Montreal transit inspectors have been lobbying to be given “special constable” status that would give them the power to arrest people.
Vincenzo D’Alto / Montreal Gazette
To deter commuters from hopping over métro turnstiles or onto buses without paying, Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand is calling on the city’s transit authority to increase inspections and publish figures on the prevalence of transit fraud.Providing an accurate picture is particularly imperative in the wake of a city auditor general’s report that found fraud on Toronto’s public transit system was costing the city $61 million a year, more than twice the Toronto Transit Commission’s estimate, the Snowdon councillor said.In 2008, the Société de transport de Montréal estimated fare evasion was costing the city $20 million a year, or five per of its annual revenue.The introduction of the OPUS card reduced that figure by $12.7 million by 2012, the agency said, in part because the new system allowed inspectors to verify commuters had a validated card once they were on the bus or métro.STM spokesperson Isabelle Alice Tremblay said Monday the agency still estimates fraud is down by 50 per cent since the OPUS was introduced, but referred queries about current figures to the Autorité regionale de transport de Montréal, which oversees public transit and fare prices in the Montreal region.The ARTM said it was not able to provide the figures before press time Monday night.Rotrand said his recent access to information requests to the STM regarding the agency’s internal studies on transit fraud were not responded to within the 30-day limit.Previously, STM officials told him they were not able to provide an answer because it was difficult to obtain clear figures on an activity that was difficult to track.“The STM needs to have a clearer portrait of what the level of fraud is, and nip it in the bud,” Rotrand said.“If we can lower our fraud level (by several million dollars a year), that gives us the ability to give far better services and make sure the fleet is much more reliable, as well.”Rotrand served on the STM’s board of directors for 17 years before the current city administration let him go last November.He is suggesting the STM’s 168 transit inspectors allocate more of their time ensuring commuters are using validated tickets or passes.At present, about 30 per cent of inspectors’ shifts are spent checking tickets, according to Tremblay. The rest is dedicated to customer service and crowd control. There are no plans to hire more inspectors, but the agency is analyzing its actions to see if improvements can be made, he said.Over the last two years, inspectors handed out on average 9,530 tickets each year at $223 each, including administration fees, for non-payment, bringing in $1.4 million annually in revenue.Transit inspectors have been lobbying to be given “special constable” status that would give them the power to arrest people.While the Toronto Transit Commission had said its evasion rate was around two per cent and cost the agency $20 million a year, the city’s auditor-general report released in February found it was closer to 5.4 per cent, after a six-week study.Rates of fare evasion ranged from 15.2 per cent on the city’s streetcars, where riders can board in the back, to 5.1 per cent on buses and 3.7 per cent on the subway.Rotrand noted Montreal recently started allowing passengers to board at the rear of its longer, accordion-style buses. The city plans to install card readers at the back of buses requiring users to validate their passes, he said.If Montreal’s evasion rate is similar to Toronto’s, it would mean the city is losing $30 million a year in fares, Rotrand said.The STM estimates it verifies the transit passes of three per cent of users. In Europe, the average is five per cent, Rotrand email@example.com