GO Transit is getting ready to overhaul its fine system in October in hopes of deterring would-be fare jumpers and encouraging more riders after a pandemic low.
Metrolinx announced that beginning Oct. 10, a new system for fines would be replacing the previously standard $100 fine for avoiding fares. Under the new system, first time fines are reduced to $35, but fines for second-time offenders would increase to $50 and third-time offenders would pay $100.
Taylor Ocampo, a frequent rider with GO Transit, said while it’s a good change, it isn’t enough to balance out its affordability.
“It is good to know that next time I forget to tap my Presto, I won’t be out $100,” Ocampo said. “But that doesn’t change how unaffordable GO Trains are. I pay almost $20 a day just to get to class and that is money that I need for food and rent.”
There’s currently a 40 per cent single fare discount offered on GO Train trips for university and college students who use Presto. According to GO Transit, thousands of students rely on its service to commute to class every day.
Dylan Day, a community activist in Toronto, said fines were being hit harder by low-income commuters, including students.
“Fare evasion fines disproportionately impact low income and marginalized communities,” Day said. “Ontarians pay some of the highest prices for public transit, how is someone making minimum wage supposed to afford that.”
The fines could increase further for those that are repeatedly caught evading fares. Any offences beyond the three tiers would lead to a provincial offence summons and a $200 fine.
The summons means the evader would have to attend court for their repeat offense and if convicted could face a fine of $5,000.
Martin Gallagher, Metrolinx C.O.O., said the new system is designed to recover revenue and reduce friction between GO and its commuters.
“At the moment we have a very small number of customers who for various reasons haven’t paid a fare to travel by rail,” Gallagher said.
He says that more than 60 per cent of customers who receive the current $100 fine dispute the amount. By lowering the cost of first time offenses, Metrolinx hopes to reduce disputes, recover more revenue and create a just system.
Metrolinx said the plan was developed through its anti-racism-focused lens.
By creating a tier-based system, Metrolinx fare enforcement officers are able to issue educational notices to first-time offenders at their discretion.
This approach gives the opportunity to educate riders on ways they can purchase fares as well as the consequences of failing to do so.