Wednesday, March 03, 2010

OCome on, Transpo

The Citizen's Hugh Adami has yet another column about a ridiculous case of zero-tolerance OC Transpo fare rules. The page doesn't have a comment section, so I'm posting my comments here.

In this case, Sean Nagasar, an Algonquin College student with dyslexia and another condition that makes it very difficult to write, didn't have the numbers filled in on his transit pass, which he bought on Saturday. He did not have an opportunity to get a friend to fill it out for him before Monday morning (March 1st), when he first used it.

You have to fill in the numbers on your pass with the numbers on your photo ID card because the passes are non-transferable. The article says it's been required to fill in the numbers since 2007, but I stopped riding the bus a couple years before that and I ran into a similar situation with the fare inspectors.

Actually, in my years-old case, it was the second of the month and I didn't have my new pass yet (not like any of the four drivers who saw my pass on the first of the month were bothered to mention it). Seeing the two previous months' passes stuffed in my holder, the fare inspector let me off with a warning. I think he even got the driver to give me a daypass so I could get to school and then to a place to buy a pass.

And you know why he let me off? Because these rules are designed to stop people from cheating the system, not to require them to pass stupid little trials. The fare inspector in my case had the common sense to realize that, in the middle of the school year, since I had the previous two months' passes, chances are I would be buying the current month's pass. Maybe in 2007 OC Transpo management revoked fare inspectors' ability to use common sense.

If Nagasar fights his ticket in court, the fare inspector could easily testify that the student had not filled in the numbers on his pass. But he'd have a hell of a hard time arguing that he suspected Nagasar was trying to cheat the system--the problem this technical rule aims to solve. For fuck's sake, he doesn't even have the dexterity to write, much less swap out bus passes with his buddies.

Alex Cullen, Chair of the City's Transit Committee, tells the Citizen, "...supporting our fare inspectors doing their job will make me look as insensitive as you have portrayed them, and taking the side of the student undermines their work on behalf of taxpayers. It’s a lose-lose situation."

Well, Cullen's lost it indeed. Fare inspectors' "work on behalf of taxpayers" is to catch people who abuse the fare system, not to waste their salaries ticketing disabled students (and testifying against them in court) for not being able to write.

- RG>


Eric Darwin said...

I do believe there is an informal policy at oc transpo that they do not question "old passes" on the first morning of the month, since some residents only have access to retailers of passes at their destination.

Common sense is a fine policy, as long as we agree on the common part. We dont hear about the flagrant rule violators that challenge the system daily, so the inspectors need to be tough on them.

But they also dont seem to employ compassion or common sense some times.

I am reminded the of Ontario NDP MP who boasted for years he did not use a GO Train pass because the odds of being caught were so low so he was "proving" or "testing" the system. Its a-holes like that they need to throw the book at!

maybe the citizen could run a story where the report rides along with the fare inspector for a day...

-Eric Darwin

Darrell said...

If he goes to court, the fact that he wasn't trying to 'game the system' won't likely be a defence.

I haven't looked at the bylaw itself, but it's likely an offence of strict liability - meaning that the only defence would be due diligence (i.e. he had made every reasonable attempt to ensure that his pass was valid and properly filled out). It's possible it would even be considered 'absolute liability' because we're only talking about a fine (so even if he'd done everything in his power to comply with the letter of the law, he'd still be on the hook if he didn't - which is consistent with a zero tolerance approach).

Sylvia Lewis-Havard said...

just because he doesn't have the dexterity to cheat doesn't mean he's not smart enough to cheat the system - I'm not defending the OC Transpot I just think that comment was a bit harsh, the guy is dyslexic, not mentally handicapped (from what I can tell)

RealGrouchy said...

Eric - yes, my story happened on the second of the month, the day they start enforcing.

Darrell - true, which is why the officer should have used his discretion. He still has the discretion to not show up at the trial, which would get the charges dismissed. If he does show up at the trial, it will be a waste of taxpayer resources and his paid time, which would be better spent catching real fare thieves.

Sylvia - My comment was regarding his dexterity, I didn't say anything about his mental capacity. Certainly if he is attending college he is an intelligent person.


- RG>

Anonymous said...

comenting on Sylvia Lewis-Havard statement.

I have dislexia and it is not a fun thing to have. It is almost imposible to spell things properly. For me it takes a great deal to get a word right. I can spell the same word five diffreint ways beacuse of the way my brain porsses the information and reliase it. You should do your home work before you start saying anything about some one.