Metrolinx, an Ontario government agency that oversees public transport in the southern part of the province, is now setting targets for the number of fines that inspectors collectively issue to GO train riders each month for not paying their fares.
CBC News obtained internal records that show a breakdown of the target number of inspections and notices of violation the agency wants customer protection officers and revenue protection officers to handle — and how many were actually completed and issued — on each of its eight regional train lines.
Notices of violation are fines issued by GO Transit to passengers who fail to provide proof of payment when requested.
In October 2022, Metrolinx implemented a graduated fee structure for those fines, so that first-time offenders are now fined $35, second-time offenders receive a $50 ticket and anyone with three offences faces a $100 fine.
The transit agency introduced a monthly target for the fines in September, according to an employee who was not authorized to speak on the matter. And while internal reports use the word “target,” the Metrolinx employee describes the figure as more akin to a quota.
The new monthly benchmark raises alarms for August Puranauth, a transit advocate with TTCriders, a group representing transit riders in Toronto.
“Having a fare evasion fine quota could possibly mean that GO enforcement are profiling riders, and that could be profiling based on race, based on appearance,” Puranauth said.
Transit officers surpass fine targets
The first month, the target for officers was 5,000 fare evasion fines and 100,000 inspections. In October those targets rose to 6,000 fare evasions fines and 120,000 inspections.
Metrolinx transit officers surpassed the fine targets both months — issuing 5,121 tickets in September and 6,187 in October, according to the reports. At minimum, if all of the tickets were issued to first-time offenders, the fines add up to $179,235 in September and $216,545 in October.
The Metrolinx employee said there have been internal discussions about what disciplinary action could look like if staff fail to meet the benchmarks down the line.
Policy ‘protects the interests of fare-paying customers’
In an emailed statement, Metrolinx didn’t directly acknowledge the inspection and fine targets but said the transit agency needs “a structured approach to manage fare policy and enforcement.”
“This protects the interests of fare-paying customers and ensures Metrolinx can continue to provide a consistent level of service,” spokesperson Andrea Ernesaks said.
The statement said Metrolinx relies on fares to cover the cost of its transit operations and that fees collected from non-paying riders go back into operating the service.
It also said fare inspections are designed to be applied “in a fair and uniform way for all riders.”
“When fare inspection occurs, the goal is that all customers on a GO train or bus are inspected,” Ernesaks said.
All Metrolinx employees also receive anti-racism and anti-bias training, according to the statement.