The (often lame) excuses of fare evaders
Published Wednesday, April 4, 2012 10:58AM PDT
With the revelation that thousands of TransLink fare evasion tickets are going unpaid, consumer reporter Lynda Steele spent the day with transit police to find out why people are cheating the system.
Transit police do millions of fare checks each year on SkyTrain and Canada Line, and Const. Ken Morrison said they hear a whole lot of excuses about why commuters don't have tickets.
"'I forgot – I lost my wallet.' I hear ‘I lost my wallet' a lot," he told CTV's Steele on Your Side.
While we were out with transit police, one man claimed he had no idea where the ticket machines were located.
"I didn't know," the heavily accented man protested, shortly after admitting he can read English.
One female traveller didn't validate her fare saver coupon. She hoped to be let off with a warning instead of getting a full fine.
"I didn't know any better, honestly," she said.
One Kamloops commuter said he was confused about where he was, and was only trying to cut through the platform area to get somewhere else.
He was shocked about the $173 fine he was faced with.
"That's not good. No, definitely not," he said.
Another man claimed not to understand the English language, but had a Saskatchewan driver's licence.
Our cameras also captured many so-called runners: people who come down the escalator and hightail it back upstairs once they see transit police.
Unfortunately, they're already past the "fare paid zone" by the time they come downstairs, and require a paid fare.
Transit police say many of those fare evaders are wanted for other crimes. One in six has outstanding warrants, said Transit Police Chief Neil Dubord.
"So we're finding that the fare evasion people that we're giving tickets to are also responsible for disorder and crimes on our system," said Dubord.
Last month, NDP Leader Adrian Dix was given a warning after being unable to provide a ticket during a fare check at Granville Station. The MLA said he bought a day pass, but had misplaced it.
Whatever your excuse for not paying to ride, TransLink says fare evaders are costing the system $18 million a year.
Company Chief Operating Officer Doug Kelsey admits it's a real problem.
"Eighteen million dollars is a lot of money and I don't want to hide behind that. It's a concern and we're dealing with that."
With an increased focus on fare evasion, 65,000 people were ticketed last year -- up from 40,000 in 2010.
While the vast majority of fare evasion tickets are going unpaid, there's no mechanism in place to force people to pay, so thousands just toss their tickets and continue to ride for free.
Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom said last week he had no idea that TransLink was having trouble getting people to pay their unpaid tickets.
Lekstrom is now promising to find a way to force fare evaders to pay.
Watch CTV News tonight as Lynda Steele busts fare evaders with the police. And come back tomorrow to find out the changes that are underway to fix the transit system…
Have your say: Have you ever taken transit without paying the fare?