Monday, October 12, 2009

Toronto’s Transit Cops Dawn Miss Manners Hat

Canada’s largest city enacted a new way to ensure the public behaves while riding city-run vehicles – by charging outrageous fines.

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) riders that fail to give up their seat to an elderly or disabled person could be fined a whopping $195CDN fine plus $35CDN provincial tax. The same fine could be handed out to those putting their feet up on the seats, jumps a turnstile, blocking a doorway, even just using offensive language.

Toronto Transit CommissionImage via Wikipedia

Granted, none of these things are polite, but has society really fallen so out of sync with itself, that we need our government to babysit us?

And what rights do our publicly funded governments have in deciding who gets fined for not being polite, and for that matter, how much of a fine is worthy of the punishment?

The TTC’s Special Constables began enforcing the new fines today, with the goal to educate people and let them know these things are unacceptable. Transit cops have the authority to decide if they fine someone, or just issue a warning.

But then again, do we really need glorified security guards telling us how to behave in public? Should these things already be a given? And even if they aren’t, is it government’s role to tell us how to behave?

How much further could this Big Brother approach to enforcing polite docile transit riders be taken? If you are walking down the street, and an elderly person tries to cross a traffic light, would they then take it upon themselves to fine you hundreds of dollars for not assisting that elderly person cross the street?

There has always been a thin line between the role of the self and the role of governments in society. The role of the self – YOU as an individual in society – should be pretty self-evident, common sense even.

Sadly, common sense isn’t all that common, and as more our global village becomes all the smaller, people from other countries don’t acknowledge the same values and beliefs indoctrinated into our Canadian society.

When I was kid growing up, my parents led by example, holding doors for people in wheelchairs and on crutches. Threatening to wash my mouth out with so

1951 Toronto Transit Commission 4602Image by sofafort via Flickr

ap if I swore in public – there’s nothing like a mouthful of dish soap to keep you from doing that again!

We didn’t need a government to issue warnings and fines to tell us right from wrong, because these things were passed down from parent to child within our Canadian society.

And many of these things are common outside of Canada, the States, and elsewhere.

Truth is, rude people aren’t ignorant of proper manners, they are just – well – rude. If you see an elderly person struggling to get on the bus with their canes and walkers, it is no less than human nature to offer to help that person. That’s just common sense.

But then again, common sense isn’t all that common – in the public sphere, and at government offices where they reason warnings and fines are the best way to handle rude people.

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