By Simon Hopkins
Commuters in Ottawa pay a $3.70 charge to board OC Transpo trains and buses, but some riders skip these fares. Earlier this summer, OC Transpo increased the number of inspectors checking for proof of payment.
According to reporting by CTV Ottawa, this initiative was partly a response to a projected $39 million deficit Ottawa’s transit agency will run this year. More tickets were issued to fare evaders in recent months than in the spring.
Kitchissippi City Councillor Jeff Leiper said the increase could be a response to political pressure.
“As long as you rely on fares for a significant portion of operating revenue, there are going to be a certain number of politicians who are pushing for fare enforcement,” Leiper said in an interview.
Leiper doesn’t expect the “blitz” of enforcement will be maintained long-term. He believes a light approach to fare enforcement is best and said that high fares create barriers for people who need transit to move around the city.
A soft policy approach of ‘looking the other way’ for people who can’t afford the cost of a bus ride was common among many of the Kitchissippi residents interviewed.
Although OC Transpo is losing money, fare enforcement will never compensate for a multi-million-dollar deficit. Leiper said that isn’t the goal.
“Fare enforcement is not intended to bring in revenue. Fare enforcement is to deter people from evading revenue.”
How much revenue would be lost without the threat of a ticket has not been quantified.
“The tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue are not a result of l fare evasion; those are the result of lost riders.” Riders lost by an inconvenient and unreliable transit system.
We asked several Kitchissippi residents for their opinions: Are fare inspectors a good use of city resources?
“No, I don’t think (there should be fare inspectors) because the bus system is unreliable to begin with. I don’t think we should put taxation towards hiring more inspectors.” – Will Wang.
“I think city resources would be better used improving the transit system so that it’s more reliable rather than penalizing the people that are trying to use it.” – Rita Najjar.
“There’s so much scamming going on, people of every age grabbing a youth pass and bypassing the fares… I wouldn’t say check every pass — a few maybe — but I wouldn’t overwhelm the system with fare inspectors.” – Busker the Balloon Clown.
“I don’t think there’s enough fraud for them to hire people for that… I think, really, it’s a waste of money… And there are poor people who can’t afford to take it, and (OC Transpo) should be lenient with them, for instance, myself. I’m 81.” – Faye Beaufort.
“I don’t think this is needed… Some abuses are possible, but why have these unnecessary resources when you could put them in some other improvements? The LRT stations are falling apart and people are frustrated because (the OTrain) is still not reliable.” – Bojan Vojinovic.