The Futility of Talking to the TTC


Andy Byford says the TTC is focusing on customer service. I’m not sure I buy it.

On the Spadina streetcar yesterday, a man got on the back doors with a day pass. I didn’t see whether he showed it to the driver through the mirror, but the driver knew that he had gotten on the back and that he had a pass, so he must have done something. In any case, the driver announced that he needed to see the pass from the man who got on the back door. He made several more announcements to the effect of “We’re not moving until you show me your pass” and “I can wait all day.”

As a passenger on that streetcar – one who paid a fare, and was relying on that streetcar to get me to work in a timely manner – what was I to do?
The driver did not get up to speak to Fare Evader Man, which I’m not necessarily criticizing him for since I can understand that it might feel unsafe to do so, he just waited. You can tell me that the ultimate responsibility is that of the person who didn’t pay, but that argument relies on the assumption that the fare evader a) gives a damn, and b) is rational. What it means in practice is that it is up to other passengers (who also might feel unsafe) rather than the service provider to enforce fare evasion. That doesn’t make much sense to me.
Situations like this make passengers angry (and sometimes the situation escalates into a much bigger fight involving multiple people), makes them feel uncared for, and makes people not want to ride the TTC.

I’ve seen this happen many times before. Sometimes the person gets off, sometimes another passenger pays the fare (which once a driver refused to accept on principle), and sometimes the person actually pays. In this case, another passenger went up to Fare Evader Man and told him to show his pass. Fare Evader Man, who appeared that he was likely homeless and agitated, shouted loudly at the asking passenger, but did get up and show his pass.
So I asked the TTC on Twitter what the policy was in these situations. The answer I got was “Operators are permitted not to move the vehicle until everyone has paid the appropriate fare if this should occur.” Great.

I know the TTC has limited resources, I know our streetcars are old, and I know that drivers are expected to follow rules, which include collecting fares. I get all that. And yet, I still get screwed as a passenger when a streetcar is held up due to fare evasion.

I used Twitter to send my feedback because I have never once received a response from the TTC when I’ve written an email with a complaint (which, occasionally, has been major). I tried as best as I could to be respectful. I wasn’t trying to pick a fight – I really just wanted to express my concerns and feel like I was being listened to. But the response I got was not even a little bit helpful. It doesn’t actually take my concerns as valid, which I think they are, and I was essentially told, “Tough luck. People should just pay their fares.”
The solution to fare evasion is not that people should pay their fares. Because, as demonstrated, some people don’t pay their fares, and there will always be people who don’t pay their fares if they can do so. Does it really make sense that everyone on board is punished like a group of children? Does it make sense that I should either wait for an indeterminate amount of time, pay someone else’s fare, or take it upon myself to approach a stranger and demand they follow the rules?

There must be some other solution beyond “wait it out.” I’m not a transit expert and I won’t even try to pretend like I know the answer to this problem. But at the same time, I don’t accept that there is no solution to it. Maybe they need turnstiles at back doors that could be unlocked at times an employee is supervising rear boarding? Maybe the TTC needs enforcement officers that make spot checks so that policing fare evasion isn’t the responsibility of the driver? Maybe the drivers are given the discretion to sometimes just let things go in the interest of keeping things moving?

I wasn’t expecting the TTC Tweeter to come up with a solution today, though I would like if the TTC would explore alternative solutions to this problem. But mostly I would like the TTC, as an organization, to actually listen to customer complaints, and not act like I’m an idiot for bringing concerns forward. The TTC is apparently unveiling a passengers’ bill of rights today – a document I haven’t yet seen – but I’m not feeling especially hopeful that it will make a difference. What’s the point of a passenger bill of rights when the organization, as a whole, doesn’t seem to care about its passengers?

There must be some “better way.”

*A sidenote: The back door policy on the TTC is totally unclear. As I understand it, it is always ok on the Queen car but not on other routes – except the signs about a proof of fare route are at the back door on every streetcar. Sometimes drivers let people on the back when it is busy under the honour system (assuming they will be honest and are using a pass or transfer) and sometimes there is a supervisor checking fares. I bet people get confused and get on the back, thinking they are following the rules, only to have the streetcar driver call-them out.


2 thoughts on “The Futility of Talking to the TTC

  1. Bizarre. Bizarre way of making people pay and bizarre way of justifying it. What’s wrong with drivers having to enforce payment?. If that is impossible, then have more spot checks or extra security available when the driver requests it…

  2. I spent 2 weeks on the phone and twitter with TTC regarding buses not showing up or groups of buses showing up together 25 minutes later. There’s clearly leadership problems at the TTC. While I can see that they are working on their customer service approach (someone actually called me back to follow up on a complaint I had made :o) there are just so many structural problems that make things ridiculously ineffective.

    As this city’s population continues to grow and demand for services grows proportionately, the TTC is going to need to move a hell of a lot faster to get its stuff together.

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