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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Time for TTC to use the honour system

It's time for the TTC to deploy the honour system ("proof of payment" or POP) across the board. 

This involves several components:
1. Vehicle drivers should no longer double as fare collectors. They've enough on their plate just operating the vehicles safely, negotiating traffic, etc.
2. Provide fare vending machines at each major intersection bus stop (if not every stop). This would eliminate the use of cash and the opportunity for someone to use small change to short change the fare, or the incidents of a driver contending that full fare was not paid and a passenger becoming irate and potentially violent towards the operator or other passengers.
3. Deploy fare checkers on vehicles, in pairs, equipped with proper protective gear (bulletproof vests, batons, communications devices, etc...) to deal with checking for valid fare or issuing tickets for invalid fare.
The results of such an initiative are many, including:
1. Better security for operators. Disputing fares can lead to distractions, and violence against operators. Flustered operators are less able to focus on negotiating traffic and operating the vehicle safely. Or, they become nearly catatonic and are unable to provide service and open communication with other customers. Remove the need for operators to interact with passengers, except to inquire about routes, short turns, etc.
2. Better security for passengers. A system that frequently and randomly will have fare checkers with security garb reduces the willingness for the criminal element to engage in bad behaviour.
3. Faster loading and unloading of passengers. Rather than have passengers enter a vehicle through the front door in single file and have to show their proof of payment, they can enter at any door without having to show proof at the time of entry.
4. Better schedule management. The accumulated effect of operators having to deal with fare collection/checking makes it more difficult to stick to a schedule.
Having spent a fair amount of time travelling on systems in and around the GTA that deploy this approach (GO Transit trains, VIVA buses), the contrast in the rider experience with TTC is stark. Travel on VIVA Blue and GO is much more "civilized", to say the least, and having a vehicle arrive on schedule is actually expected and delivered with a high degree of frequency.
To recap: safer for drivers, safer for passengers, faster, more on time. It's hard to argue against the continuing pursuit of these objectives.
Note especially that other transit systems have found a way to do this - TTC should not feel burdened with having to reinvent the wheel, including how to make it cost-effective.
I understand that implementing a swipe card system on vehicles is in the works. I appreciate this is a forward step, but it's not a good enough step; it still would likely require that passengers should enter from the front in view of the operator who is still going to be required to double as a collector.
Take a ride on Viva Transit and experience what is possible for the TTC.

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