Complaints from Transpo riders against ‘rude, heavy-handed’ OC fare cops revolve around lack of respect

Power-tripping, belligerent, rude, heavy-handed; that’s how OC Transpo riders describe fare inspectors when detailing their encounters to city staffers.

Passengers who were rebuked or witnessed it happening to someone repeatedly chronicled tales of contempt.

“I am totally disgusted by such rude, threatening, and intimidating behaviour of an OC Transpo employee towards one of its customers,” said the complainant in a March 15 incident who watched a pair of inspectors escort a rider off the bus.

One inspector was calm, but the second person went too far, wrote the complainant, screaming at the rider about his or her last name, even jabbing a finger in the passenger’s face.

That’s an example of one of the 221 complaints lodged against fare inspectors from 2007 to Aug. 1, 2012 the Sun received through an Access to Information request.

Improving the customer experience is listed as a priority for Transpo GM John Manconi.

Some riders’ concerns were frivolous, such as outrage over payment being verified in the first place.

Other passengers appreciated the role of inspectors but were astounded by their lack of interpersonal skills.

“The one guard at the middle entrance was so rude and inappropriate to the riders that it was actually uncomfortable to be on the train,” wrote an O-Train rider who reported an incident on Jan. 31 from Greenboro at 8:30 a.m.

(The inspector) was “yelling at people to produce their passes,” including “a passenger who was holding the door for a mere five seconds for a passenger who was disabled and was struggling to make it to the train before the doors closed.”

The inspector “actually made it scary to be on the train,” said the commuter.

“I think everyone who uses the service (and pays a lot for it) should be treated with respect and not made to feel like a criminal.”

In addition, the lack of identification for Transpo employees “makes it impossible for me to report the security guard in question. These people need to be accountable for their actions and I am furious that when they act inappropriately, there is no way to identify them.”

On Feb. 2, a customer riding Route 85 was near the front door.

A fare inspector bumped into the rider, who said, “excuse me, watch it.”

The rider vows the Transpo employee retorted, “watch it or I’ll kick you off the bus.”

Confrontation ensued, and special constables showed up.

Transpo’s customer relations officers responded to riders about their complaints.

“While our fare inspectors have a duty to ensure proper fare, we expect them to do so in a courteous and professional manner,” wrote one staffer.

Another reply reads, “Nevertheless, you are correct. City employees are expected to be courteous at all times.”

One letter detailed a Transpo representative morphing into the “fashion police” at Westboro Station, on Jun. 23, 2011.

An inspector approached a passenger and asked the youngster to pull up his jeans, which were hung low with a belt, boxers visible.

The passenger obliged.

“Since when did fare inspectors become fashion police? Is this part of their responsibilities to monitor passenger’s dress codes and to ‘reprimand’? The fare inspector’s intervention was completely inappropriate.”

Transpo’s written reply: “The role of transit fare enforcement officer is not to police the manner our passengers dress themselves when using our services.”

Transit commission chairwoman Diane Deans declined to comment.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @ottawasunkroche

THE RULES:
Proof of payment is required on the O-Train, O-Train platform, articulated (long) and double-decker buses.
The penalty is $150.
The following must be shown:

  • Pass, day pass, transfer or O-Train ticket (O-Train only)
  • Remember to write your photo ID card number on the pass voucher. If you don’t, the pass isn’t valid.
  • If you pay with cash, tickets, O-Train ticket or top up a pass, board by the front door and the operator will give you a transfer as your receipt.
  • Keep it for the duration of the trip.
  • Rear-door boarding on short 40-foot buses isn’t permitted.
  • Pass holders who don’t need proof may board articulated buses by the rear doors.
  • You may be asked to show proof at any time and must show it to operators, transit fare enforcement officers and transit law enforcement officers upon request.

GET OFF THE BUS:
Transit fare enforcement officers don’t interact with passengers on buses due to:

  • crowding
  • noise
  • other passengers can hear the exchange of personal information
  • difficulty writing while a bus is moving
  • Instead, they take passengers off the bus to explain the process of examining proof of payment and often issue a fine.

HONOUR SYSTEM:
Fare inspectors protect the integrity of Transpo’s fare system.
More than 1.5 million passes were sold in 2011, and 640 expired, altered, or counterfeit passes were confiscated by inspectors and special constables.
“Fare evasion, including the use of fraudulent transfers, expired transfers, and boarding without proof of purchase … represents under 2.5% of passenger trips in 2011,” reads information provided by the city’s media relations department.
The Presto card, if it ever launches, offers improved revenue controls “as the software will limit the potential for fare evasion, invalid transfers, tickets, and passes. Transit fare enforcement officers will be equipped with handheld card readers to ensure that the appropriate fare was registered.”

COMPLAINTS FILED:

  1. 2012 – 18
  2. 2011 – 34
  3. 2010 – 45
  4. 2009 – 36
  5. 2008 – 43
  6. 2007 – 45

RIDER OUTRAGE

“Fare inspectors are rude, verbally abusive to the point that they are abusing their authority in a systematic and regular way.”

“They cannot mistreat poor customers. No one knows what the (person) must have felt being targeted like that.”

“I personally do not appreciate the belittling approach that the officer engaged me with.”

“The degree of anger that (she/he) used was going overboard.”

“Lack of conflict resolution skills clearly escalated this incident far past where it had to go.”

“There was barely any room to hold on before the inspectors began pushing and shoving passengers and I never once heard any of the inspectors apologize for the inconvenience, or even say ‘excuse me’ to riders.”

Inspectors need to lose “the kind of verbal lecturing that only your dad could give you.”

“Perhaps the officer is accustomed to working with difficult passengers — drunk and surly, on middle-of-the-night bus routes serving impoverished neighbourhoods – but I can assure you that those of us on early morning express routes are a docile lot who go to work and pay our taxes.”

With route reductions “OC Transpo is asking a lot of its passengers. I would ask only in return that OC Transpo remembers to treat all its passengers (even the forgetful ones) with respect and dignity”
— Source: City of Ottawa

http://www.ottawasun.com/2012/12/09/complaints-from-transpo-riders-against-rude-heavy-handed-oc-fare-cops-revolve-around-lack-of-respect

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