By Olivia Bednar
This story has been updated to include a new paragraph stating that Sherbourne Station isn’t wheelchair accessible.
With more fare inspectors on the TTC, a higher number of students are receiving expensive fines for not having proper post-secondary identification.
The post-secondary student Metropass costs $116.75. TTC bylaws state that the pass is only valid with a TTC Post-Secondary Photo ID. The card must be purchased for $5.25 at Sherbourne Station, which is open for select hours from Monday through Saturday, or through the Ryerson Students’ Union at the beginning of the school year. A student card is not considered a valid substitute.
But Sherbourne Station is not currently wheelchair accessible, so students who need this accommodation cannot access it there. According to TTC spokesperson Stuart Green, all stations are planned to be fully accessible by 2025 to adhere to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
According to Green, 509 warnings were issued to students for not having a post-secondary photo ID and 2,068 actual fines were given out over the last 12 months. This could be, in part, due to the increased number of fare inspectors on the TTC. When the fare inspector program was created in 2014, there were only 17 inspectors. Today, there are 80.
The fine for not carrying a student TTC ID can be as much as $235.
But this can be an inconvenience for a lot of students who don’t have extra time or money.
Adhib Hasan, second-year electrical engineering student, was stopped by TTC officials who asked him for his proof of payment. When Hasan showed his Metropass, fare inspectors told him to show his post-secondary photo ID, which he didn’t have. His Ryerson student card, as well as his international student card, were both deemed unacceptable proof of enrolment. He was fined $195.
“I knew about the card,” Hasan said referring to the ID. “But it’s not like you’re driving a car and you’re speeding.”
Hasan, an international student from Bangladesh, says his tuition expenses are about double what someone living in Ontario would pay.
Himel Don, fourth-year biomedical student, said he was also charged a fine for not having his ID.
On the same trip, he said he witnessed two girls without valid proof of payment get off with warnings from inspectors. One claimed she lost her transfer, while the other’s proof of payment had expired.
“They were two very attractive white girls,” Don said. “Without explicitly accusing them, the thought did cross my mind that there is something that enabled them to get off [and not] me. I’m brown, I’ve got a beard, I don’t look like a million bucks.”
According to the TTC, there were 114 complaints in 2016 about fare inspections, 27 of which were allegations of harassment, discrimination, or human rights issues.
Green said that in order to ensure racial profiling does not take place, fare inspectors are “trained to do their job in a neutral and unbiased way.”
He added that random inspection is the nature of the system. “It’s all quite randomized. That’s just the way the system works.”
Don said he never filed a complaint with the TTC because he didn’t want to go through “the whole bureaucratic process of dealing with it.”
“Now, every time I’m on the streetcar, I’m anxious,” he said. “I paid. I bought my fucking Metropass. But I’m on the streetcar feeling like a fare evader, feeling anxious, which I think is fucked up.”
Third-year business student Tina Duong said that her experience led her to believe that going through the hassle of getting the card is worth it.
Duong said she was given “a hard time” for not having her post-secondary photo ID with her last fall. She said she heard officials say to each other “What should we do with her?”
“It was like I wasn’t there,” Duong said. “Like they were trying to make fun of me.”
Ultimately, they let her off with a warning, but Duong said it “was kind of a spit in the face.”
“They told me to go to Sherbourne and just ‘take the damn picture,’” Duong said. “I think it’s not only a waste of money, it’s a waste of time, and a waste of plastic.”