Transit Blues

When the fare inspector steps onto the bus you can feel the tension mounting.

Ottawa’s transit system works on the honour system, at least for the articulated buses that allow rear-door entry. You are supposed to swipe you payment card and a record is made of your trip. The key words in that sentence are “supposed to swipe.” Many people don’t, and as a result they ride for free. Unless a fare inspector catches them.img_20161219_084746

Even those of us with monthly passes are supposed to swipe, every trip. It supposedly helps if OC Transpo has the ridership data. That way they can adjust routes if necessary. It’s just a bonus that big brother knows what bus you are taking. I’d be paranoid, but they don’t know where I get off. I don’t think.

OC Transpo employs inspectors, because it is very aware that frequently honour is lacking. The fine for non-payment is, I think, $150. That’s more than the cost for a monthly transit pass. You can play Russian roulette and not pay, but it isn’t worth it. Then again, inspections seem to be random. I only see inspectors on the buses I take about once every six weeks

Occasionally the bus drivers have a bit of fun with the riders. I have heard more than one announce at one bus stop that the inspectors will be boarding at the next one, so have your proof of payment ready. It is shocking how many people suddenly get off the bus. The drivers are not aware of the inspectors’ schedule; they just want to get rid of the freeloaders.

Yesterday as I traveled to work a fare inspector got on the bus.

Before he could say anything about proof of payment, a woman rushed from the back of the bus and spoke to him, telling him she had forgotten to swipe her card. She claimed it was an unusual memory lapse. “I swear, I swipe it every day – you can check.”

Inspectors can access that data if they wish. But there is usually no leniency. This man though motioned for her to swipe her card.

With the swipe the display flashed red. She’d already paid. “Never mind,” she said to him. “I must be losing my mind.” I guess she had a guilty conscience. I wonder about what, since she had paid her bus fare.

As for the inspector, he didn’t check to see if anyone’s fares had been paid. Like the rest of us, he was just taking the bus to work.




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