Is your mom lying about being disabled to get free bus rides? A Canadian city is so determined to stop her that they have deployed thousands of cameras to catch her in the act. But hold on. These cameras have been struck down. In this note, we break down their approach, what was found to be at fault and what needs to happen next to continue surveillance usage.
After an investigation by the city ombudsman (full investigation report), the Toronto Transit Commission has stopped using surveillance in para-transit service vehicles to asses passengers’ levels of disability. The investigation found that camera footage was being used in hearings to deny passengers service. Those passengers were never told footage was being collected making them unable to fairly defend themselves in cases where a disability changes the amount of mobility from one day to the next.
The Wheel-Trans program is a door-to-door transit service for disabled riders. From 2006 to 2007, the city fitted Wheel-Trans vehicles with cameras for “crime deterrence and the safety and security of passengers and staff.” By the end of 2008 more than 7,000 cameras were installed in transit vehicles. In 2010 TTC expanded the scope of the cameras, using them to verify the customer eligibility.