EDMONTON- Two years ago, the Edmonton Transit System (ETS) hiked its fine for fare evaders. ETS says the result has been positive, but one regular transit rider who was slapped with a ticket earlier this week, begs to differ.
On Monday, Dietrich Neu got on the LRT to head to work, as he does every day. When the train got to his stop, peace officers were waiting to check that riders had paid their fares.
“I reached into my pocket and it wasn’t there,” Neu explained. “I bought my ticket, I validated it, I got on there and then someway, along the ride, I either lost it, it fell out of my pocket, or I missed my pocket somehow.
“The next thing I know I’m getting hit with a $250 fine that I can’t afford.”
A student intern, Neu takes the train because it’s a inexpensive form of transportation. He says he was surprised to see how high the fine was, and feels it’s a bit steep for an honest mistake.
“I’m a student and, naturally, I have a lower income because I’m going to school,” he said. “I’m not the type of guy that’s stealing these things. This is just a freak occurrence.”
The fine for those who don’t pay their fare went up from $110 to $250 in August 2011. Since that time, fare evasion occurrences have dropped from five per cent to about two or three per cent, according to ETS.
“When we look at those numbers, we’re thinking it may have attributed to some of the reduction in fare evasion rates,” Transit Peace Officer Marvin Chick explained Thursday.
Chick says for the most part, the increased fine has been well received by regular transit riders.
“They feel if they’re paying their fare every day, everybody else should be.”
Officers try to check as many fares as they can on a daily basis, both on the trains and in transit stations. Each station has a designated proof of purchase area, and Chick warns if you don’t have a valid ticket, bus pass, or bus transfer, officers have no choice but to hand out a fine.
“We try and educate people before we go the enforcement route, but we do have a very low tolerance for fare evasion. It is an honour system.”
Neu maintains his case was an honest mistake, and says he has no choice but to fight the ticket in court, in hopes of getting the fine reduced.
“This fine is absolutely insane,” he said. “I mean really, I’m a low-income guy, I can’t afford a ticket like this.”
The $110 fare evasion fine had been in place for about 15 years. ETS says the current rate is now on par with other major cities in Canada.
With files from Shane Jones, Global News.