TransLink nixed $9M solution for double-charging problem
TransLink considered a second, much cheaper solution to avoid charging some users twice but decided to let the problem stand, CTV News has learned.
The transit authority previously acknowledged just one fix for $25 million, which would prevent riders from paying twice when they buy bus fares with cash then transfer to a SkyTrain, Canada Line or SeaBus.
COO Doug Kelsey confirmed Thursday there’s an alternative solution available for just $9 million, but said TransLink determined the price tag was still too steep to avoid inconveniencing the 6,000 people it estimates could be impacted daily.
“Even when you look at $9 million over 6,000 transactions, when you in fact have a solution – I’m a taxpayer too. That’s not in the taxpayers’ interest,” he said.
The double-charging problem will only affect riders who don’t pick up the new Compass farecards, which users will scan while entering and exiting SkyTrain stations.
The $25 million solution floated by TransLink would force it to upgrade some 3,800 bus fareboxes to stop distributing paper tickets.
Kelsey said the cheaper solution would only require TransLink to upgrade the machines at the 47 SkyTrain and Canada Line stations to recognize paper transfers.
He said the agency nixed the idea because it didn't want to spend $9 million more on the upgrade, which already cost $180 million.
But NDP MLA Shane Simpson said the transit system has a serious problem that can't be solved by asking people to double pay.
"It's not on for them to simply say it will cost $25 million and we are going to throw up our hands and quit," he said.
Simpson said it’s likely the poor, who have less access to credit cards, smart phones, and computers, who are likely to be double billed, and they are least likely to be able to pay.
Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said Metro Vancouverites deserve a fully functioning system for $180 million, and it's not worth cutting corners.
Bateman says he is in favour of the $9 million solution.
"That to me seems logical, doesn't seem to be that difficult, but TransLink always picks the most irritating solution, he said.
TransLink stands to gain revenue from any double payment. If each of the estimated 6,000 daily customers impacted by the change double-paid a one-zone fare once a day, the utility would see about $6 million more each year.
TransLink insists it is not a cash grab, but an attempt to save money. Kelsey said that the problem could be solved if everyone got a Compass card. It's free with a $6 deposit and entitles the user to 14 per cent off the cost of the trip.
However bus riders at Burrard Station said they could all find themselves in a situation where they would forget the card and have to pay cash, and didn't want to be double billed.
"$9 million. Yes, why not spend that and make people happy?" said one rider.