When Ben Aydin discovered some old TTC tokens in his daughter’s piggy bank he decided to make use of them.
One day after work he boarded the Spadina streetcar and found the machine on board wouldn’t accept his token. When the streetcar got to Spadina station he approached two fare inspectors to explain the situation and his intention to pay. Aydin, who normally drives to work, ended up stuck with a $250 ticket for failing to provide proof-of-payment.
“It doesn’t make sense,” said Aydin. “I had every intent to pay. It’s like me seeing cops outside of a store and just walking out of the store without paying.”
In Toronto, the cost of riding public transit versus paying for an hour of metered parking is about the same.
If you park your car and forget to pay or don’t display the receipt it could cost you $30. If you forget to tap your Presto card or grab a transfer on the TTC it could cost you nearly 10 times that amount.
According to 2016 census data from Statistics Canada more than two-thirds of Torontonians list driving as their main mode of commuting. For a city that apparently wants to encourage the use of public transit the discrepancy in fine amounts between city parking and the TTC has some people scratching their heads.
“The transit system is constantly starved for funding and the blame is often put on those who evade transit fares,” said TTCriders spokesperson Vincent Puhakka. “We think the real evaders are the politicians who for years have starved the system.”
The average parking ticket issued by the city in 2018 was roughly $50. A fine for rush-hour offences is $150 while a three-hour parking violation will run you $15.
Based on the list of fines on the TTC website, the lowest transit fine is still higher than a serious parking offence. Things like placing your feet on a seat or roller-skating on TTC property can get you a $195 ticket. The fine for getting caught evading fare on the TTC is $425.
Anna Jessup experienced a similar ordeal to Aydin’s. Normally the holder of a monthly transit pass, she was unsure of how the token machines on new streetcars worked. Finding it difficult to even access the machine on a packed car, Jessup decided she would wait until she got off and ask for assistance. The fare inspector that she approached wrote her a ticket.
“Our fare inspectors have discretion, they can do everything from issue a verbal warning to a ticket depending on the nature of the events,” said TTC spokesperson Stuart Green.
This spring the TTC launched an ad campaign against fare evasion. Puhakka says he would love to see a similar campaign aimed toward those who don’t pay for parking.
“It looks like discrimination when you realize that for a lot of people who can afford cars, $30 isn’t really a big issue, whereas hundreds of dollars for a student who rides the TTC is crippling.”
According to Statistics Canada the median employment income for people who drive to work alone in Toronto is $47,696, compared to $36,358 for individuals who use public transit.
At their first court appearances both Aydin and Jessup say they were encouraged to plead guilty for a reduced fine of $100.
Both chose to fight their tickets instead. Jessup won in her first appearance although she had to take a day off work to do so. Aydin will have his third court appearance on Sept. 26.
“Everybody else that day plead guilty,” said Jessup. “It’s very intimidating.”
Puhakka says the same intimidation and stigma that surrounds the evasion of transit fare doesn’t exist with the evasion of parking fines.
“If you talk to anyone who gets a parking ticket, they are often very proud to have fought it and won,” said Puhakka. “There’s no belief that they did something wrong.”
He believes the municipal government has an unwillingness to “challenge the car culture” that exists in Toronto.
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“On the long weekend things like double parking were to be tolerated,” he said. “Do you think I could get on the subway for no fare?”
The TTC doesn’t see any money from their fines, and have limited influence in what the amounts are set at, said Green.
“We (the TTC) would propose a fine structure under the provincial offences act and the provincial court makes a final determination,” said Green in an email. “ If they deem reasonable, they approve. If not, they propose a revision.”
As for parking fines, city spokesperson Cheryl San Juan said, in an email, “parking fines are set by City Council through Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 610.”
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