GO Transit fare evasion 3 times higher than previously thought, up to $15M lost per year

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GO Transit dealing with higher-than-expected fare evasion
WATCH ABOVE: Metrolinx says GO Transit is losing up to $15 million because of fare evaders -- an amount three times higher than originally thought. Sean O'Shea reports – May 9, 2019

As GO Transit has expanded service in recent years, Metrolinx says fare evasion is three times higher than the transit organization previously thought — with up to $15 million being lost a year.

According to a report going to the Metrolinx board on Thursday, staff have conducted inspections on GO Transit trains based on a limited percentage of ridership. The transit organization said based on past inspections, it was believed that 1.1 per cent of GO Transit riders weren’t paying fares.

However, the report said staff recently conducted full-train inspections over a six-month period. As a result, it was determined that three per cent of riders aren’t paying.

READ MORE: Fare evasion and malfunctioning Metrolinx equipment cost TTC $64M in 2018, auditor general finds

“We found that our original goals and the fare inspection strategy in place didn’t allow us to complete full train inspections and was thus proven to be ineffective. Our former strategies weren’t aligning with increased service levels and passengers volumes,” the report said.

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For every one per cent of riders who do not pay their fares, it results in approximately $5 million in lost fare revenue.

George Bell, Metrolinx’s vice president of safety and security, told Global News in a statement it’s important to note that a large majority of riders are paying their fares.

“Unfortunately there will always be a small percentage of people who will look for ways to scam any system. Reduction and recovery of that amount is critical because it protects the taxpayer’s investment in the system,” he wrote.

WATCH: GO Transit announces free fares for children under 12. Mark Carcasole reports. (Feb. 28)

Click to play video: 'GO Transit announces free fares for children under 12'
GO Transit announces free fares for children under 12

The GO trains run on an honour-based fare system with riders being required to tap their PRESTO cards at stations or purchase tickets. Those riders aren’t required to show proof of payment to anyone before stepping onto a GO train.

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In the past, Metrolinx special constables performed most of the fare enforcement duties. But with those officers being shifted to more security-related tasks, the responsibility for fare enforcement falls to revenue protection officers.

The report said a new approach to fare protection was implemented as of April 1. Metrolinx said there is now a zero-tolerance approach taken with those who don’t show proof of payment. The cost of a fine is $100.

READ MORE: TTC warns fare cheats face fines of up to $425 for tripping PRESTO-enabled gate sensors

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The organization said monthly monitoring of fare evasions and ridership levels, combined with ensuring all routes receive regular inspection regardless of passenger volume, will dictate how inspections are prioritized.

Metrolinx also said 12 new full-time revenue protection officers have been hired and are expected to begin their duties on June 1.

“With the 12 new Revenue Protection Officers and an enhanced revenue protection strategy, we are anticipating a revenue gain. Our 2019/2020 goal is to reduce fare evasion by 25 per cent (from the current three per cent), yielding an annual fare recovery increase of $3.75 million,” the report said.

“Revenue protection is a significant priority for Metrolinx.”

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