The TTC says it is exploring ways to curb the fraudulent use of child Presto cards by adult transit riders who are avoiding paying full fare.
A report presented to the TTC audit and risk management committee meeting on Tuesday says this type of fare evasion cost the transit agency an estimated $12.4 million last year. There were 5.5 million “misused child rides” in 2019, the report says.
TTC CEO Rick Leary said the misuse of child Presto cards is “significant” and he urged adults riders to pay their fair share. The TTC estimates that fraudulent use of child Presto cards accounted for 33.7 per cent of all fare evasion on the transit system in 2019.
“When adults are using child cards, that’s outright fraud,” Leary said on Tuesday.
“One of the things I’m really kind of contemplating is the use of child cards, period. We have so much fraud. Is there something else we can do? That’s what I have asked staff to take a look at.”
The report, Child Concession Analysis and Insights, by TTC’s finance group, shows there was potential misuse of child Presto cards from Jan. 5 to Jan. 25 this year in particular at Dundas and York University subway stations. The cards are for children 12 and under.
According to the report, child Presto card usage is questionable at these stations because the stations are not likely used by children 12 and under who attend nearby schools, there was higher usage on days when schools were closed, and travel during late hours and school hours is not expected for children of this age range.
Other types of TTC fare evasion include: no valid proof of payment; “tailgating”; illegal entry through collector fare gates; and abuse of senior, student and youth Presto cards.
Another report presented at the meeting says the TTC is looking at deciding whether there is a “critical need” for child Presto cards, asking Metrolinx to provide child Presto cards that are visually distinct from adult Presto cards.
The TTC is also asking Metrolinx to change Presto card readers to ensure there is a different light and sound when child Presto cards are tapped. Presto is a division of Metrolinx, a provincial transit agency.
“We want to eliminate the fraudulent use of child cards,” Leary said.
Mayor John Tory, who pushed for the kids-ride-free policy at the TTC, has lobbied Metrolinx directly to change the child Presto card to ensure it is visually different than adult Presto cards, Don Peat, spokesperson for the mayor, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The mayor has been clear that it is totally unacceptable for people to ride the TTC without paying their fare — it is theft — and reports of fare evasion have been outrageous and infuriating,” Peat said in the statement.
“Kids Ride Free works. It helps families, helps keep the city affordable, and it, along with the two-hour time-based transfer that the mayor introduced and the fair fare pass, encourages people to use transit more often.”
Peat said GO Transit adopted the kids ride free program last year.
But Shelagh Pizey-Allen, executive director of the advocacy group TTCRiders, noted that TTC staff said at the meeting that the overall fare evasion rate is average in comparison to that other city transit systems.
“Every transit system has some fare evasion happening,” she said.
“The TTC’s approach is not going to address the root causes of the fare evasion we’re seeing today. And those causes are poverty, people not able to afford the fare,” Pizey-Allen continued.
“Even the TTC’s low income discount is unaffordable to many people in Toronto. And the other piece is Presto. There’s faulty gates and people aren’t able to load their cards. Those issues aren’t being addressed.”