From the Vancouver Province – Transit must derail cheats: Politicos

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Here we go again department. The hoary old turnstile debate is again before us and leading the charge is Richmond council, wonderful. The current council in Richmond know little, if anything, about transit and I would suspect that the ‘turnstile issue’ is nothing but a propaganda ploy to hide the real problems with our light-metro system. I wonder if politicos in Richmond truly understand the costs involved with an automatic light metro, let alone understand the nuances of fare evasion and turnstiles.

The basic question for turnstiles is this: a) The annual cost of fare evasion on a transit line; b) The annual cost of operating a turnstile/fare-gate system; and subtract (a-b) and if the answer (c) is in negative territory, it is not cost effective to install turnstiles.

Everyone wants a scapegoat to point fingers at for TransLink’s current financial woes, while at the same time ignoring the real reason: TransLink operates three metro lines on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain them, the resulting money to subsidize the metro is taken from the buses. Simple; Prendergast knew that and it is part of the reason why he left, as there was no future for TransLink until senior governments admitted that because they forced much more expensive light-metro on the region, they must ante up more subsidies to support the expensive transit mode.

Adding turnstiles (which are somewhat ineffective in preventing fare evasion) will only add to the financial burden of SkyTrain.

A message to Richmond Council: “Stop whining about fare hikes – you got your metro, now pay for it!”

Transit must derail cheats: Politicos

Richmond councilors rip TransLink’s proposed fare hikes when many escape paying

By Kent Spencer, The Provinc eNovember 25, 2009

TransLink should scrap its planned fare hikes until it does something about the cheats ripping off the system for millions of dollars, say two Richmond councillors.

“Those that pay their fair share shouldn’t have to pay more until fare cheats are forced to pay themselves,” Coun. Derek Dang said Tuesday. “We are calling on TransLink to install fare gates on mass transit lines.”

A recent TransLink report estimates total fares evaded across the system between $5.3 million and $9.5 million annually.

The regional transportation body wants a 10-per-cent fare increase next year and a three-cent-per-litre hike to the gas tax as well.

Richmond Coun. Bill McNulty said TransLink “has got to deal with this issue.”

“I won’t say it’s out of hand, but it’s getting to that point. It’s a significant amount of money. It also sets a tone,” said McNulty.

SkyTrain user Marcel Potter said he is “sick and tired” of politicians “bellyaching” about a lack of funds.

“It’s stupid talk when so much could be paid by installing turnstiles,” said Potter. “One TransLink official said he honestly thinks the system works and the majority of users can be trusted. What cloud is he on?”

Violators don’t even pay when they’re caught. Last week, The Province revealed that transit cops checked 374,000 people and handed out 11,500 tickets for fare evasion worth $173 each this year.

Through the end of June, just 1,423 of 9,909 tickets were paid — leaving almost $1.2 million in outstanding fines.

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said fare gates have never been profit-making ventures in the past.

“There is no economic argument to go with fare gates. They cost more than you can ever get back,” he said.

What’s more, Hardie said, money collected from fare evasions could never offset the $130-million shortfall TransLink faces next year.

He said the Richmond councillors’ argument “sounds fetching, but it’s a suggestion which will not work. We need more money to sustain the system than we could ever hope to gain by fare evasion,” he said.

Meanwhile, the whole question of turnstiles will soon be turned on its head with the aid of senior governments and a smart-card system that Hardie said will finally make turnstiles economically viable.

B.C. Transportation Minister Shirley Bond said that turnstiles are on the way in Metro Vancouver, perhaps as early as next summer.

The province has put up $40 million, the feds $30 million and TransLink will put up $30 million to install turnstiles and a smart-card system.

Retrofitting Expo line stations to accommodate turnstiles will cost even more money, but the brand new Canada Line was designed with turnstiles in mind.

“It’s an important way to improve the transit system,” said Bond. “The designs are well under way. All of us are frustrated by fare evasion.”

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One Response to “From the Vancouver Province – Transit must derail cheats: Politicos”

  1. David Says:

    This is all about perception and not reality. TransLink even brought in auditors to show that fare evasion is low by international standards, but the media and Provincial Government refuse to accept those results.

    A background level of 2% fare evasion must be assumed in every system in every city of the world. There is a group of people who simply will not pay, either because they’re trying to “screw the system” or because they consider it a game.

    Here in Vancouver there’s another 1-3% who are playing the odds. Those people might pay if evasion was more difficult, but they represent a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of installing and maintaining fare gates.

    The media also hypes fare gates as a safety issue when it has been proven elsewhere that gates do nothing to reduce crime and our transit system is already quite safe. There have been a few high profile assaults, but the number of assaults that occur off transit property, away from the lights, cameras, and witnesses, is exponentially higher.

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