The TTC lost at least $64 million to fare evasion and faulty Metrolinx equipment last year, Toronto’s Auditor General found in a new report.

Beverly Romeo-Beehler also issued a warning -- if issues with the use of the relatively new “child” PRESTO fare cards are not resolved, a new method of fare evasion could emerge in the future.

The figure indicates approximately five per cent of passengers evaded their fares in 2018.

“I think we have to do more to stop fare evasion, send a message that it's serious, it is stealing from members of the public, and it needs to stop,” Councillor Stephen Holyday told CTV News Toronto.

Streetcars were the biggest targets of fare evasion, with auditors estimating about 15 per cent of passengers avoiding their fares in 2018.

“This could be attributable to the proof-of-payment system on streetcars where there is no interaction between passengers and streetcar operators, as well as the multiple-door design of TTC's new streetcars,” auditors wrote in a report submitted to the TTC board on Thursday.

Buses saw five per cent of passengers evade trips and subways saw 3.7 per cent of passengers evade fares in 2018.

“I've already discussed this report with TTC officials – they rightly have accepted all of the Auditor General's recommendations and will be taking immediate action to increase fare compliance,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement. “I hope they send a clear message to fare evaders very quickly that they will be caught and they will face costly penalties.”

To get to a total of $64 million, the TTC says auditors conducted 136 hours of inspections aboard 315 different streetcar trips, 76 bus trips and at 15 different subway stations in the network.

The auditors also reviewed 38 hours of security camera footage at automatic entry gates at four different subway stations.

The inspections occurred over a six week period from Nov. to Dec. 2018.

TTC Chair Jaye Robinson said fare evasion is a “critical issue that has gone far too long without being accurately quantified under the legacy fare collection system.”

“As a regular transit user, I know how frustrating fare evasion is for the residents of Toronto who consistently pay to travel on the TTC,” Robinson said in her statement. “The recommendations included in this report will guide our action plan moving forward as we approach full transition to the Presto fare card system.”

“The Auditor General’s findings support the need for continued discussions with Metrolinx regarding fare card differentiators and equipment optimization.”

TTC staff found that $3.4 million in lost revenue was due to malfunctioning equipment supplied by Metrolinx, such as Presto card readers found at stations, aboard buses and on streetcars throughout the network.

“Many PRESTO card readers were out of service during our audit observations in November and December 2018. Although at least one other PRESTO card reader on board was functional the majority of these times, passengers were not always able to reach the other reader due to congestion or did not choose to go to the other reader to tap.”

Child Presto card system at 'significant risk for fraudulent use'

Starting last year, the TTC launched a policy that said all children age 12 or under who ride the TTC for free must carry a certain type of PRESTO card indicating they are children.

The card must be swiped at fare gates but no money would be deducted.

During the audit, inspectors say they did not find a single child using the special type of card across any route in the network.

But they did find 78 passengers on subways or buses using the child PRESTO cards despite being adults.

“There are numerous serious control weaknesses with the issuance and monitoring of these cards, including a lack of visual distinction from the regular PRESTO card, no display available to help bus and streetcar drivers to determine if the rider is using a Child card, and uncertainty in the deactivation of cards found to be used fraudulently,” auditors said.

Total lost revenue could be higher than $64M

Auditors also concluded the total amount of revenue lost to fare evasion and malfunctioning equipment could be even higher than $64 million.

“We were not able to quantify the loss due to the malfunction of TTC's subway fare gate equipment and the use of crash gates at subway stations,” auditors said, referring to gates manually opened and closed by TTC staff at high-traffic areas or used to allow passengers with mobility devices to exit or enter stations.”

The audit made 27 recommendations to curtail future fare evasion.

These recommendations included deploying some of the TTC’s 68 fare inspectors on its buses and reevaluating the need to use Child PRESTO cards.

Full Auditor General's Report: