This year, Edmontonians will see more Transit Peace Officers (TPOs) throughout the transit system, helping to support a safe and secure experience for riders. TPOs are highly trained and skilled and have a wide array of duties, including promoting fare compliance.
All riders are required to have proof of payment when using transit service. This helps ensure riders are contributing equitably to the cost of running the transit system while keeping it affordable for everyone.
We understand that sometimes people struggle to afford the cost of transit fare. That’s why the City has several fare assistance programs available, such as free single-use tickets and monthly transit passes for those who would otherwise be unable to pay to access transit. For example, through PATH (Providing Accessible Transit Here), in partnership with 32 social agencies, an average of 1,900 free monthly fare passes are distributed each month to those at risk or those who are houseless. And, in 2022, the Donate a Ride program helped 62 social agencies distribute 67,000 single use tickets. Meanwhile, through a partnership with the Government of Alberta, the Ride Transit program provides Adult and Youth monthly passes to eligible Edmontonians at a subsidized rate.
Transit Peace Officers also carry ETS transfers to hand out when riders are without fare but are in clear need of support to arrive at their destination safely.
“To be a successful Transit Peace Officer, you need to be helpful to others and passionate about serving the community,” says Robert Baker, who has served as a Transit Peace Officer for six years. “You learn to be an effective problem solver and keep an open and impartial mindset when dealing with a wide array of people and situations on transit.”
Ticketing for fare evasion is always a last resort. Transit Peace Officers are primarily there to support a safe and secure experience for all transit riders and City employees. Fare inspections are not targeted to any specific locations but are conducted randomly across the transit network. Transit Peace Officers begin an inspection by engaging with riders to better understand their personal situation and determine if someone requires support, or information about assistance fare programs.
“My own personal rule is to begin every interaction by being as fair, friendly and impartial as possible,” says Baker. “I try to be as respectful and reasonable to each person I deal with for not having proof of purchase. Often I will recognize there are bigger issues at hand and I am there to offer help and provide resources as I can.”
Their next focus is explaining to riders why they check for proof of payment and how it supports the greater social good. Through these conversations, Transit Peace Officers hope to educate and encourage future behaviours.
During the first quarter of 2023, more than 15 million rides took place in the transit network. In that same timeframe, 2,955 transit riders were found to not have paid for their fare, and of those, the vast majority received a warning. In fact, ticketing only accounted for 5 percent of fare evasion offenses identified during that time.
It’s important to note that ticketing for fare evasion is not part of the City’s work to reduce social disorder and increase safety on the transit system. It is focused on passengers on the system, not on vulnerable people in transit spaces.
Cases of inappropriate behaviours (being rowdy, unsafe, yelling at fellow passengers, etc.) in transit spaces will trigger an interaction with a Transit Peace Officer. If voluntary compliance cannot be achieved, it may lead to a ticket being issued for the conduct or behaviour in question. Disclosure of an individual’s home address is always voluntary. If a rider does not provide their address, the ticket is categorized as “no fixed address”.
As always, the goal is to provide equitable transportation options for everyone in Edmonton, and we’re committed to ensuring the transit system remains safe, secure and affordable for all.
For Transit Peace Officers like Baker, he hopes to see people’s perceptions about the role he plays shift as time goes on. “We are in an age of breaking down stereotypes and I think a common perception of Transit Peace Officers is that we are solely enforcement based. But enforcement is only a small part of our job, and if anyone has questions about our role in their daily transit routine, I strongly encourage them to come say hi, and learn more.”
For more information on fares and passes, visit edmonton.ca/fares. For more information about what the City and partners are doing to keep transit safe for everyone, visit edmonton.ca/transitsafetyplan.