A Toronto city councillor wants TTC staff to weigh in on what steps can be taken to cut down on the number of people that hop on streetcars without paying a fare.

In a report that will be considered by the TTC board of directors next week, Coun. Joe Mihevc calls for staff to provide an “approximate value” of the money lost to fare evasion and bring forward some “possible corrective actions” that could be taken to reduce it.

“I take the streetcar virtually every day on St. Clair. I notice the number of people boarding on the back door and I do wonder whether some of them are getting a free ride,” Mihevc told CP24 on Friday afternoon. “I have never been asked by a fare checker and I have never seen them checking other people either. The honour system is present in many cities around the world but those cities don’t rely as much on the fare box as we do. We can’t just turn a blind eye to it.”

There are about 60 TTC fare inspectors currently on the job but that number is expected to hit 80 by later this spring.

Speaking with CP24 on Friday, spokesperson Brad Ross said that fare enforcement is still a relatively new concept for the TTC and urged Mihevc and others concerned about fare evasion to be patient.

The TTC estimates that about 4 per cent of riders are approached by a fare enforcement officer and asked for proof of payment.

“This is very new for the TTC and for our customers. We are very much in the education and information stage. It was really just December when all streetcars became proof of payment,” Ross said. “We still need to ramp up more fare inspectors but by the end of this spring we will be up to our full compliment. While you may not see a fare inspector for several weeks, you may see one at the end of the day next week.”

Fare evasion could be a bigger problem than TTC realizes

The TTC says that about two per cent of its potential revenue is lost to fare invasion but Mihevc said he suspects the number is actually higher than that.

That, Mihevc says, is a big problem considering that about 70 per cent of the TTC’s budget comes from the fare box.

“If you are cheating shame on you. You are ripping all of us,” he told CP24. “We are now looking at a 30 million deficit at the TTC which means less streetcars and less buses and some of that is because some people aren’t paying. That’s not fair.”

In his report, Mihevec said he wants TTC staff to report back on the willingness of drivers to verify payment as well the “growing confidence by patrons to enter (streetcars) without paying.”

Mihevc also said he wants staff to provide information about the likelihood of riders using a pre-recorded sound to defraud the Presto system.