Failing to stop for police, driving without insurance and driving through a red light are all serious offenses that carry a hefty fine, but you may be surprised to learn those fines are not as high as failing to pay your transit fare.

Consumer reporter Lynda Steele set up a table outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, with a fare infraction pop quiz. She asked people to order a list of provincial infractions from what they thought incurred the most expensive to the least expensive fine.

The infractions were:

  • Failure to pay for a transit ticket - $173
  • Driving while using a cell phone - $167
  • Failure to stop for police - $138
  • Failure to wear a motorcycle helmet - $115
  • Failure to produce driver’s licence - $81

Nearly everybody got it wrong. Most people were surprised to learn that failing to pay your transit ticket was the most expensive fine at $173.

And that fine will go up $40 to $213 if you don’t pay it within six months. After a year, the fine jumps another $60 to $273.

TransLink officials make no apologies for that hefty fee schedule, pointing out that transit fines in other cities like Edmonton start at $250 dollars.

“Just pay your transit fare and then we don't have to talk about paying transit fines. That's the easy way around it right?" said TransLink spokesman Derek Zabel. 

TransLink says the fines are deliberately high to act as a deterrent and it seems to be working. Transit police are doing more fare checks and issuing fewer tickets this year.

Still, some argue if the fines were lower then more people would pay them. When CTV asked TransLink if it was looking into lowering fare evasion fines, it said that Bill 51, the legislation governing transit fines in B.C. is only eight months old. TransLink says it needs to be in place for at least a year to identify any trends or problems, so don’t expect to see the fines coming down anytime soon.