As residents continue to return to their regular returns following months of uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders, Metrolinx says GO Transit is experiencing an "uptick" in fare evasion numbers in recent weeks.

The transit agency said that on average, 97% of GO Transit riders are paying their fares, however, in recent weeks, that number has dropped to around 94.5%.

Bill Grodzinski, GO Transit’s Chief Special Constable and Director of Transit Safety, says historically, the agency typically sees an increase of fare evasion around this time of year as people transition from their summer vacations back into their regular commuting schedules.

“I think it’s fair to say it’s taking some people a little while to get back into regular routines, which includes tapping on and off the trains with their PRESTO cards,” said Grodzinski. “We expect this won’t be as much of an issue as customers start travelling with us more regularly during the next few weeks.”

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Grodzinski says when it comes to fare evasion, the agency often hears from customers that they’ve had some time off, were running late on their first morning back and forgot they needed to add money to their PRESTO card.

“I think that’s kind of similar to what we’re seeing right now. Some customers haven’t been on our trains since March and it’s taking them a few trips to get back into their routines.”

Luckily, unlike in previous years, there are now a number of touchless ways customers can "quickly, conveniently, and easily" pay for their fares.

Customers are now able to use autoload, which automatically tops up their card as soon as funds are running low, or they can buy an e-ticket online before leaving home, which once activated, just needs to be shown to staff for a visual inspection.

Additionally, back in June, the PRESTO app received an overhaul to give both Android and iOS users the ability to add funds instantly to their cards.

Anne-Marie Aikins, Spokesperson for Metrolinx, said the transit agency has used this transitional period — as riders are gradually coming back after a long absence — to check fares and remind customers to wear their masks throughout their journey.

"We found 98% were wearing their face coverings which is great news. But we also found many more than usual (5-6%) had forgotten to tap or load their PRESTO cards," said Aikins.

However, she added that after Metrolinx spoke to media about the story, this number dropped to 3-4%.