The TTC studied child pass use in the first three weeks of January. The patterns they found were unlikely to reflect the passes being used by real children, they concluded.
The top station for child passes entering the system was Dundas station, followed in third place by York University station.
At Dundas station, the top time for child pass use was 10 p.m., when about 70 notional children enter the station an hour, on average. At least some child passes were still being used when the last train ran around 1:30 a.m.
Last year, a Global News investigation found a thriving black market in child Presto passes. Real passes bought legitimately cost less than $10 — depending on the age of the child they’re bought for, potentially good for years of free transit — but sell for $100 to $200 on sites like Kijiji.
On two occasions last year, a Global News reporter met people selling the passes for cash. In both cases, the seller fled when he realized he was talking to a reporter.
How did the problem arise?
To start with, children ride free on the TTC, giving a child pass a high value.
Also, adult and child cards look identical and flash the same colour when used. Bus drivers find it hard to see when an adult is using a child card, and subway gates aren’t supervised, or supervised from a distance.
Issuers of child cards give the sale minimum scrutiny. A Global News producer bought a child pass at a Shoppers Drug Mart last year, and wasn’t asked for proof the child existed; the clerk instead took her word for the child’s date of birth.
And sellers don’t keep a database of the cards, so little stops a buyer from getting cards for any number of real or imaginary children.
Last year, Metrolinx told Global News that the ability to buy passes for other people and different kinds of passes looking identical were deliberate features of the system, but that the TTC’s later decision to let children ride for free raised the incentives for fraud. However, she said that any change to Presto would need the agreement of 11 different transit systems.
At about the same time, Toronto auditor general Beverly Romeo-Beehler warned that it “is likely that a large percentage of the child Presto taps are fraudulent and the annual revenue leak for TTC could be in the millions.”
In Tuesday’s report, the TTC found that child pass use peaks around 4 p.m. at York University station, when on a normal day about 45 child passes are used an hour.
“York University station is not likely used by children ages 0 – 12 who attend nearby schools,” the report said.
(York University station did not make a top 10 list for 2019, implying that large-scale misuse there started recently.)
Across the system, about three-quarters of child cards are used in ways that are unlikely to reflect use by children, the report says. Passes are used in large numbers during school hours on school days, and also in the wee hours of the morning. About 1,000 child passes enter the system on a normal weekday between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., for example.
The TTC estimates that 5.5 million rides in 2019 were bought with child passes used by adults, costing it $12.4 million in lost revenue. In all, it says, 89 per cent of the 23,000 child passes used on the system appear to be used by adults.
The number of child Presto passes came close to doubling in 2019, a far faster rate of growth than adult passes.