The Fare Evasion Fiasco – Why Spend $171 million to save $4.38 million Annually?


The real story of course is that Premier Campbell’s political crony, Ken Dobell, acted as a lobbyist for Cubit Industries who are putting in the turnstiles at SkyTrain stations. In what amounts to massive overkill, a $171 million turnstile system with about $15 million annual operating costs, to deter an approximately $4.38 annual loss due to fare evasion. This is shear lunacy. What many people do not realize, a good portion of fare evasion is ‘soft’ ridership or transit users who probably will not use bus or SkyTrain if they have to pay!

This time is is not TransLink’s fault, but the Premier’s, who once again rewards his political friends with taxpayer’s hard earned money by forcing TransLink to install the turnstile system. BC Transit then and now TransLink, have never really understood fare protection and if we had a ‘conductor’ on every train, checking both fares and seeing to the good operation of the metro, would have solved the ‘fare’ evasion problem years ago and without the need of creating the present expensive transit police force.

The combined cost of the Transit Police and the SkyTrain attendants would have easily paid for ‘conductors‘ and the $171 million for turnstiles could have been better spent on improving the transit system or, heavens forbid, reduce the cost of a ticket!

Fare evasion on buses amounts to $4.38m, TransLink driver figures

By Frank Luba, The Province

Fare evasion on TransLink buses amounts to $4.38 million annually, a bus driver estimates.

That’s almost $2 million more than previous studies have found.

The driver, who didn’t want to be identified, made his calculations based on TransLink statistics posted in his garage that indicated there were 146,000 evasions in October 2009. Multiplying 146,000 by an average fare of $2.50 gave him a monthly cheating total of $365,000 or annual losses of $4.38 million.

Each bus now comes equipped with a button on its touch-screen console that drivers are supposed to push when someone fails to pay or upgrade their fare, allowing for better data collection on fare evaders.

When PricewaterhouseCoopers did its fare-evasion study for TransLink in 2007, it said there were more cheaters on buses, 1,871,899, but the loss was only $2,676,816 because the company estimated the average loss per ride was $1.43.

TransLink spokesman Drew Snider confirmed the existence of the fare-evasion button Monday, but didn’t have any information about the evasion figures presented by the operator. He said that nobody from Coast Mountain was available for an interview Monday.

He said the evasion rates needed to be put into “perspective.”

“Buses carry 800,000 people a day,” said Snider. “Yeah, it [146,000 cheaters a month] sounds like a lot until you realize how many people we carry.”

Driver Darryl Van Ochten confirmed he uses the button. He wasn’t the driver who made the calculations.

“Yes, unfortunately I use it a lot,” said Van Ochten, who said he’s seen the number of people cheating on their fares increasing over the two years he’s been driving.

Van Ochten transferred out of Vancouver to Burnaby to avoid the hassles of dealing with cheaters.

In 2008, transit police issued 14,400 tickets, but 11,300 went unpaid for a loss of $1.95 million.

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated fare-evasion loses on SkyTrain at $3.4 million per year.

TransLink had to raise an extra $130 million this year to maintain service at current levels.

TransLink is paying $100 million of the $171-million cost of putting in turnstiles to combat SkyTrain fare evasion.


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13 Responses to “The Fare Evasion Fiasco – Why Spend $171 million to save $4.38 million Annually?”

  1. Joe G Says:

    This is completely outrageous.

  2. Michael Says:

    Not so shocking, both the low loss numbers and the insane amount spent to prevent it.

    There is an attitude in North America when it comes to public transit that people who use it don’t pay their fair share, compared to those car drivers who get taxed to the hilt.

    Of course what that overlooks is that most car taxes don’t even remotely cover the cost associated with driving a car, but it plays better to the public as cars are still a status symbol while riding public transit is considered something only poor people do.

    As for Translink and the BC Government? Penny Wise, Pound Foolish.

  3. mezzanine Says:

    Don’t forget that faregates combined with smart cards will allow more detailed analysis of ridership and what transfers passengers make. They can help make route adjustments, plan network development and provide ridership and performance indicators.

    Click to access CIRRELT-2009-46.pdf

    “$171 million for turnstiles could have been better spent on improving the transit system”

    IMO, they will be improving the system with smartcards/faregates.

    Zweisystem replies: For our rather small and financially strapped transit system, I think $171 million could have been better spent and I think, for once, TransLink will agree with me. The only reason for farecards and turnstiles, I think, is to privatize the transit system, only then, will smart cards and turnstiles be useful.

  4. David Says:

    What’s even more outrageous is that Shirley Bond has said she wants to see fare gates on all the buses. Sounds like my property taxes are in for another big hike soon.

    I have my doubts about the value of smart card usage data if it’s only coming from SkyTrain because it says nothing about where passengers originate from or where they ultimately end up. Only when there are smart card readers aboard all the buses will there be much useful data.

    I’m quite sure complete passenger tracking will show people going out of their way to ride the metro lines. That will likely be used as ammunition for more metro lines. The spin will be that people clearly go out of their way to reach SkyTrain so SkyTrain must be a strong attraction.

    There are three things wrong with that interpretation, of course, but we won’t hear any of them from official sources.

    1. Anyone going out of their way is making an inefficient journey and would be better served by an alternative like a direct bus.

    2. Coast Mountain bus routes outside Vancouver are designed first and foremost to feed the metro so the path taken by most passengers is imposed upon them by the system.

    3. It’s hard to imagine anything less attractive on a rainy Vancouver day than a crowded bus on a bumpy street.

    For many metro passengers the service didn’t attract us. We either had to transfer to the train because there was no direct bus or the direct bus was so unpleasant that we were forced to seek alternatives.

  5. Joe G Says:

    Regarding Shirley Bond and fare gates on buses, did you by chance get that news from

    If so, you might want to check the date of the posting (April 1) and the link……..

    Happy April!

  6. News Roundup: Mainly Publicola - Seattle Transit Blog Says:

    […] enforcement can cost more than fare […]

  7. Zef Wagner Says:

    Here in Seattle the new light rail system does not use turnstiles for exactly this reason: that it costs more to enforce fares that way than the system would get from those fares. Instead they use random inspections to see if people have tickets or passes. Bottom line is, an “honor system” of this sort is much better financially and drives more ridership than trying to spend tons of money to enforce fares.

    Zweisystem replies: since 1980, fare protection was done by random ticket inspection; what we see today is crass BC pork-barrel politics in action.

  8. Paul Says:

    Smart Cards will be useful if it means the end of a zone based fare system and we finally move to a distant based fare system. Also it could allow a cheaper cost per km in places like SoF vs in Vancouver. Basically thus with much higher frequent bus service will pay more than those with far less frequent bus service.

    Zweisystem replies: I doubt very much that the zonal fare system will be abandoned, rather the Oyster cards will just drive up the cost of transit. What is needed is a complete overhaul of the fare system, but I doubt that will happen either. A prediction can be made that the transit system, with the Oyster card will become less user friendly and deter ridership.

    Now, if we privatize transit and operate a Skytrain – RAV – Trolleybus – City and suburban buses into several competing companies, will the worth of the Oyster card be truly tested.

  9. Paul Says:

    You are right that even if the smart card came along. We may still have the zone based fare system. Nobody can predict the future. I can only hope that the fare system is changed.

    As for privatizing transit. If by that you mean making a profit privatization. I would be against it completely.

    Zweisystem replies: I believe this is the long term plan for Translink, by the government. We may even see private buses from south of the Fraser compete with Translink and RAV!

  10. Anonymous Says:

    sorry old chum, rav line is too successful, no lame south of fraser bus could ever complete

    Zweisystem relies: Does RAV carry 400,000 passengers a day?……No? Has RAV taken 200,000 car trips off the road as promised by the Premier?……No Have transit authorities from elsewhere come and marveled at RAV?…..No? I believe your observation is a wee bit premature.

  11. Norm Farrell Says:

    The $171 million doesn’t even include the huge amounts that BC politicians and their hangers-on have spent going to places like Paris, London, New York, Tokyo to “study” the mass transit systems elsewhere in the world. I recall a large NDP delegation started that ball rolling more than 10 years ago.

    Zweisystem replies: With one exception, no political ‘fam’ trip to look at transit, ever looked at light-rail! Always metro was on the agenda. A few years ago, Tri-City mayors went to look at guided bus & GLT (all BRT) and came back raving about LRT for the Evergreen Line. Since 1980, transit planning in the region has suffered from mass professional misconduct!

  12. Uran Idiot Says:

    Wow, so it must be true because some mook on teh Internets said so. Even funnier is that the original article makes it clear that one bus driver pulled some number out of his ass and the Province newspaper – being what it is: pointless garbage – printed it for the masses to treat as gospel.

    If you’re going to try and find fault with the Provincial government, please try to put a little effort into it and actually come up with fact and not hearsay (or worse: someone else’s hearsay). All it does is make you look like those witless NDPers.

    Zweisystem replies: It seems happy hour hit the PAB a bit early this morning and you don’t get much for $6 an hour! Just for your information, even TransLink agrees fare evasion on SkyTrain is minimal and less than the $15 million annual operating cost of the turnstile/fare gate system.

  13. Pretty Poor Arguement Says:

    “The driver, who didn’t want to be identified, made his calculations based on TransLink statistics posted in his garage that indicated there were 146,000 evasions in October 2009. Multiplying 146,000 by an average fare of $2.50 gave him a monthly cheating total of $365,000 or annual losses of $4.38 million.”

    wow. The arguement against is based on a shoot from the hip, bus drivers statistical calculations…for data he recieved from his garage. the arguement also assumes that everyone who doesn’t pay a fare gets caught, but i would say that “soft ridership” evaders probably get caught 1 for every 25 fare evasions. Of course that is just a complete estimate on my part but I ride the train every day and get checked by transit authorities once every 40 rides on average. One in 40.

    Translink is losing A LOT more than $5 million per year. That I am absolutely sure.

    Zweisystem replies: Until TransLink has independent annual or biannual audits of its operation, the public will never know the truth. People with U-Passes, annual. monthly or day passes, do not have to show them, unless asked for, on the metro system. I think much of the claimed fare evaders actually have valid fares.

    Soft ridership are fare evaders who will not use transit if forced to pay. It is my belief that TransLink wants soft fare evaders to boost ridership numbers.

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