To Scoff or Not To Scoff? (Updated)

Three comments originally posted here were on the subject of the TTC strike on May 29th.  I have moved them to the post specifically dealing with that issue.  If you want to comment on the strike, please do so there as it makes my editing job simpler.  If you want to talk about fare collection issues, please comment here.  Thanks. 

Sometimes, events unfold in unexpected ways.  What seemed like a bit of late afternoon trivia has turned into front page news.

The Amalgamated Transit Union has announced that it will no longer enforce the collection of fares on the TTC because doing so places drivers and station staff in danger of assault from riders.  

“It will be up to the travelling public whether they want to contribute to the box,” said Bob Kinnear, president of Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents 8,500 TTC employees.

“The union is asking its members to act in self defence the only way we can: we will no longer engage in fare disputes with customers. We will not put our safety and our incomes at risk for $2.75.” 

I’m not going to get into the details of whether, how often and how serious such assaults occur because that’s not the issue here.  The problem is that the TTC Commissioners want staff to be everyone’s friend and to exercise “discretion” in enforcing the fare rules, but then turn around and wring their hands about lost farebox revenue.  This sort of attitude tells staff that they won’t be supported in fights with the public because they made the wrong choice.

I’m disappointed in the stance that Local 113 has taken, but I’m not surprised.

Here’s the original post from last weekend:

The regulars at TTC Commission meetings know that by late in the afternoon, people go off on tangents and the quality of debate takes a nosedive.

A recent example was a discussion of the policy of what do in the event that someone tenders fraudulent fare media, and more generally what if they have no valid fare.

Some of the Commission want a very permissive attitude where youth (with an underfined upper age) would be allowed to ride free if they had no money because it’s the TTC’s duty to provide safe transport for them.  [I am paraphrasing here.]

Such an approach would mean, in effect, that anyone under the age of about 25 could board a bus or streetcar, claim penury, and ride free.  Needless to say, Rick Ducharme, the TTC’s CGM is not happy with this idea because it means that operators would have no backing from the Commission in any fare disputes with such riders.

The Commission needs to recognize that it cannot expect its staff to “exercise discretion” about who they let on for free except in the most pressing cases.  Staff will quickly learn that it’s not worth their while to hassle a passenger who may complain.  The recent poster campaign about how the TTC supports its staff may as well be torn down if such a policy comes into effect.

Fortunately, the issue was left undecided, but it may surface at a future meeting.

3 thoughts on “To Scoff or Not To Scoff? (Updated)

  1. I agree with Rick on this one. The TTC should focus on the engineering component of transit, including ensuring that funds are available.

    Outreach workers and other social programs should be armed with passes and tokens that they can provide to those that they believe require them at an affordable price (fares geared to income).


  2. On the news this morning, Bob Kinnear stated that the TTC keeps raising the fares “up and up”, and that forces people to dodge fares.

    Steve:  The fare increases are not the reason people dodge payment, and Kinnear does his argument no good by taking this approach.  He is, in effect, saying that if we reduced the fares, assaults and abuse would go away.  In fact, a lot of the frustration riders have and take out on staff has to do with the quality of service, not the fares.  The people who want to cheat will do so regardless of what the fare may be. 

    If you look at the collective agreement and see how much some TTC employees are paid, you will see that this is highly misleading on Mr. Kinnear’s part.  I have stated for years now that (albeit unpopular my opinion is), one of the main reasons for TTC money issues is the unionized workforce and how much they get paid.

    This is pulled from the collective agreement :

    junior ticket and information clerk: $20.64
    general ticket and information clerk:  $26.93
    offices services clerk $28.19

    This is absolutely ludicrous.

    Steve:  I have to let you in on a little secret here.  Although I am now a member of management ranks in a very large public sector agency (not in any way involved with transit), long ago I was a member of Local 113 and held one of the jobs listed above.  I think that I still have my union card somewhere.

    Politically, I have always been very supportive of organized labour, for all its faults, given that management are rarely called to account for their excesses.  For every “Enron” there are thousands of companies big and small, public and private, that are horribly mismanaged and the employees have to put up with a lot of crap.  That’s why labour unions were born in the first place.  I won’t say anything about the integrity of the so-called responsible, business-oriented government we had under Mike Harris.

    Assume for the sake of argument that the TTC wages were lower and had been historically lower for many years.  The overall cost of operation would continue to rise and fares along with it.  If you screwed the staff and made them accept lower wages, you would get what you paid for — demoralized staff with no loyalty to their job.  Meanwhile funding agencies would still try to screw the TTC on subsidies and we would have the same annual wrangling over budgets, service and fare levels.  The only difference would be that the fares would be a bit lower.

    Capital budgets are largely consumed by things the TTC buys or has built for them, and these would be subject to whatever labour rates existed in the constuction and vehicle manufacturing sectors.

    Although I sympathize with the front line drivers and the crap they have to put up with everyday (I ride the TTC daily), I don’t think lack of funding and safety are the only major issue here.

    This is a hole we will never get out of.

    Steve:  The funny thing is that this “problem” didn’t seem to matter much back when the TTC ran good service and carried more riders in the 1980s.  Picking on labour does not address the fundamental problem that for the past 16 years, transit has not been anyone’s priority, and it was seen as an easy place to cut a big-ticket line in the City and Provincial budgets.

    Nobody has proposed that we build subways with non-union labour, or buy vehicles from offshore second and third-world manufacturers.  Double standards?


  3. Maybe it’s time to rethink fare collection on the TTC so that the collection point is removed as the flash point that it seems to have become.

    There are many examples in use in other jurisdictions – fare cards, pre-purchase tickets, boarding buses through shelters where you have to pay your fare to enter, segregating the driver from the passengers, etc – where transit drivers are not involved in fare collection. Unfortunately all of them are expensive to implement, require a paradigm shift in thinking and not all of them allow for a free transfer.

    And I’m not sure if the much vaunted GTA fare card will ever be so widely used that it will prevent the type fare disputes that are causing all this angst. 

    As an example of an alternative, in Zurich, Switzerland, the driver drives the vehicle and has no responsibility for fare collection.  Riders buy their tickets at ticket purchase machines located at every stop (a very expensive proposition but they installed one at every single stop) and board vehicles on the honour system.  Groups of transit cops regularly descend on transit vehicles to conduct a check for valid tickets.  Those caught without valid fares are ticketed on the spot and pay a fine that escalates with each time they are caught.  The end result is that drivers are not policing transit fare payment and they are not harrassed over fare disputes.

    Would this work in Toronto?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But the TTC has got to start looking at the problems in their/our system and trying to resolve them instead of letting them just get worse and worse. 

    Steve: All of the new streetcar designs involve all-door loading with self-service fare collection.  I doubt we will ever see this in the bus fleet, but certainly on the streetcar (and coming LRT) lines, the TTC is going to have to bite the bullet on using roving fare inspectors.  As you rightly point out, the many forms of prepaid media, notably passes, remove the need for inspection of many boardings, and if we can move a significant proportion of riders to these media, we automatically eliminate a large chunk of potential fare evaders. 


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