I broke the law and have no regrets. They didn’t catch me.
Well, technically it wasn’t a law, but I think a city bylaw. I didn’t ask what rules I was about to break, just told the transit employee I was going to take my chances and be riding the bus without paying.
Now before you chastise me, hear me out. I believe in public transit. And I had already paid for my ride, but wasn’t going to be able to prove it if stopped by the transit police.
Our “beloved” municipal transit service, OC Transpo, uses a fare card system called Presto, which is run by a provincial agency. If you are familiar with how government works, you may already have figured out where this is going.
After four years my card was showing the effects of much use. It was cracked and only a matter of time until it broke. So, as a responsible adult I visited an OC Transpo outlet to get a new one. I figured it would be a simple procedure. I was wrong.
I know that if I were to add funds to my card online there is a time delay before the card readers on the buses acknowledge that. Patrons are told to allow 24 hours for the change to take effect.
It didn’t occur to me that would be the case in issuing a new card.
The clerk took my old card, and handed me a new one. Then he asked me if I planned to take the bus home. The office is downtown, I live elsewhere, and I hadn’t planned on walking the seven kilometres, especially since it was raining. That’s when he told me that I needed to load some cash onto the new card if I planned to take the bus home.
Not so, I replied, I have a monthly pass, paid for weeks ago.
He agreed – but that pass was on my old card. He had transferred it to me new card, but the transfer would not take effect in the system for 24 hours. If I wanted to get home I would have to pay.
I pointed out that was ridiculous. He agreed. But there was nothing he could do to alter the system. I understood that. (It didn’t occur to me until just now that he should have just given me bus tickets for the ride home. He probably isn’t allowed to do that. OC Transpo discourages the use of tickets because they can’t track ticket holders like they do card users. Big Brother wants to know what bus you take.) Arriving at an impasse, I informed him I would just take my chances on getting stopped by a fare inspector (many of our buses have back-door boarding, the driver doesn’t see if you have paid or not. Therefore the city hires inspectors to randomly demand proof of payment.)
Part of me was hoping that I would get checked and ticketed and then have the fun of a court appearance. After all, I had paid for my ride already and shouldn’t be expected to pay again because they can’t design a better computer system. I could probably have interested the news media in the story.
The ride home though was uneventful. I can vent here, but that won’t lead to improvements in the system.
It does leave me wondering though. How much extra money does OC Transpo make from people in a similar position who meekly pony up the extra cash when requested? Maybe there is no incentive to improve things.