. They were all collected shortly after distribution,” Boucher said.

She admitted that, although in theory the online responses may have seen a self-selection bias, she was confident in the overall results and how they assisted the UTSU in its lobbying efforts.

Where students live

Of the respondents, 58.11 per cent said that they live in the metro area, either in the west end, east end, north end, or downtown, with 46.71 per cent downtown. Additionally, 41.89 per cent indicated that they live within the city’s post-amalgamation boroughs, such as Etobicoke and Scarborough, or the GTA, such as Ajax, Brampton, Mississauga, Richmond Hill, and Vaughan.

 

 

The survey data also details the distance students must travel in order to reach campus. 43.96 per cent said that they live 11 or more kilometres away from UTSG, while 16.41 per cent live within one kilometre.

Transit use

Students use a variety of methods to get to campus. Principally, those include either walking or public transit. 74.32 per cent of respondents said that they use transit in some way during their commute, and 54.1 per cent said that they walked, either solely or in conjunction with transit or other methods.

 

Of the commuters, 98.25 per cent said that they use the TTC for any type of travel, not necessarily in order to get to campus. Additionally, 36.74 per cent use GO Transit in some fashion.  35.6 per cent use the TTC and GO together in some way.

 

 

Only 458 respondents answered to why they didn’t use transit, with 43.67 per cent responding that it was too expensive and 40.39 per cent saying that they live close enough not to require transit to commute to campus.

Boucher said that fare evasion data helped lead the TTC to consider a U-Pass, as they had not previously had any observable data concerning fare evasion. Of 9,262 responses, 3.57 per cent said that they don’t pay for the TTC on a daily basis; 6.68 per cent did so weekly, 10.49 per cent said they did monthly, 8.8 per cent did so around once a semester, and 9.6 per cent said they evaded paying their fare once a year.

The other 60.84 per cent said that they always pay for the TTC.

 

UTSU to hold referendum on student U-Pass

Students will get opportunity to vote on proposed U-Pass fee during UTSU spring elections

UTSU to hold referendum on student U-Pass

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) passed a motion to hold a referendum for UTSG members to establish a new U-Pass fee of up to $322.50 per session, or approximately $80.60 per month, at a Board of Directors meeting on February 24.

UTSU President Mathias Memmel confirmed the fee would be no higher than $80.60 per month, compared to $116.75 per month for a Metropass. Should the referendum succeed, the fee would be established at a TTC board meeting on March 20.

The motion approved the referendum question, which requests that the UTSU board be authorized to increase the fee by up to five per cent per year to account for increases in administrative and transit costs.

Students would not be able to opt out of the fee. UTSU Vice-President External Anne Boucher said the union pushed for that option but was unsuccessful in securing the choice. “We’d even suggested a distance-based opt-out, but there was no take,” she told The Varsity. “It was made very clear to us by TTC stakeholders that an opt-out would not be possible if U of T students wanted a U-Pass.

“It’s a price some of us will have to warm up to, but given all factors, it’s the best price we could have ever hoped for.”

Faculty of Medicine Director Donald Wang was critical of the motion to hold the referendum. Wang asked how the board could ask students to vote when the UTSU has not yet come to an official agreement with the TTC regarding the exact cost of the U-Pass. Memmel confirmed that there is “no scenario” in which the UTSU would begin collecting fees without having a contract in place with the TTC.

“It’s not a perfect situation,” said UTSU Vice-President Internal Daman Singh during the meeting. “In a perfect situation, we’d have a full contract drafted.”

Wang also worried that the agreement with the TTC would not be in accordance with the UTSU’s Bylaw XIX.b on Autonomy, which states that the UTSU “shall not enter into any perpetual agreement that cannot be terminated by a vote of the Board of Directors.”

Memmel claims that the contract with the TTC will not be perpetual and will be fully compliant with UTSU bylaws and policies.

Beginning next week, the UTSU will be updating its website, postering, and publishing ads ahead of the March 5 deadline to give notice of the referendum. Memmel told The Varsity that, before voting, students can expect to know how U-Pass distribution will work, what expenses will be incurred, and what arrangements can be made for students in “unique situations,” including students in second-entry professional programs.

Students can also expect more information regarding the U-Commute survey, which ran from August 28 to September 28 last year. Boucher confirmed that some of the information gathered in the survey includes that 74.32 per cent of U of T students use transit to get to class, 84.63 per cent of U of T students use transit for other travel, and 98.25 per cent of U of T students use the TTC.

The UTSU, along with student unions from Ryerson University, OCAD University, and George Brown College, has been in negotiations with the TTC since summer 2017. The TTC board voted unanimously in favour of a U-Pass on December 11, 2017.

A U-Pass at U of T has been long overdue

Re: “TTC board votes unanimously in favour of U-Pass”

A U-Pass at U of T has been long overdue

It appears that the once unfathomable idea of a U-Pass coming to U of T may soon be a reality. The U-Pass would provide U of T students with unlimited transit use of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) paid for by a slight increase in tuition fees, allowing students to access much more affordable public transportation than it is currently being provided with. The TTC board voted in favour of the discount transit pass in December and discussed the possibility of its implementation as early as this coming September.

There is an ongoing trend across the country in favour of providing students with subsidized and affordable transportation by including its costs in their tuition fees. In this sense, I am shocked that U of T has only now pursued this type of program. Ontario universities such as Carleton and McMaster have already implemented a U-Pass, while universities like the University of British Columbia have implemented a system almost identical to the proposed U-Pass. In addition, the city of Montréal provides transit passes at a highly reduced cost to university students. Ontario universities have the highest average tuition costs in the country, making it unfortunate that the cost of transportation has not been included in U of T’s ancillary fees until now.

For students going to school in Toronto, it can be almost impossible to get around the city without access to affordable public transportation. While the U-Pass may be particularly good news for commuter students, I think it’s safe to say that all students will be able to benefit from easier access to transportation regardless of where they live. Even living in downtown Toronto, for example, I find myself having to take the TTC at least once a day, and the financial burden of paying over $100 a month for a metropass can be quite heavy. This burden only increases for students living outside the city and who take a variety of public transportation to get to school. Costs associated with long commutes that traverse the boundaries of the TTC can reach up to $25 a day.

Commuters often abide by incredibly dense school schedules in order to cut back on transportation fees, and long hours often prevent commuters from getting involved with extracurriculars or student life. A U-Pass is therefore a useful tool for all students, as it allows them to have more freedom of movement in a city that is so dependent on public transportation.

Yasaman Mohaddes is a third-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Political Science and Sociology.

The TTC Line 1 extension isn’t a total victory

Re: “Commuter students react to new TTC Line 1 extension”

The TTC Line 1 extension isn’t a total victory

Commuter students celebrating the opening of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Line 1 extension should first consider a few facts about the project that may leave them scratching their heads.

The project began in 2009, and was supposed to be completed by 2015 on a budget of $2.6 billion. By the time it was completed, it was $600,000 over budget, two years late, and afflicted by the death of a construction worker that occurred on site in 2011. Dubbed a “fiasco” by Mayor John Tory, the project also saw the firing of two veteran TTC managers and project management turnover to Bechtel Corporation to ensure its opening date would not exceed 2018 or 2019. Even after its completion, the TTC is still settling claims from contractors over alleged unpaid work, and will likely be doing so for years.

Undoubtedly, the construction of public transportation infrastructure such as the TTC Line 1 extension is an extremely complicated and expensive task. However, we should acknowledge the inexcusable incompetence displayed by our elected officials in the municipal government as well as the TTC. U of T commuters should have had this subway extension built two years ago, and could have potentially saved an enormous amount of commuting time and money over this period. Also, given that the project was over budget, a portion of Torontonians’ taxes were wasted on this project due to poor project management by the TTC.

Commuters should feel bittersweet about this project. It will definitely make it easier and cheaper for many students to get to school, but the process it took to achieve this possibility was very disappointing.

Peter Dominicis is a third-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Accounting.

TTC board votes unanimously in favour of U-Pass

U-Pass seeks to make public transit affordable for students

TTC board votes unanimously in favour of U-Pass

More affordable transit may become a reality for students on the St. George campus after the TTC Board unanimously voted in favour of the U-Pass Initiative during a meeting on December 11, 2017.

The Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass), advocated by representatives from the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), Student Association of George Brown College (SAGBC), and the Ontario College of Art and Design Student Union, aims to provide an affordable means of transportation apart from the postsecondary metro pass offered by the TTC.

A staff report from the Chief Executive Officer of the TTC states that the U-Pass offers greater savings than the 20 per cent discount offered by the postsecondary student metropass, priced at $116.75.

Moreover, the initiative also proposes fare integration between several public transit systems in the Greater Toronto Area, such as Brampton Transit and York Region Transit. According to the report, it is estimated that more than 15 percent per cent of commutes by postsecondary students involve more than one transit system in addition to the TTC.

“The TTC is eager to make the U-Pass program work, everyone is in agreement on this,” said TTC Senior Communications Specialist Stuart Green. “A report is being prepared for our board in the first quarter of this year that would outline the specifics of the pass in terms of price and availability. If it is agreed to, it would be introduced in September.”

Anne Boucher, Vice-President External of the UTSU, spoke of an increased ridership during the TTC board meeting as a result of a U-Pass and how it will improve off-peak travel times.

“Creating a long-term transit reliance is key to the sustainability of transit into the future. By securing the student ridership now, students are more likely to be committed users leading into their professional lives,” said Boucher.

“A U-Pass encourages students to travel at off-peak times. Currently 76.6 per cent of our students say their commute affects how they schedule classes. They’re compressing their schedules into two to three compact days to avoid paying fares, which means they’re travelling in the morning rush and the evening rush,” continued Boucher.

In a survey administered by the students’ unions in late August, 95 per cent of commuter students voted in favour of the U-Pass. Students cited financial burdens as a reason, saying they spend upwards of $100 per month on transportation alone.

“U of T is a commuter school, so most students will benefit if this comes to fruition. Currently, I spend nearly $1,400 on transit. The blow was softened a bit by the tax deduction for Metropass, but since that is no longer in effect, I think more affordable transit is all the more necessary,” said Mayar Sashin, a commuter student at Victoria College.

“Other Canadian universities and cities are ahead of us in terms of providing transportation to students,” said Avneet Sharma, a student at Trinity College. “Though I don’t necessarily have the longest commute, the U-Pass would definitely be beneficial for all commuters at U of T.”

However, not all commuter students can depend on a U-Pass for their daily commute, using other methods of transportation besides public transit.

“Frankly, the UPass won’t be very helpful to me, since I bike to school everyday, so the increase in tuition will negatively impact me, personally,” said Benjamin Liao-Gormley, a commuter student from Victoria College. “Nonetheless, I support it, as it will save many of my friends some money, especially since commuting isn’t cheap if you don’t live in the downtown core.”

In an email to The Varsity, Gabriel Calderon, Co-Chair of the Victoria College Off-Campus Association and Commuter Commissioner on the Victoria University’s Students’ Administrative Council, wrote on how a U-Pass would counter the prohibitive costs of commuting, saying the U-Pass would provide an opportunity for students to come to university when they otherwise wouldn’t.

“I mean this in the context of extracurricular involvement,” Calderon said. “Often, a student will want to attend some sort of club/student society meeting, or go to office hours, etc., but they will choose not to because the cost of commuting will be prohibitive.”