Province pledges to help stop fare evasion
Published Thursday, April 5, 2012 9:19AM PDT
The B.C. government says it will do what it can to stop people from deliberately evading fares on public transit in Metro Vancouver, something TransLink says is costing $18 million annually.
While most commuters pay for transit, thousands do not, and there are few enforcement mechanisms in place to force people to pay their fines for fare evasion.
Because some people can't be trusted to follow the honour system, TransLink is upping the ante by constructing fare gates that will make it nearly impossible for people to ride the rails without paying.
Fare gates are expected to cut TransLink losses by $7 million annually.
"Fare gates are really going to help us. You look at London, you look at Paris, a lot of the larger cities -- New York and such that have them -- and clearly it brings the fare evasion down," said Chief Operating Officer Doug Kelcey.
A new electronic fare card -- called the Compass Card -- is also on the way that won't let commuters access train platforms or board and exit buses without tapping on and off with a valid fare.
If you don't tap the card, a warning signal and lights will alert transit staff.
The new measures will catch many fare evaders, but not all, so transit police will continue to write tickets. The challenge now is how to force people to pay them.
Only a fraction of people ticketed for fare evasion last year actually paid the fine.
About 2,500 unpaid tickets are referred to collections agencies every month, which keep about 23 per cent of the monies collected.
Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom is promising to find a better way to force fare evaders to pay up.
"We are going to find a solution to that, so if you haven't paid your ticket…I would encourage the people that are listening to this today, to go out and do the right thing and pay your ticket," Lekstrom said.
Of the 65,000 tickets handed out for fare evasion last year only 7,500 were actually paid, say transit police.
TransLink is not happy about that so it's working with the province to find new ways to encourage fare evaders to clear up those outstanding tickets.
It's looking at things like reducing the fine if you pay early, and community service could be an option for people who can't afford to pay.
Fare gate construction is underway and expected to be up and running by mid-2013.
The B.C. government is investing up to $40 million for the new fare gates and the smartcard system, while the federal government is contributing up to $30 million. TransLink will provide the additional funds – about $100 million.
Lekstrom says regardless of the issue of collecting transit fines, "a performance audit needs to happen to ensure TransLink is running as efficiently and effectively as possible."
He says his department is in discussions with TransLink to improve the way fines are collected, citing the problem as "ongoing."
"People who deliberately evade fares are ripping off the citizens who pay the fares and taxes that support public transportation. The good news is that fare evaders are in the minority."
Watch Lynda Steele's report tonight on how TransLink is trying to curb fare evaders...
Have your say: Do you think TransLink is doing enough to stop the problem?