This Law’s An Ass

Buried in the marathon TTC meeting last week (a new record: 7 hours, 43 minutes from the announced start time of the public session) was a proposal to update Bylaw No. 1.  This scintillating piece of legal literature adorns every TTC vehicle in a shortened form, and it’s rather out of date.

Never fear!  The TTC Legal folks bring us the new, revised version.  It’s a lot longer.  I think the TTC will need to install station domination advertising just to fit all the text in, or they will need a scrolling video in every car.  Thrilling reading.  Not including the definitions or the table of fines, it is 8 single-spaced pages long.

You would think that an organization that trumpets its ability to manage billion dollar projects, to write complex requests for proposals, to operate the largest single part of the municipal infrastructure, could manage something as basic as telling people what they can’t do on the TTC.  But no.  This bylaw reads in places as if it were drafted by someone who never actually used the system and who has little idea of the implications of its content.

Before the report came up for discussion, I flagged it as problematic and gave an annotated copy to the Chair for information.  To my surprise, rather than holding the report down, Chairman Giambrone suggested that it be approved with an amendment to come back to a future meeting.  Fortunately, to come into force, the bylaw needs to be submitted to the Chief Justice for approval, and if the TTC has an ounce of sense, they will hold off until they fix the problems.

Some of what follows may seem legally pedantic, but it’s this sort of poor drafting that gets TTC customers hassled by security staff who have nothing better to do with their time than to enforce badly written rules.

The full bylaw is available on the TTC website.

A few extracts from the definitions are needed to set the stage:

Section 1.1 (selected clauses)

b) “authorization” or “authorized” means the written permission from the TTC, received prior to the time the action is to occur;

i) “loitering” means to linger without due cause and includes but is not limited to:

(i) idly spending time in or on TTC property without the express purpose of using the transit system;
(ii) lingering, sauntering or remaining in or on TTC property without due cause; and
(iii) failing to board the next available vehicle, where possible, for the intended route;

I will leave to your imagination what is involved in “sauntering”, and I am sure that a Supreme Court reference will be required to sort that one out.  More generally, the definition of loitering (which is expressly prohibited later in the bylaw) makes it a requirement that one be there for the purpose of using the system and that one take the first available vehicle going to one’s destination. 

This means that those who wish to merely observe the transit system in all its glory have no business being there.  No longer will we be able to casually watch how badly cocked up the service is or observe passengers trying to squeeze past piles of escalator parts.  But that’s only a quibble compared to what follows.

k) “person” includes an individual, sole proprietorship, partnership, unincorporated association, unincorporated syndicate, unincorporated organization, trust, body corporate, and a natural person in the capacity of trustee, executor, administrator, or other legal representative;

Note that this definition does not exclude employees or agents of the TTC.  This produces amusing effects later on. 

m) “proper authority” means:

(i) an employee or agent of the TTC wearing a TTC uniform;
(ii) an employee or agent of the TTC carrying an identification card issued by the TTC;
(iii) a TTC Special Constable; or
(iv) a municipal police officer;

o) “transit system” means the transit system, or part thereof, operated by or on behalf of the TTC and includes but is not limited to rapid transit, subway, bus, streetcar and wheel-trans services;

p) “TTC property” means all lands, facilities, structures, stations and vehicles owned, leased, used, occupied or maintained by the TTC;

It is unclear just how broad the terms “used” and “occupied” are to be construed.  Does this include public streets?  Does it include rights-of-way such as those on Spadina and Queen’s Quay.

r) “vehicle” means any motorized transportation equipment operated by or on behalf of the TTC and includes but is not limited to buses, streetcars, rapid transit trains, subway trains, light rail vehicles, wheel-trans vehicles and automobiles;

Alas, there are no swan boats.

The real problem is that the term “vehicle” is defined here to mean the TTC’s fleet, but is also used later to refer to vehicles owned by the general public. 

Now let’s turn to the meat of the bylaw.

2.2 No person shall:
a) in any way alter, change or recreate any fare media, other than an employee or agent of the TTC authorized to do so;

Be sure that you don’t scratch that Day Pass the next time you want to use it.  Only a TTC employee or agent is allowed to do this.  At least in this case, there is a distinction between TTC staff and civilians.

2.14 No person shall sell or attempt to sell any form of fare media unless otherwise authorized by the TTC.

The next time anyone is planning to sell you a token, or buy them for a group to use, they had better get authorization in advance in writing to do so.  This is intended to control unauthorized sales, but it sideswipes people who simply share a supply of fare media and reimburse each other for it.

3.3 No person shall enter or leave TTC property except through a designated entrance or exit, as the case may be.

3.4 No person shall cross or enter upon any railway tracks on TTC property, unless instructed to do so by a proper authority or in the case of an emergency.

If you get off of a 505 Dundas car at Dundas West Station, there are only two ways off of the platform.  One is to cross the 504 King car’s tracks and the other is to walk out of the station via the roadway.  Both are prohibited.  (At Broadview, there is a legal escape via a stairway down to the mezzanine.)

At Queen’s Quay Station, there is a pedestrian crossing between the northbound and southbound platforms which is the only way to get from the elevator to the northbound side.

If we take this to a ridiculous conclusion of including street trackage, you can stop using the rights-of-way on Spadina, Queen’s Quay and St. Clair to cross the road.  I will boldly assume that the TTC does not include the public streets in their definition of “property”, but it would be nice if they actually said this.

The intent of this section is to keep people off of subway tracks and station roadways, but it’s so poorly drafted that it has unintentional consequences.

3.6 No person shall operate a motor vehicle on TTC property except upon roadways, parking areas or any other areas designated for use by motor vehicles.

3.8 No person shall roller-skate, in-line skate or skate-board in or on TTC property.

3.9 No person shall wear roller-skates or in-line skates while in or on TTC property.

3.10 No person shall operate a bicycle on TTC property except on a public roadway for the purpose of arriving at or departing from TTC property.

These are good examples of the problems created by the broad definition of “TTC property”.

3.11 No person shall:
a) save and except as permitted in accordance with Section 3.10, bring or attempt to bring in or on TTC property a bicycle, skis, ski poles, a sleigh, a toboggan or other large object which may inconvenience other passengers or jeopardize the safety of other passengers or TTC employees:

(i) during peak hours; or
(ii) during an emergency as determined by a proper authority;

b) bring or attempt to bring a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine in or on TTC property.

“No person shall … bring … a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine … on TTC property.”

That’s pretty clear.  Shut down the bus garages right now.  The fine is $195.

Note that you can toboggan and ski, but only in the off peak.  The sleighs may run into other provisions regarding animals on the TTC.  Best to have well-behaved reindeer, Ho Ho Ho!

What is notably absent here is any mention of that scourge of TTC riders, the baby carriage, nor is there any mention of shopping buggies.  I suppose that as long as they do not have internal combustion engines, all is well.

Also, the bylaw is silent on electrically powered vehicles.  This effectively exempts mobility devices, but leaves the imagination open for other possibilities.

3.13 No person shall do any act in contravention of instructions,
a) on any sign erected on TTC property;

We will assume that the sign is vaguely current and is written in a language still in modern use.  Cunieform tablets are rumoured to be found in some of the darker corners of the system advertising the recent invention of the wheel by TTC staff who are responsible, needless to say, for every major transportation breakthrough of any civilization past or present.

3.17 No person shall operate any camera, video recording device, movie camera or any similar device for commercial purposes upon the transit system without authorization.

Thank goodness it will remain legal for amateurs to take photographs on the system.  Officious TTC staff need to have this explained to them from time to time.

3.19 No person shall:
(a) place his or her foot or feet on a vehicle seat or lay thereon any object or substance that may soil it; or
(b) lie down on a bench, seat or floor of any TTC property.

Don’t put your leg up because you have sore knees (I used to do this regularly when recovering from surgery), and don’t even think about getting sick and having a lie-down while awaiting the paramedics.  I note, however, that it is only foot/feet that are prohibited, not legs or other parts of the anatomy.  This should provoke another happy court case when someone with only their calf, even their ankle, but not their foot on the seat is summonsed by the TTC.

3.22 A person shall wear shoes, boots or sandals at all times while on TTC property.

This may sound like a quibble, but people who are recovering from foot or leg surgery don’t always have footwear, as defined here.  Infants quite commonly have only socks or even bare feet.

Also, there is no mention of whether the shoe, etc., is to be worn on the foot, or what is to be done with customers who have fewer than two feet.

3.30 No person shall:
(a) hold or force a vehicle door open; or
(b) hinder or delay the closing of a vehicle door.

It is unclear just what I am supposed to do when an employee of the TTC closes the door on me.  Clearly, I am “hindering” whether I did so with intent or not.  The next time you are caught in the doors, it will cost you $195.

3.34 No person shall enter or remain on any TTC property that is in possession of:
(b) explosives, pyrotechnical material, flammable material, offensive or toxic material, or any other dangerous thing, object or material.

The intent of this is clear, but the next time you buy fireworks, or pick up some household cleaners at Canadian Tire on your way home, don’t think of using the TTC to get there.  It is unclear whether “flammable … or toxic material” includes cigarettes which are sold in every TTC station.  There is no exemption for TTC staff, and I presume that cleaning materials will be in short supply from now on.

3.35 A proper authority may refuse passage on the transit system to:

c) a person carrying hand luggage, a parcel or any object or thing that does inconvenience or is likely to inconvenience other passengers or TTC employees;

See my previous comments about baby carriages, etc.  Will this include the obnoxious purveyors of goods who travel around the subway with sports bags and trolleys full of their wares?  Will it prevent me from going to the airport on the 192 Rocket?

The bylaw is completely silent on who gets to interpret its various sections, and I look forward to the day a hapless driver tries to keep a baby carriage off his bus because there are already three more onboard.  Letters will be written.  The driver will be cautioned for failure to use his discretion properly.  Local 113 will not be amused.

Some of what I have written may seem like hairsplitting, but it’s important stuff.  I have violated several of the provisions mentioned here in the course of normal travel and have thousands of co-conspirators.  Any law that is vague or manifestly ridiculous in part invites contempt for the whole, for its author and for the organization attempting to enforce it.

The last time the TTC tried to update this bylaw, they tried to ban food on the TTC only weeks after opening a Macdonalds at Dundas West Station.  That version of the bylaw was disallowed.

I can only hope the TTC is better at contract law.

11 thoughts on “This Law’s An Ass

  1. Steve wrote, “More generally, the definition of loitering (which is expressly prohibited later in the bylaw) makes it a requirement that one be there for the purpose of using the system and that one take the first available vehicle going to one’s destination.”

    I guess if one is an east-ender heading downtown and planning to meet up with one’s west-end friend on the platform at Bloor, then both had better be on time so that neither has to skip taking the first available southbound train.

    Steve also wrote, “Thank goodness it will remain legal for amateurs to take photographs on the system. Officious TTC staff need to have this explained to them from time to time.”

    Of course, we amateurs need to be sure to board the next vehicle, else feel the wrath of the bylaw. I can just hear the “Law and Order Doink Doink” sound playing automatically over the PA system whenever someone is caught in violation! 😉


  2. So what happens if I live on Spadina, have to go to Dundas west station VIA the Streetcar on my way to the airport with luggage. Does this mean I cannot take the TTC to go the airport considering I have to cross train tracks on both the spadina right of way and at Dundas west station, as well as having to bring my luggage on a bus. Come to think of it I could not even leave Kipling station because the 192 is a motor vehicle and its being operated at Kipling station which is TTC property.. lol. This revised By-Law makes no sense at all. It complicates things.


  3. To my law student eyes not all of these are egregious, though like most by-laws there is sloppiness:

    1.1(i)i)–the crux is “without due cause”

    1.1(p) I admit is a bit of a problem,

    2.2a) less so, since alter can can be read narrowly.

    The right fine print deals with 2.14 and 3.4 (see the definition of “authorized”).

    Alas 3.11(b) should include the words “save and except as permitted in accordance with Section 3.10” and is a good catch. I assume the TTC is in fact a “person” as defined (it might be excluded through the Act, but that could produce its own problems). But at least 3.11(a) is less problematic.

    Your other criticisms appear warranted. At least it doesn’t read as bad as the signage by-laws.


  4. A few more:

    “3.7 No person shall operate, park or store an unplated vehicle on TTC property.” Quick! Get license plates for streetcars and subways! Do the older ones need DriveClean inspections?

    3.34(a), which prohibits firearms, doesn’t appear to exempt the Toronto Police or the armed guards who pick up cash from the token machines and collector booths.

    It also looks to me like every reasonable emergency escape (forcing open and holding doors, using window exits) is a bylaw violation that doesn’t carry an exception for emergencies.

    Yet in all that they missed a few sensible restrictions, e.g. no flash photography where it could affect drivers and no tripods.

    Steve: I just wanted to hit the high points, but yes there are other examples of poor drafting. It shows an attitude at the TTC that the details don’t matter, and this is a pervasive problem with the system.


  5. >3.34 No person shall enter or remain on any TTC property that is in possession of:
    >(b) explosives, pyrotechnical material, flammable material, offensive or toxic material, or any other dangerous thing, object or material.

    Hmmm, the “TTC property” being “in possession of” …? Surely, the writer meant ‘who.’

    Could a person be deemed a “dangerous thing” or as having “offensive material” (say, when wearing a provocative T-shirt)? What if the adult magazine bought at a newsstand in the TTC is deeply buried in the person’s bag?

    If the writers cannot get their commas properly placed in groups, there will be even more confusion. Poorly written law merely serves to keep lawyers employed and society both frustrated and poorer.

    You’re right, even in the extracts you posted, I could see many other problems beyond the ones you mentioned, and well beyond mere, but important, errors of grammar.


  6. Lighters must be prohibited items now according to this by-law, they’re “dangerous”. Does clothing count as flammable?


  7. Whoever came up with the provision about taking the next vehicle out obviously hasn’t ever waited to meet a friend at a subway station while a few vehicles have come and gone before the other person arrived.

    I hope they clean up a lot of this bylaw because it’s very sloppy as written.


  8. If this passes I hope I get challenged on the next-vehicle law. I’ll refuse to pay the fine and it’ll go to court where it’ll be stuck down, and if not, I’ll do a night or two in jail even because the news headline “Man sent to jail for failure to get on bus” will win the court of public opinion.


  9. Whoever came up with the provision about taking the next vehicle out obviously has never taken the TTC during rush hour.

    Steve: It does say something about the next “available” vehicle, and I presume that we will count the lack of space on the roof as a sign of unavailability.


  10. The bylaw of no smoking on TTC property is a farce as I see it broken all the time especially at Islington and Warden stations. No one seems to get ticketed there.


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