How London Deals with Fare Evasion
This morning I came across a news story on how Transport for London is to increase its penalty fares. The journal I was reading (Railway Herald) publishes as a locked pdf – which means it cannot be quoted by cut and paste, but I quickly found out that all they had done was copy a TFL Press Release including its headline – so I think I will do the same but at least I have acknowledged where it came from.
Pressure builds on fare dodgers
21 February 2012
Penalty charges have risen to £80 on all parts of the capital’s transport network as Transport for London (TfL) continues its battle against fare evasion.
The increase – from £50 to £80 – covers London Underground, London Overground, buses, Docklands Light Railway and tram services.
Passengers who fail to pay for their tickets will receive a penalty charge which, if left unpaid, could lead to a criminal record and a fine of up to £1,000.
Those who pay within 21 days will see their fine reduced to £40.
Despite a fall in the rate of fare evasion in recent years, the cost to TfL last year was an estimated £63m.
In addition to the penalty deterrent, TfL also employs more than 500 revenue protection inspectors on its network to combat fare dodgers.
As I am sure you all know, London’s Underground has been gated for many years now with gates not too dissimilar to the ones now going in on our SkyTrain stations.
I did some quick sums using data from the TfL Annual Report. I reckon TfL’s fare revenue at around £3bn (that’s our North American billions not the UK’s) so the rate of evasion is about 2% – even with all those gates, and 500 inspectors and a comprehensive enforcement strategy. (A pound is worth about $1.56 Canadian at the time of writing)
The point of this post is simply to re-iterate that the “investment” now being made on our system will not eliminate fare evasion. If we do as well as London – and that would mean we would need penalty fares, the revenue of which comes back to the system, not the coffers of the government, and continued on train and bus fare inspections – we might halve the current evasion rate. I suspect that this actually requires a considerable increase in enforcement resources, which makes the return on capital even worse than anticipated.
The way things are going for the BC Liberals at present, I doubt that they will still be in government by the time this turkey comes home to roost. And anyway it will be Translink that gets the blame I expect – though it ought to be directed at Kevin Falcon.
Yesterday I was interviewed by the Montreal Gazette. Apparently Montreal is seriously considering using the Translink model to reform its current governance of transit. I told the reporter that I thought they ought to look at a metropolitan region that has actually been reasonably successful at providing a good transportation system. London or Paris seem to me to be far better at it than Vancouver. And we weren’t talking about fare dodgers. But at least we seem a bit better than Toronto right now.