Far too much on Fare Evasion
The right wing press never lets go of a bone. Though to be fair they are also giving the NPA a beating on the False Creek loan too. But Gregor’s fine is getting lots more ink this morning in the Sun.
It would really help if they actually did some sums. For instance, there is this in the op ed bit under the heading “TransLink must stop the leakage from fare evasion”
cost to the agency of $6 million to $7 million a year in lost revenue.
Estimates of retrofitting SkyTrain stations with turnstiles ranged from $90 million to $120 million.
So add in the cost of capital (interest payments on money they don’t have) and some figure drawn from the ether for operating costs – say $10m a year (turnstiles mean that there have to be people at every station for when they go wrong, or people with wheelchairs, strollers or luggage show up – oh and bikes too) and the pay back looks like what 20 years? Actually a lot more, once inflation starts to bite again. Of course, the Expo Line stations are all being rebuilt anyway to take longer trains, so the extra emergency exits that would be needed to meet evacuation requirements can be smuggled into that project. After all when you are spending $3bn, a few hundred million here or there will not be noticed. If you had to add those costs to the gates then they would never pay for themselves, which is why they haven’t been installed so far. And of course, bus operators will still be allowing anyone to board and simply “advising” them of the fare, for reasons of personal safety, and I don’t blame them one bit.
And gates do not eliminate fare evasion either. But then Daphne Bramham also gets a long opinion piece out of it as well.
Robertson contends he made an honest mistake, riding one stop beyond the one-zone line. I believe him.
Any occasional SkyTrain rider knows how hard it can be to figure out what you need to pay. And, heaven help all of the visitors and people whose first language isn’t English. Even people who ride SkyTrain frequently or some who work in the system marvel at the seemingly capricious determination of where one zone ends and another starts.
Not exactly “capricious”. Mostly it is large water bodies – the Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River (both arms below New West). Hard to miss really. On the peninsula it is the municipal boundaries. You know when you leave Vancouver and go into Burnaby because you cross Boundary Road. The Burnaby/Coquitlam boundary is a bit mor complicated, I grant, but the maps are everyhwere, and always at the places where you buy tickets. We only have three zones. Here’s a map of London’s six zones and that is just on a tube diagram. It looks even worse on a bus map (warning large pdf file).
And of the 82 people ticketed every day, only one in 10 pays the $173 fine.
A recent survey suggests that one in four people doesn’t pay the fare. But the official TransLink estimate is that it’s only 54 out of every 1,000 SkyTrain riders who don’t pay or don’t pay enough.
Even Mr. Highways-and-Bridges Falcon has called that estimate ridiculously low, suggesting that it’s more likely that eight to 10 of every 100 riders don’t pay, which translates into an annual loss of about $40 million from the cash-starved transit system.
But, of course, he has absolutely no evidence at all to back that up, and is simply trying to divert attention to the failure of the provincial government to actually do something about a court system that simply cannot cope with all the stresses on it. Because for the AG there are a lot tougher issues than worrying about collecting outstanding fines for fare evasion, and Translink gets not one red cent from the fines. So the incentive to collect just isn’t there.
Then Ms Bramham starts to compare our system to Hong Kong and Beijing. Which is alll very multi-cultural and pacific oriented, but fails to acknowledge both the difference of scale and money available for transit investment. Which is also true of London which uses the same Oyster farecard system that Hong Kong does and is now looking for something else. Which, they say, they would have done anyway due to its unreliability (a number of “look up tables” turned out to be flaky the last time they put the fares up) and nothing whatever to do with the fact that hackers have cracked into the system and can produce free travel quite easily.
It is amazing how these “experts” suddenly appear every so often banging on about what is wrong with our transit system.
Frankly, the comment I wanted to see that was not made is that $120m would get you a lot more buses – which is what the system desparately needs. Not gates and not more armed police, but more service!