The TTC issued an apology along with a clarification after a series of tweets from its customer service account caused confusion and uproar about the two-hour transfer policy on Twitter.
TTC user Pedro Marques tweeted about his run-in with fare enforcement officers while he was on his way home Friday evening from Yorkdale Station.
He told CityNews that on the last leg of his journey, he boarded a streetcar and was checked by fare enforcement officers.
“He took my card and tapped it and he said ‘you have four minutes left’,” Marques explained, adding that the officer did not offer any further explanation. Marques realized he was still within the two-hour transfer window from paying his fare at Yorkdale Station.
“What if he had checked my fare five minutes later? At that point, I would have been over the two-hour transfer,” he said. “To him it would have shown that I had not paid my fare because the two hours would have been up.”
Tapped PRESTO on at Yorkdale, transferred on to the 510. Got off at Kensington for some shopping. Tapped back on the 510. Couple of stops in, fare enforcer told me I had 4 min left on my transfer.
A) How am I supposed to know that?
B) What if they had checked my card 5 min later? pic.twitter.com/LGXyLTWtlZ
— Pedro Marques (@MetroManTO) February 28, 2020
Marques said he received several different answers from the TTC’s customer service account on Twitter when he asked them about the issue, which only served to confuse the matter.
At first they told him he could tap on within the two-hour transfer period and finish his trip even if it takes longer than two hours to complete. Which means, even if fare officers checked his Presto card after the two-hour window had lapsed, he was safe and could stay on the vehicle until his destination. If he were to then transfer to another bus, train or streetcar, he would have to pay another fare.
Soon after, the TTC’s Twitter account posted another response saying the exact opposite of the previous tweet, suggesting that the two-hour transfer referred to travel time. Which means if you’re on a TTC vehicle beyond the two-hour transfer period, you must pay again.
On Saturday, the TTC once again followed up by saying they had clarified with their fare enforcement team, and the two-hour transfer indeed referred to travel time and reiterated that while you may board a vehicle within the two-hour transfer window, you must pay again once it expires.
That tweet led to several irate TTC customers on Twitter asking how they could possibly know when their two hours were up while in the middle of their journey and whether they had to tap again if you’re still on a vehicle or risk a fine.
Wait, is it 2 hours to get back on transit, or two hours to complete your trip?
I’m so confused. What if you did know your two hours are up, are you supposed to tap again if you’re still on transit?
— David Del Grande (@TorontoDDG) February 28, 2020
And, if you couldn’t exit and re-tap in time because you were trapped on the subway due to (inevitable) delays? What then?
— talk less/smile more (@starfishchk) February 28, 2020
Following the uproar on Twitter, the TTC once again issued yet another clarification on Sunday morning and deleted their previous tweets “to avoid confusion.” Once again, this latest explanation contradicted the previous one and said you do not have to tap again if your transfer expires while you are on a TTC vehicle.
If your card is checked by a TTC Fare Inspector or Special Constable, they will see that your trip is still valid. We are working with @PRESTOcard to introduce a transfer screen showing how much time is left. We apologize for the confusion, and any alarm that caused. 2/2 ^KJ
— TTC Customer Service (@TTChelps) March 1, 2020
Marques feels a tweeted correction is not enough.
He said the TTC’s current fare evasion ad campaign, recent incidents of violence involving transit constables and “having a $425 fine hovering over our heads” makes any interaction with a fare officer daunting and his interaction with them left him anxious and uncomfortable.
“This is an intimidating situation. I’m like ‘oh my God am I in trouble? do I have to get off?” he said, describing his panic after being told his transfer was about to expire.
He adds that with customers constantly being bombarded with messaging about the consequences of fare evasion, confusion over the rules from within the TTC ranks is all the more infuriating.
“It doesn’t look like anybody even knows what the policy is … it doesn’t look like they’re talking to each other,” Marques said, adding that he didn’t feel the latest clarification was sufficient and wasn’t convinced that the problem had been fixed. “They need to fix their internal communication so that everybody’s on the same page.”
“I’d love for Rick Leary to come out and take responsibility for this because this is not just a problem that happened because of one tweet. This has been ongoing for years. No communication among the team, people don’t know what’s happening, and then you have fare enforcement officers punishing people when they didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.
“I’m a complete law abiding citizen. I paid my fare. Why am I being made to feel like a criminal?” Marques said.
CityNews reached out to the TTC for a statement and spokesperson Heather Brown issued an apology following the Twitter turmoil.
“We’d like to apologize to our customers for the confusion around the policy and reassure them that the two hours is available for them to take advantage of,” she told CityNews.
“Presto card customers who use our system … have two hours to enter and exit the TTC as much as they want, within the two-hour period from the first time they tap,” she clarified, adding that if the two-hour transfer period expires while customers are on a vehicle, they do not have to pay again.
“They can continue their journey. [If] they’re nearing the end of their transfer period, they can continue that ride. But the next time they make a transfer … that would be a new fare.”
In response to concerns about whether or not the fare enforcement team was now aware of how the two-hour transfer policy works, Brown said they have been contacted and reminded of the correct policy. She added that the incident will be used as an opportunity to “reinforce with our staff, this policy and how it works.”
The TTC is also now working with Presto to make some changes to Presto card readers, which include the introduction of a screen that differentiates between transfers and new charges, plus how much time remains on your transfer.