Calgary Transit's worst riders slapped with hefty fines
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One man decided to urinate on the bus, forcing it out of service for several hours.
Another repeatedly touched a fellow passenger inappropriately even after being asked to stop.
And three absent-minded drunks chose to steal tools from transit workers doing maintenance on the 7th Avenue LRT line.
All were slapped with $5,000 fines under a new bylaw offence introduced last fall.
In fact, Calgary Transit public safety co-ordinator Brian Whitelaw said the new measure has been invoked a dozen times to date and the six cases that have worked their way through the court system have all ended in convictions.
"What we try to do is take into consideration the action — some individuals are suffering from mental-health issues — you try to look for a better solution than laying a charge," Whitelaw said, noting that, by and large, transit riders are well-behaved and system-wide crime rates are reaching historical lows.
The new fine came as part of sweeping bylaw changes approved by city council last summer that also saw penalties for vandalizing or spraying graffiti on transit property rise from $150 to $5,000.
Whitelaw didn't have formal numbers on how many taggers had been hit with the new fine, but said he's seen a "noticeable reduction" in the amount of graffiti on buses and trains when riding himself.
Ald. Andre Chabot vouched for the stiffest Calgary Transit fines, noting the $5,000 penalty is in line with the city's community standards bylaw.
"We used to be kind of encouraging people to make our buses messy because they figure 'If I'm going to get caught somewhere, I'd rather get caught somewhere where the fine's a little less,' " he said.
A stiffer penalty grid was also established for those caught riding the rails without paying the fare — $250 for the first offence, $500 for the second and $750 for the third.
Whitelaw said his officers have already caught some riders evading payment three or four times since the new fine structure came into effect.
Some of those matters have since been referred to the courts, forcing the free-rider to explain to a judge why he or she refuses to pay.