HSR confiscating student bus passes with illegible student numbers

Scott Hastie
July 26, 2016
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

With a month remaining until the new school year, the Hamilton Street Railway is cracking down on 2015-16 student bus passes over fraud concerns.

There have been reports about HSR drivers confiscating bus passes that are illegible because they appear fraudulent. Daniel Arauz, a third-year Philosophy and Communications Student, had his card taken away.

When attempting to board a bus on the Hamilton Mountain headed downtown, Arauz showed his student card and bus pass.

“[The bus driver] took my card and insisted he had the right to confiscate it. I tried to figure out what was happening because I didn’t even know this was a thing they could do, based on the legibility of the number,” said Arauz.

On the back of the bus pass, the conditions of use say “the HSR reserves the right to confiscate this pass if it has been willfully altered.” Starting in 2015-16, the HSR stopped issuing stickers and began issuing separate plastic cards with student numbers written in marker as validation However, the card is not laminated, so the marker can rub off accidentally.

Despite the driver’s offer, Arauz did not want a free ride. He wanted his bus pass back so he could get the last three digits of his student number put back on it.. The driver refused to give the pass back and asked Arauz to get off the bus.

Arauz said he takes the bus every day and was not warned about the bus pass being illegible.

To get his card back, Arauz was sent to the HSR office. The bus pass was not there. Instead, he had to go to McMaster to get the card, with no particular office to go to. Eventually, he found that the Office of the Registrar had it.

The Registrar says multiple students visit each day looking for confiscated bus passes.

Full-time undergraduate students paid $138.65 for the 2015-16 bus pass, which ran for 12 months.

The McMaster Students Union and the HSR will renegotiate the student bus pass agreement this school year.

Latest issue for HSR with students

This is not the first issue students have faced with the HSR in the past year. When the second card policy was instituted, the HSR had a $100 replacement fee. MSU members were not happy with the price, as the previous replacement fee was much lower. The HSR eventually dropped the fee to $25 for the first bus pass replacement.

The HSR is also exploring changes to the King 1A bus line, which runs from Eastgate Square along King until Sterling St. Residents who live along the line say the busses cause noise disturbances and the city is exploring options to reduce noise, including running the bus along Main St. In an article by the Hamilton Spectator, a Westdale resident says busses drive by “every 90 seconds.” While the King 1A is not at risk of being eliminated, the changes would inconvenience both Westdale business owners and students. A report on the line is expected in the fall.

Full-time undergraduate students pay approximately $138.65 each for their 12-month bus pass. With 22,558 full-time undergraduate students, McMaster provides approximately $3.1 million in revenue to the HSR. According to the 2016 City of Hamilton budget, the “Transit” section’s fees and general revenue amount was $42.8 million.

How to fix your card

If you're concerned about having an illegible card, you can visit Compass (temporarily located in the MSU office, on the second floor of MUSC) for a replacement at no cost.

UPDATE: HSR response to questions

"The HSR does have the authority to confiscate passes or tickets that could be fraudulent at any time. We are currently focused on educating all passengers on the importance of boarding the bus with a valid fare," wrote Nancy Purser, Director, Transit Support Services, in an email on July 26.

"As you know, McMaster students must show their student ID and HSR transit pass card together to ride the bus. The HSR transit pass card has a three digit number on it that must correspond to the student’s ID card. The transit pass card is the property of HSR. HSR fare enforcement officers have been confiscating transit pass cards if the number does not match the student’s ID card, is illegible or wiped off, or is otherwise fraudulent (i.e. photocopied). Students are responsible for ensuring their pass number is legible and matches their student ID card – this will constitute valid fare."

There was a by-law change in April 2016, where HSR drivers could confiscate "altered or unauthorized reproduction of fare media." The HSR says McMaster students are not being targeted. The organization is looking to educate all bus riders about this issue.

Purser said that the organization is looking at altering the text box for next year so the marker will stay on, but the current system will be used again in 2016-17.


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