Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for July 23rd, 2008

Translink fare evasion dropping

with 8 comments

Just two days ago I was writing on this topic and today the CBC call and want my reaction to their story

PricewaterhouseCoopers staff accompanied TransLink’s fare inspection officers on the September 2007 fare audit of the SkyTrain, SeaBus, bus and West Coast Express to conduct the recent study.

In other words all the accountants did was verify what Translink staff have been doing. And they did not “take into account the number of people who might be reusing tickets obtained from other riders or illegal ticket resellers outside transit stations, or the illegal sale of cut-rate tickets”. So what we have an estimate of is the number of people who travel without any ticket – or who have a ticket that is not valid in the zone they are found in.

The point being , of course, the people like Kevin Falcon and Malcolm Brodie grossly exaggerate the amount of fare evasion, and then make the leap from that to “feeling safe on the transit system”.

The only way to calculate fare evasion reliably is to have a good data on travel. And for as long as I have been around Vancouver, that has not been the case. In fact ridership data was always calculated from the revenue based on a mythical “average fare”. For if you don’t actually know how many riders you have, or where and when they travel, this “average” is at best guesswork. Other cities have much more thorough travel surveys and passenger counts. Since I left, Translink has been getting automatic counters for some buses, and they may even have decided to get a bit more ambitious about travel surveys – though if they have they have been very quiet about it. And if we are still using a sample size of 5,000 individuals for the (five year interval) trip diary survey, then I have to say that I  still have very little confidence in the data.

If you casually stop by a SkyTrain station you will see very few people buying a ticket from a machine. That is because most people have either transferred from a bus – so they have a transfer – or they have a monthly pass, which has been selling better in recent years due to various employer incentive schemes. And UPass, of course.

AND just to hammer the point home, the sort of people who make passengers fearful on SkyTrain are not the same as the people who think they are very smart and have figured out ways to beat the system.

Every system has some evasion, and none are very open about talking about it. Becuase you do not want to publicise how fare evasion is done OR how easy it is to get away with it. Becuase the real problem in BC is that our court system is so jammed up even if you do get caught without a ticket you almost certainly will not face any penalty. THAT is the problem. And the way to deal with that is to introduce a penalty fare – not a fine.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 23, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Transportation