Thirty-one people were ticketed for trespassing on TTC tracks last year, 76 were fined for smoking on transit agency property and 26 got tickets for allegedly being publicly intoxicated while “Riding the Rocket.”
Five customers were alleged to have used “improper” language or gestures, four were ticketed for fighting, and 14 were fined for interfering with other riders’ “enjoyment of the transit system.”
Only one was given a ticket for operating a radio without earphones.
The stats are just a few highlights from TTC data that details more than a decade’s worth of transit officers’ ticketing activity, which is on the rise as the agency steps up enforcement.
The data, which the Star obtained through a freedom of information request, shows the location and alleged offence of more than 80,000 tickets issued by TTC fare inspectors and enforcement officers over the 11-year period between 2008 and the end of 2018.
But, over that period, some behaviours commonly cited by TTC riders as particularly infuriating appear to have garnered few tickets.
Just 60 people were fined for putting their feet on, lying down on or soiling a vehicle seat. Improperly activating a passenger assistance alarm, which the TTC has cited as a significant cause of subway delays, generated just two tickets.
The most common offence during that time was “fail to comply with posted regulations,” which the TTC says usually refers to fare evasion, but can also cover other behaviour prohibited under the transit agency’s Bylaw No. 1.
Officers issued 32,927 tickets for that offence in the years covered by the data. The agency has a handful of other offences related to fare evasion, including refusing to pay fare, entering the transit system through a non-designated entrance and using invalid fare media. Together, these offences made up the bulk of tickets issued since 2008, accounting for more than 65,000 of the charges.
The most common offence not related to fare evasion was unauthorized soliciting on TTC premises, for which transit officers wrote 5,736 tickets over the data period. TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said that offence “covers everything from selling goods to handing out printed material without authorization to panhandling.”
The total number of tickets for all offences more than quadrupled in the past three years, increasing to more than 15,000 last year, from less than 4,000 in 2015.
Green attributed the spike to the TTC hiring additional officers after members of the agency’s transit enforcement unit regained their police-designated special constable status in 2014. That year, the agency created a dedicated fare-inspection position and began introducing all-door proof-of-payment boarding on streetcar routes.
“Combined, this resulted in more infraction notices being written by our staff,” he said.
The agency is expected to continue to step up enforcement. Earlier this year it announced plans to hire 70 additional officers at a cost of $4.5 million. The hiring was announced before Toronto’s auditor general released a report that found fare evasion cost the agency an estimated $61 million last year, three times more than the TTC had previously acknowledged.
While fare inspections have been focused on streetcar routes in recent years, the agency plans to deploy additional officers on bus and subway routes to ensure greater coverage across the network.
Shelagh Pizey-Allen, executive director of the TTCriders advocacy group, argued the transit agency is dedicating too many resources to fighting fare evasion. She said it’s unfair to ticket riders when Presto fare card readers are still falling below reliability targets, and asserted that many riders who do skip out on paying are low-income residents who can’t afford the TTC’s ever-rising prices.
“The TTC is still the least subsidized transit agency in North America,” she said.
“So it’s city council, Mayor John Tory, and Premier (Doug) Ford who need to be funding the TTC fairly, so that fares are more affordable and service improves.”
Green, citing the auditor general’s report, countered that increased enforcement is necessary because “fare evasion is at a level that needs to be significantly reduced.”
He noted that there are programs in place to assist riders who have difficulty paying, including the city’s discounted fare program for low-income transit users and concession fares for seniors and students.
“As long as we are so heavily dependent on fares to pay for our operations, we need to ensure we are collecting those fare revenues,” Green said.
According to an analysis released last November by transit advocacy group CodeRedTO, Toronto’s transit agency relies on fare revenue to make up a third of its annual operating budget, “a level not seen in any other city in North America.”
The most common location listed on the tickets was Spadina, which Green said refers to both the streetcar route and the subway station of the same name. Together they accounted for 16,134 tickets over the 11-year period.
“On board transit vehicles” was the second most common location listed, accounting for 15,947 fines. The high-volume stations of Union and Bloor-Yonge were the next busiest ticketing locations, followed by Dundas and Broadview.
The least likely stations for riders to be fined at were Ellesmere and Midland stations on the Scarborough RT — TTC officers wrote just one ticket at each of those stops.
In the data, males between the ages of 19 to 24 were the most likely group to be ticketed, representing 20 per cent of all fines issued.
Tickets issued by TTC officers are non-criminal provincial offences, similar to traffic tickets. Set fines for tickets are either $235 or $425, depending on the offence, and the money collected goes to the city, not directly to the transit agency.
It’s not clear how many of the tickets the TTC issued since 2008 have been paid. A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, which tracks the outcome of provincial offence charges, couldn’t immediately provide statistics about TTC tickets.
A Star analysis published Tuesday of the racial breakdown of the ticketing data raised concerns that Black riders have been fined at disproportionately high numbers. The transit agency strongly denies that is the case and says its officers don’t discriminate against any group.
Data analysis by Andrew Bailey.
Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr