Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for August 3rd, 2007

Peter Ladner pushes transfer extension

with 5 comments

Straight Talk | Vancouver

[quoting Ladner] They have some sort of stamp they put on to all those machines saying this ticket is good until whenever, and they have to reprint all their tickets [to accommodate a change in times]

Actually that is the easy bit. I suspect that Ladner doesn’t ride the bus much – or he would have noticed that magnetic stripe on the back of the ticket/transfer. The Electronic Ticketing System (ETS)  is supplied by Cubic who not only supply the machines but also the software. And like every other supplier in the transit industry, the software is proprietary. So the fare box cannot talk to the radio system (data is uploaded to the server when the bus gets back to the garage – oops “operating centre” – and is “probed”) or even the destination display. More importantly to change the software – the look up tables the system uses to determine fares and validity – you have to bring back Cubic. Who, having no competition, can pretty much dictate terms. They own the source code.

This would of course have been the case no matter what system had been installed. Vancouver is unusual in North America in having both three zones and peak and off peak fares. So the farebox has to know not only the time of day and day of the week but also where it is in terms of zone boundaries – and a few bus stops are in two zones at the same time.

Actually I think the $0.5m is a bargain – because when this idea was first looked at some years ago the price was a neat round $1m. I think that may reflect the age of the system, as Cubic has to be wary of the upcoming decision to update the system to take smart cards. You can add a smart card reader to the existing farebox, but if the transit system is also looking at modernising fare collection it could feasibly consider replacement, if the upgrade to the software is too costly.

And anyway, the 90 minute transfer only applies to cash fares. If you have a pass then you have the freedom of the zones paid for all the time. For that reason a day pass is priced at two, 3 zone tickets. And the system has been trying to get people to invest in passes for a long time. Then it works like the car keys. You have already paid for it, so why not use it.  And on the Vancouver system, transfers are not directional. So adding thirty minutes to a one zone ride increases the number of people who will be able to use it for a “free” return trip. This is in practice restricted to the City of Vancouver and a few other places that have regular, frequent services all day and proximate origins and destinations. If you live in Langley there are not many places you can get to and back on a bus within two hours. On the other hand it will benefit the few longer distance riders who find their transfer expiring before they can complete their journey – White Rock to Lion’s Bay was always the example that was quoted but Maple Ridge to the Tsawassen Ferry would also apply. Over two hours on a bus? Some people have iron constitutions I suppose.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 3, 2007 at 9:18 am

Posted in Economics, transit