TTC riders using bags, ‘well-trained dog’ to avoid fares, city auditor tells committee

From hopping gates to using a “well-trained” dog, TTC riders are turning to number of methods to evade paying their fare, Toronto’s auditor general says.

Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler showcased the violations, which have led to an estimated $61 million worth of lost fares in 2018, at a meeting of the TTC’s audit and risk management committee on Tuesday.

She said there is a “big opportunity” to better prevent fare skipping.

Romeo-Beehler’s office produced a video showing people squeezing through TTC gates, tailgating other customers, using a bag, hopping the fence and even using a dog to slip through the gate and open it from the other side.

The TTC is now being asked to consider a number of measures to deal with the rampant fare evasion.

That includes taking another look at TTC crash gates, which are sometimes left unattended and open — “allowing people to walk right through without paying,” according to the auditor’s video.

The TTC could close unattended crash gates, Romeo-Beehler said, and make sure gates are working properly.

“That is a small amount of effort to make sure that you’re protecting the organization,” she said.

Meanwhile, Romeo-Beehler also wants improvements to the Presto system, which is managed by the provincial transit agency, Metrolinx. Malfunctioning Presto equipment cost the TTC an additional $3.4 million last year, her report said.

Adults using child Presto cards, audit finds

People also use child Presto cards to avoid paying adult fare, Romeo-Beehler found.

Child Presto cards are meant to let kids age 12 and under ride for free, but they look the same as adult cards, the auditor notes.

The office didn’t see any children using child cards during a six-week observation period — but fare inspectors noted 78 people fraudulently using them, the report says.

Romeo-Beehler told the committee that child Presto cards could look distinctive from adult cards in the future. The cards could also make different lights and sounds to ensure operators know who is using which card, the report says.

Presto cards are Metrolinx property

At the meeting, Romeo-Beehler said the TTC can’t confiscate fraudulently-used Presto cards because Metrolinx considers them its property.

“That’s ridiculous,” commented TTC board vice chair Alan Heisey.

The auditor general also said there is no database on how many child cards are given out to each person, and that people can get several child cards from different Shoppers Drug Marts.

But the TTC can’t stop Shoppers Drug Mart from selling Presto cards because of a deal with Metrolinx, she said.

Her report recommends the TTC work with Metrolinx to look at suspending child Presto cards temporarily until appropriate controls can be put in place.

It also suggested reassessing whether “there is a critical need” to issue child Presto cards, balancing good customer service with the risk of fraud.

TTC responsible for fare enforcement, Metrolinx says

In a statement, Metrolinx said ​enforcement around proper card usage lies with transit agencies.

Metrolinx is responsible for enforcing fares on its own systems — GO and UP Express — and other transit agencies are responsible for their own enforcement and policies, said spokesperson Amanda Ferguson in an email.

One way Metrolinx discourages fraudulent Presto usage is to “hotlist” or cancel cards via their central system if they are notified by the TTC, the statement said, adding that the agency urges people to buy Presto cards from authorized sellers only.

“It’s our job to get cards into the hands of children and to not put up unreasonable barriers to riding the TTC,” said Ferguson in the statement, noting that cards are sold at Shoppers Drug Marts and customer service outlets.

Those outlets follow Metrolinx processes when selling child Presto cards, she said — but Metrolinx will reinforce the requirement to validate Presto purchases, including asking for a child’s valid ID.

“Unfortunately there will always be a small percentage of people who will look for ways to scam any system, which is why transit agencies establish fare enforcement systems and policies,” she concluded.

You can read all of the auditor general’s 27 recommendations, and management’s responses, in her report here.

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