Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Thursday’s news

with 4 comments

I try to find local stories to write about, but the “front page” story on the Sun’s web site is beneath contempt. How to blow a minor infraction into major story. Gregor Robertson – running for mayor of  Vancouver – thought of fighting a ticket he had been given for crossing a fare zone boundary with a one zone ticket. The $173 fine is rather more than is usual for parking tickets. But then he changed his mind and paid up. But not before the press and Kevin Falcon seized on it like poorly trained terriors.

This week CBC radio tried to get me on the air talking about fares and fare evasion. Last time I had done that they had surprised me with a tape of a New York cop contradicting what I had just said. So I have been very wary ever since. And sure enough, in the long telephone conversation with CBC staff, not one mention was made of Gregor Robertson. They were, no doubt keen to spring that one on me on air.

The real point of the story should be “At the moment, only about 10 per cent of fare-evasion tickets are ever paid.” Now that is a story: if the fines are not collected then the size makes no difference. And since fare evaders tend to be serial offenders, and the lack of consequences is more widely understood, so fare evasion increases. Nothing to do with zones or gates at all.

Meanwhile the raft of transit positive stories out of various US ballot initiatives and propositions grows.

But in the UK much less good news, although BAA is chipping in a little to the Cross Rail scheme (and trying to get as much creidt as it can) and new London Mayor Boris Johnson has started swinging his axe at his predecessor’s favourite projects. On the positive side, the bridge between Beckton and Thamesmead has been cancelled (again). This is the equivalent of the Golden Ears Bridge: it would have replaced the free ferry at Woolwich and completed the ring formed by the North Circular and South Circular Roads.

Some odd ball quotes though.

The Guardian says:  “But evidence at the inquiry showed it would encourage car use, bringing more air and noise pollution and increasing carbon emissions.

The bridge was to pass through some of Britain’s most deprived communities in east London, but leading transport analysts showed it would not bring regeneration to these areas.”

While Boris himself is quoted as saying “I have always been in favour of another crossing. But I don’t think that this idea was the right one,”

Bad news though for a number of light rail and tram schemes.

Other proposals taken off the drawing board today include the £1.3bn cross river tram; a £500m tram scheme for Oxford Street in the centre of the capital; and a £70m extension of the Docklands Light Railway to Dagenham.

The mayor also revealed plans to save £2.4bn in costs at Transport for London, including the loss of hundreds of jobs among TfL’s 22,000-strong workforce.

Boris Johnson is, of course, Conservative. And his barmy idea to resurrect the Routemaster (covered here earlier) is still alive and well.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 6, 2008 at 11:35 am

Posted in transit

4 Responses

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  1. I think it shows poor judgement on Robertson’s part. The fine was raised in 2005 from $46 to $173 to act as a deterrant to fare evasion. Fines on transit go into Provincial coffers (i.e. they are processed through Provincial traffic court (see interesting article in Vancouver Sun today on observations in traffic court)), so TransLink isn’t going to spend money on collecting fines that it won’t receive. That’ll require a change in legislation (and likely some sort of cost sharing formula to pay for traffic court costs, as opposed to TransLink establishing its own appeal process (the adminstration of which could cost more than the fines collected)).

    If Roberston is complaining about disproportionate fines, a $25.00 parking ticket is also disproportionate to say a 6 minute parking meter infraction (10 cents worth). But wait, that fine goes into the City’s coffers, so it’s probably OK.

    ****

    Side note – The Woolwich area also has a Docklands Light Railway extension either opened by now or under construction.

    Ron C.

    November 6, 2008 at 1:02 pm

  2. I have corrected a typo in Ron’s post

    Here is the latest news on the Woolwich DLR extension.

    Stephen Rees

    November 6, 2008 at 5:39 pm

  3. Really, all this fuss about Gregor’s massive fine for buying the wrong ticket, I’m sorry, I think it is an embarrassment for Trans Link.

    The transit system is so user un-friendly that many people avoid it at all costs. We should get tough on repeat fare cheats, but when one purchases the wrong ticket, give me a break.

    I just take the car instead, it is a lot less hassle and I’ll wager Gregor will do the same in future.

    One of the prime attractors to transit is ease of ticketing and I think Translink has lost big time.

    Malcolm J.

    November 6, 2008 at 6:11 pm

  4. Thanks, I always have a lot of typos and on this system I can’t go back and correct them.

    I agree that the controversy and the need for gates is being too hyped. When smart cards come into force I really wonder how the fare schedule will have to be changed to accommodate it. If there’s a distance based fare on Skytrain (like Octopus and other systems, like Bart) how will the fares for buses integrate? Many systems with smart cards have separate subway and bus system fares. Will we need equipment so that passengers swipe off of buses too (that would slow exiting)? Or will there be a flat rate for a bus ride (presuming that bus rides are “short” distances)? I could see a trip on Skytrain providing a free transfer to a subsequent bus (within a set timeframe after exiting the gate), but if you start off on a bus, do you get a credit applied towards your Skytrain fare (within a given time frame – but how does it know when you’ve left a bus – what if your bus ride to Skytrain is 30 minutes?). Or will the bus and Skytrain fares be cumulative (in which case a de minimis fare for either bus or Skytrain may be artificially low and not reflect operational costs)? Whatever fare system is created would have to ensure that linked trips (transfers between bus and Skytrain) are not discouraged.

    Ron C.

    November 7, 2008 at 3:35 pm


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