Stephen Rees's blog

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

Pushing the button

with 14 comments

Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers is making a big fuss about the number of times CMBC bus drivers push the button which records “fare not paid”. He thinks that the loss of fare revenue is such a big issue that it justifies voting NO in the upcoming referendum. You can’t trust Translink, he says.

I thought it might be helpful to actually work out what the size of the problem might be – something that Travis Lupick has a shot at in the article I linked to above but fails to make clear. The Average Fare on Translink was $1.86 in 2012 (Source: Translink) and the size of the business (according to Lupick’s article) $1.41 billion. 2,762,363 button pushes multiplied by $1.86 is a revenue loss of $5,137,995.10. It looks like a big number but it is 0.36% of the amount needed to cover Translink’s expenses.

So according to Jordan Bateman we should not try to increase transit spending in this region because Translink records a 0.36% revenue loss from fare evasion on its bus operations. Actually a lot of button pushing does not happen, especially on the 99 B Line which has all door loading. So maybe the revenue loss is closer to 0.5%. Big deal.

By the way, this is the same Jordan Bateman who was once a Langley Councillor and an advocate of transit expansion.

UPDATE

 

I just had a phone call from Jeff Nagel to talk about this post. This allowed me to discuss my “moment d’escalier” – the thoughts I had after I posted. What I ought to have written in the first place.

The amount of money that Translink loses to fare evasion is NOT the biggest issue facing us. If fare evasion could be entirely eliminated the problem of transit in this region would remain. There is not enough transit service to meet existing needs, let alone what we will need over the next twenty years to meet the increase in population – and the increasing preference for people here and coming here to have a more and better choices than driving everywhere for everything. Concentrating on fare evasion was what lead to the Compass/Faregates fiasco. Far more is being spent than than will be recovered once the system is actually implemented. And that is not Translink’s choice – it was one imposed by the province.

The scale of fare evasion needs to be viewed in terms of what is needed to cover the cost of operating the entire system. So that is why my shorthand expression of percentage of revenue loss is expressed that way – and not as how much gets collected by bus fareboxes. Because we have an integrated transit system – people use buses to get to SkyTrain – or ride SkyTrain and then transfer to a bus to get to their destination if you prefer. All door loading was introduced on the 99 B-Line as a way to improve service. Most people on that bus have U Passes or other tickets: they are regular commuters, so they are not about to use cash to pay a fare. And the fare media were not even designed to go through the farebox. And even those who do use Compass cards may not be getting counted. But that does not matter very much. There is no realistic, economical way to check the fare media validity of every rider for  every part of their trip and it does not look like a completely functional Compass system will be able to do that either.

In exactly the same way, the insistence on audits, or the fuss about executive pay, does nothing to address the critical lack of adequate funding for transit expansion. And a half per cent on sales tax in the region is at best a stop gap – and not a real substitute for an adequate funding system. The value of Greater Vancouver to the BC economy means that the people who live outside the region ought to be part of the solution. Just as people in Greater Vancouver help pay for transit in Prince George – and bridges in Kelowna. I do not like the regional sales tax idea and I think the current referendum is wrong headed. But that does not mean I support voting No. That is just shooting ourselves in the foot.

We have to stop giving Jordan Bateman, The CTF and the Fraser Institute so such attention. They are like climate change deniers, howling at the moon. We have serious problems and we need serious people to deal with them. Jordan Bateman has no interest at all in those problems or how to solve them.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 7, 2015 at 8:24 am

Posted in Fare evasion, fares

Tagged with ,

14 Responses

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  1. if anything, that shows a very low level of fare evasion on the bus,
    and possibly on the Skytrain (what was already observed before https://voony.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/turnstile-the-french-take/ )…

    Translink has on one hand to explain fare evasion is a non issue on buses, and on the other hand to justify $100M, and still counting, on fare gate to address a similar non-issue on the Skytrain: they are in a hole they have digged themselves.

    Voony

    January 7, 2015 at 10:23 am

  2. they are in a hole they have digged themselves.

    The province made the decision to install fare gates, not Translink.

    spartikus

    January 7, 2015 at 4:10 pm

  3. […] The Province [Vancouver, B.C] 12 June 2008: A.8. And just who is this young firebrand Councillor X, evangelist for streetcars and transit, urging on Translink? Why…it’s none other than Jordan Bateman, B.C. Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and current defacto leader of the “No” side in the upcoming transit referendum! Given his volte face, the young daughters of the young daughters of his young daughters won’t see sustainable transit service in their lifetime. UPDATE: Newly minted New West Councillor – and former blogger – Patrick Johnstone reminds us of other times Mr. Bateman was for something before he was against them. UPDATE 2: Stephen Rees is always worth reading on transit issues. […]

  4. The province made the decision to install fare gates, not Translink

    That is the common narrative I heard of many TransLink apologists. If it is tue, why that?

    http://www.translink.ca/~/media/Documents/about_translink/governance_and_board/council_minutes_and_reports/2011/february/Smartcard_and_Faregates_Business_Case_Summary.ashx

    For the record, the faregate project has been approved by the board of directors (which is appointed by the mayors’s council), and the Mayors’ council in 2009.(as part of the 2010 10-Year Plan)

    In 2011, Dereck Corrigan, in a rare moment of wiseness, started to question the business case for it, and wanted the Mayor’s council to ask Translink to repeal it what they could have. Instead, the mayor council asked Translink for the business plan and was happy with that…

    …but I understand the narrative that the Province “forced the fare gate upon Translink” is a convenient one for many, even if it is not the truth.

    Voony

    January 7, 2015 at 8:28 pm

  5. is a convenient one for many, even if it is not the truth.

    Conversely, so is ignoring the public record – documented by the press – by those with axes to grind.

    On Thursday, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon announced plans to install fare gates in a bid to reduce fare evasion and improve public safety.

    The proposal — which Falcon says will be paid for entirely by the province — has the support of Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, TransLink’s chair.

    However, in December 2005, TransLink’s board overwhelmingly rejected fare gates after a detailed report by its staff found it wouldn’t come anywhere close to paying for itself.

    Vancouver city Coun. Peter Ladner, a TransLink board member, said Friday he was not sure why gates are a better idea now than they were two years ago.

    “I’m quite puzzled by this decision and I’m looking forward to hearing the justification for it,” he said.

    http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/story.html?id=8ee88cc5-17c1-4d44-8ddd-490e50e6c75e&k=29751

    This proceeds your link by 4 years.

    Inconvenient.

    spartikus

    January 7, 2015 at 10:59 pm

  6. …That doesn’t change the fact that has been approved by both the board of directors (which is appointed by the mayors’s council), and the Mayors’ council in 2009, and noone forced them to do so.

    Voony

    January 8, 2015 at 12:38 am

  7. Glad to see you are tacitly admitting the fare-gates originated with the province. As for the rest: This would be the appointed board installed after Minister Falcon scrapped the previous governance model, right? Candidates for which came from a “tight short list vetted mainly by business groups allied with the province.”

    http://www.surreyleader.com/news/199566421.html

    spartikus

    January 8, 2015 at 9:33 am

  8. Samuel F Baron tweeted “2.7 million fare evasions out of 248 million boardings in 2013 is less than ~1%.”

    I responded “Trips is a better metric: many trips include more than 1 boarding 2013 Bus 148,396,011 http://goo.gl/fGk2SX (the stats produced by Metro Vancouver from Translink data)

    But actually now I think about it, boardings may be right since the drivers themselves admit they push the button when the passenger does not interact with them. That is to say if you have a transfer or one of those passes you are supposed to show to the operator, but just walk past, the button gets pushed. So as a method of assessing fare evasion, it leaves a lot to be desired.

    The method used to assess revenue loss is based on the trip diary survey, ridership counts and fare revenue. Before there were actual automated passenger counters, this gave rise to some circular reasoning, but things are better now.

    Stephen Rees

    January 8, 2015 at 2:34 pm

  9. As for the rest: This would be the appointed board installed after Minister Falcon scrapped the previous governance model, right? Candidates for which came from a “tight short list vetted mainly by business groups allied with the province.”

    That is an opinion.

    Fact is that the candidates are short listed by a screening panel of 5 persons. One of them is appointed by the Mayors council. Last time I have checked, this one was Gordon Price (and before it was Mike Harcourt).

    As far as I know, the short list is obtained by consensus : so the candidates have been vetted by the person appointed by the Mayors council too.

    I took note that some people, including many mayors, find Translink unaccountabile, unresponsive and untransparent(*).

    People sharing those views should obviously refuse to extend more money to a “broken” organization until they see all its woes fixed. Otherwise, what could be the impetuous to fix them?

    As I have explained here, It happens I don’t share those views, so myself I don’t plan to vote “no”,

    …and naturally I don’t expect a “yes” will generate a governance change in Translink at the probable difference of a “no” .

    (*)by the way, how I can know who the mayors appoint to the screening panel? lack of Transparency starts at the Mayors council!

    Voony

    January 8, 2015 at 8:15 pm

  10. As for the rest: This would be the appointed board installed after Minister Falcon scrapped the previous governance model, right? Candidates for which came from a “tight short list vetted mainly by business groups allied with the province.”

    That is an opinion.

    Fact is that the candidates are short listed by a screening panel of 5 persons. One of them is appointed by the Mayors council. Last time I have checked, this one was Gordon Price (and before it was Mike Harcourt).

    As far as I know, the short list is obtained by consensus : so the candidates have been vetted by the person appointed by the Mayors council too.

    I took note that some people, including many mayors, find Translink unaccountabile, unresponsive and untransparent(*).

    People sharing those views should obviously refuse to extend more money to a “broken” organization until they see all its woes fixed. Otherwise, what could be the impetuous to fix them?

    As I have explained here, It happens I don’t share those views, so myself I don’t plan to vote “no”,

    …and naturally I don’t expect a “yes” will generate a governance change in Translink at the probable difference of a “no” .

    (*)by the way, how I can know who the mayors appoint to the screening panel? lack of Transparency starts at the Mayors council!

    Voony

    January 8, 2015 at 8:16 pm

  11. That is an opinion.

    That is a quote from Jeff Nagel’s piece in the Surrey Leader, describing the findings of a report commissioned by the Metro Vancouver regional mayors’ council, which you seem so very intent on damning as complicit.

    spartikus

    January 8, 2015 at 9:29 pm

  12. yes, it is his opinion: the report commissioned by the mayors doesn’t describe the board of directors in the Jeff Nagel terms.

    But it reads:
    “The rankings in the table above are substantially based on the results of the local feedback in
    the case of the Current and Original TransLink models and the consulting team’s research in the
    case of Brisbane, Toronto, Stockholm’ and ‘London’ models.”

    In clear a different evaluation scale has been applied to Translink vs the used comparator (That is not very professional)…then it goes as

    “It is clear from the review of other regions and the consultations with local participants that the major shortcoming of the current structure of transport governance in Metro Vancouver is insufficient accountability to the residents of the region”

    But nowhere in the report, this judgement is substantiated. If Translink is lacking so much of accountability, some examples should be easy to provide. I don’t see a single one.

    I also noticed that the hired consulting firms, (mainly some local boutique house, so subject to local biais ), are Transportation/planning engineering firm (the one hired to study LRT implementation…):..corporate governance doesn’t ring as their obvious field of expertise..

    case in point https://www.linkedin.com/pub/clive-rock/33/219/216.

    May be a more specialized firm, such as Kpmg or PwC having to preserve a reputation in such field, could have produced a different results.

    …but again, the report commissioned by the Metro Vancouver regional mayors’ council commend an obvious “no” to any new funding source.

    Me I will prefer to ignore this report for the above reason and obviously don’t share its conclusion, even if I recognize it provides good ideas here and there.

    By the way, the Hong Kong MTR is certainly less accountable to the public than Translink (the MTR is publicly listed corportation accountabel to its shareholder), and still, below is how the HongKong LegCo keep the MTR in check

    Not asking to the mayors council to reserve such treament to Ian Jarvis (Well on the Compass fiasco, why not!😉 )…but they are free to post the video of their meeting on Internet: accountability and transparency will be improved, and all that is in the mayors reach.

    Voony

    January 8, 2015 at 11:36 pm

  13. Would that a button could be pushed every time a car accident occurs and costs the taxpayers through emergency services, health care budgets and the courts.

    Apparently this Everest of a mountain of tax dollars is invisible to the Taxpayer’s Federation.

    MB

    January 14, 2015 at 10:26 am

  14. The board of many transit authorities in many towns are– more often than not–made of municipal and regional (provincial in Canada) politicians; The board of Sound Transit in the Seattle-Tacoma area is an example.
    However one of the major problem we have in Metro-Vancouver is that few politicians ever use transit; even those that are in favor of it. They remind me of the catholic priests trying to teach us about sex, when they were supposed to be asexual”. Learning from books only go so far.

    Last time Transport for London gave fare evasions figures was in 2011, for 2010. It was around 70 million pounds, with most of it on buses, where there are no gates. All the same I have seen people going through gates in London, Paris etc. without being challenged..

    an interesting article: http://www.newstatesman.com/business/2013/09/transport-londons-decision-ban-cash-fares-hits-vulnerable-hardest

    There are fare cheaters even in Japan, although most of the cheating is theoretical.
    For example—using Vancouver as using Japanese stations wouldn’t mean anything to you– going from Granville station to Waterfront to get a seat, with a monthly PASS only good from Granville to Commercial Drive.
    Japanese transit systems don’t have zones, so monthly passes are for a single routes for each commuter (from the station or stop near their home to one near their workplace, school etc. that route usually includes the use of several private transit systems, for example bus near the home + train +metro+ bus near work).
    Japanese private transit companies don’t check for fare evasions as it would inconvenience so many passengers (some stations see several millions of people a day) and transit systems are a bait bringing commuters to the department stores, hotels, restaurants, housing etc etc. owned by rail companies.
    Short distance fares (within 40-50 kilometers) hardly change from one year to the next.

    Red frog

    January 26, 2015 at 11:38 pm


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