In response to the worldwide “Nobody Pays” call to action on November 29 for fare evasions, a small but spirited crew did just that after the climate march in downtown so-called Toronto. We joined the march as a Free Transit Now bloc, and passed out leaflets [offsite link, full text below] with some ideas about why transit is a climate, race, and class issue, why it should be free, and why fare enforcement is bad and fare evasion is cool, especially in the context of international solidarity.
At the end of the march, we circulated through the crowd chanting “Public transit should be free! Liberate the TTC!” and “Fuck the cops, fuck the haters, power to the fare evaders!”, then headed over to a nearby subway station. Our chants grew more powerful and joyous as we entered the station, jumping over barriers and sneaking through openings, holding the gates open for each other and encouraging others in the station to join us, some of whom did! As the subway rolled out of the station a cheer went up and we passed out more leaflets to other riders.
While it would have been even more exciting to have had a truly “mass” evasion, it was an exciting and empowering moment, and one we hope will encourage future organizing towards much larger actions.
A FEW THINGS WE’D LIKE TO SAY ABOUT TRANSIT:
Transit is a climate issue
Transportation accounts for approximately a quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions (1). In order to decrease the emissions from personal vehicles, we need reliable and widespread public transit.
Transit is a race and class issue
In Toronto, low-income, immigrant and racialized communities are frequently concentrated in poorly transit-serviced areas (2).
At the same time, the coming of new high speed transit can accelerate gentrification and push working-class and historically racialized and immigrant communities out (3).
While using transit, people of colour, in particular Black folks, have faced disproportionate rates of ticketing (4).
Public Transit should be public
Public transit must be an affordable mode of transit that anyone can use. As the cost of living and levels of poverty increase, so do transit fares, making the TTC less and less accessible. When health care is called public you expect not to pay. When education is called public you expect not to pay. What about public transit?
Compared with other large North American cities, the federal and provincial governments invest little to keep it running, leaving the TTC to rely on revenues from fares to pay for over two thirds of operating costs (5).
It takes public investment to run an accessible, affordable transit system. If elected politicians aren’t willing to spend enough to keep the TTC affordable, they are the real fare evaders, not those who are just trying to get by and get to work, school, daycare, etc.
Fare enforcement is gross
You may have noticed the TTC’s recent ad campaign discouraging fare evasion, or the increase in unfriendly faces on streetcar platforms waiting to check if you’ve paid your fare (6). Millions of dollars are spent making sure people have paid instead of making sure people can afford transit.
Fare enforcement very often means fining those who can’t afford to pay for transit in the first place. The standard fare evasion fine is $425 while the average parking ticket is $49! (7)
After fare evasion, the second most highly ticketed offence between 2008-2018 was unauthorized soliciting, which covers selling materials and panhandling (8).
Transit enforcement officers criminalize poverty. Get them off our subways!
From Chile to Toronto…
On October 7 2019, high school students in Chile kicked off a series of mass evasions, first protesting a fare hike, and expanding to protest a legacy of neoliberalism in the country remaining from the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in the 1980s. The state has cracked down brutally, but protests continue (9).
In New York, a series of mass fare evasions began on November 1, protesting a massive expansion in fare policing, and numerous incidents of racist police brutality (10).
Solidarity with everyone in the streets, demonstrating our collective power, and everyone committing small acts of defiance every day, just to move freely.
A call has gone out for mass fare evasions worldwide on November 29.
Power to the fare evaders!
(2) Hulchanski, 2010. The Three Cities Within Toronto. http://www.urbancentre.utoronto.ca/pdfs/curp/tnrn/Three-Cities-Within-Toronto-2010-Final.pdf
(3) Spurr, 2018. In a city desperate for more transit, for Toronto’s Little Jamaica it could be bad news. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/03/08/in-a-city-desperate-for-more-transit-for-torontos-little-jamaica-it-could-be-bad-news.html
(4) Alberga, 2019. The TTC may be disproportionately fining black people. https://www.blogto.com/city/2019/07/ttc-may-be-disproportionately-fining-black-people-toronto/
(5) Spurr, 2018. Toronto has ‘alarming’ lack of transit funding compared to other cities, report finds. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/11/20/toronto-has-alarming-lack-of-transit-funding-compared-to-other-cities-report-finds.html
(6) TTC, 2019. TTC targeting fare evasion with new campaign and increased enforcement https://www.ttc.ca/News/2019/May/22_05_19NR_Fare-Evasion.jsp
(7) O’Neil, 2019. Why are TTC fare evasion nes so much higher than Toronto parking tickets? Blog TO.. https://www.blogto.com/city/2019/09/why-fare-evasions-higher-parking-tickets-toronto/
(8) Spurr, 2019. Over 11 years, TTC gave 32,927 tickets for fare evasion. But far fewer for feet on seats. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/04/11-years-of-ttc-data-reveals-thousands-of-tickets-for-fare-evasion-far-fewer-for-riders-who-put-their-feet-up.html