Until a week ago, a reference to transit crime would have made me think of smashed shelters and minor thuggery. White-collar crimes, like tax evasion or theft of company property, weren’t likely to cross my mind.
Then came the capture of a trio of shady ticket-sellers and the revelation that informal shift swapping has allowed a few drivers to collect all the fringe benefits with none of the work.
By ignoring tax codes and labour laws, driving shifts can be “sold” rather than traded. The going rate is about $18 per hour, minus the cut to the broker, making the whole shift-swap system sound seriously shady.
But the reality is that for most, swapping shifts (paid or not) is the only way to get time off for important occasions — such as, reportedly, a sister’s wedding.
It’s also the only way to deal with atrocious split shifts that see half a day wasted to drive the morning and evening rush hours.
Thus, aside from a few drivers ruining it for everyone else, the real culprit here is an inflexible scheduling system, leading to frustrated drivers.
Fixing the total number of shifts would eliminate the motive for cash to change hands. However, restrictions are currently by the number of driver changes without regard to final number of shifts worked.
This leaves the door simultaneously open to abusers and closed to those with valid reasons for needing to swap frequently — like those with terrible schedules.
If drivers were able to get shifts they can live with — such that there was no need for any money to change hands and no danger of overworked drivers — this would be a non-issue.
The ticket theft incident also raises some interesting questions. Why did ETS have thousands of extra tickets in the first place? Are ticket sales plummeting or is it common to over-buy?
What happens to all the perfectly reusable tickets from the fare box? Instead of contracting shredders, could they be resold or bundled for Donate-A-Ride to avoid paper waste and tickets walking off?
For that matter, what happens between the fare box and the bank? I’d like to think that every cent makes it back to riders, but there’s really no way to be sure.
And with the recent fare hike in mind, how does one go about scoring cheap tickets on the sly anyway?