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


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BC Government Press Release

VANCOUVER – The security of B.C. commuters will be enhanced thanks to a $100-million priority project that the governments of Canada, British Columbia and TransLink have identified today.

This project involves implementing controlled access gates (Faregates) and electronic fare cards (Smartcards) on the Lower Mainland’s transit system, Premier Gordon Campbell, Russ Hiebert, MP for South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale and TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast announced today.Construction of the Faregates-Smartcards Project is expected to begin in the spring of 2010.

There must be an election coming. As usual the rules of propaganda apply. Lie big, lie often and sooner or later it will be accepted as truth.

The investment of $100m in out transit system is welcome – and Smartcards  may or may not make travel easier. It all depends on the way they are implemented and the the tariff they use. But one thing I will predict with certainty, “Faregates” will not make transit any safer.  There are a lot of things that our transit system needs – and gates – despite popular opinion – are simply not going to anything worthwhile. They will raise costs, make transit use more difficult and give rise to even more disputes with staff. They will impact on people with disabilities, people with small children, bulky baggage and bicycles. And fare evasion will continue – just in different ways.

Above all the sort of people who make you feel unsafe on transit will not disappear. Cities like New York and Paris have always had gates – and always had problems with crime. That is because places with crowds of people are attractive to certain types of crime – as with any other enterprise. There are more people so there are more potential victims. And the need to have a farecard will deter none of the hardened types. Young women walking home from bus stops and SkyTrain stations will be no safer. Young men will still get into confrontations with each other, especially when there are crowds fuelled with alcohol and “team spirit”. Con men will still stop you with plausible hard luck stories.

“a simpler and more convenient way to access the system”

Are you kidding? What could be simpler and more convenient than the present barrier free access?

I am sorry, but if faregates make you feel safer, you have been deluded.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 9, 2009 at 11:45 am

Posted in transit

9 Responses

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  1. I never thought I’d leave a city because I am disgusted by its politics, but I am getting very close to leaving Metro Vancouver now.

    This whole region is moving in the wrong direction, its politicians lie blatantly at every chance they get, they enrich their friends at the expense of real advances in sustainability and livability, and things don’t look to be improving any time soon. Poor decisions about transportation in the past have resulted in a looming tax increase that is the direct result of political interference in the planning process and the absurd idea that we have nothing to learn from other parts of the world.

    And still people believe the politicians’ lies. It makes me SICK.



    April 9, 2009 at 12:01 pm

  2. If you read the news release Pendergast is quoted as saying that the faregates will increase the public’s perception of safety and reduced fare evasion. $100 million is a lot of money to achieve perception. And no comment on increased operating costs or the need for higher property taxes and fares as a result. Will this mean another payment to Canada Line consortium?

    If it’s a matter of perception rather than actually improving transit, couldn’t we just tint the windows rose and pipe in some classical music for a few dollars less?


    April 9, 2009 at 12:39 pm

  3. Transit gates don’t make it more difficult for people with wheelchairs, walker, baby buggies,luggages and bikes to enter/exit as gates (they swing out of the way) are more practical than the old fashioned turnstiles. In systems with gates there are also special wider gates near the attendant booth. This will give an actual jobs to all the staff I see now spending most of their time talking to one another as there aren’t enough people to ask them questions. Same with the transit police that will likely spend less time in the trains and more at the stations. I do agree that it will not prevent fare evasion at all as I have seen young guys jumping over the gates or getting in right behind a regular user in London and Paris and ..pretty much every time I have been there.

    Red frog

    April 9, 2009 at 12:41 pm

  4. Also remember Ken Dobel, the Premier’s good friend was lobbying for Cubit Industries and what Liberal lobbyist’s want, they get!

    I posed this question of fare gates to the LRTA’s web site a year ago and the answers I received were interesting.

    Fare gates/turnstiles do not make subways.metro systems safer. More metro systems are turning to proof of payment systems, getting rid of turnstiles due to the higher annual maintenance costs. Amsterdam installed turnstiles to their metro system because of wholesale fare evasion (as high as 50%), as well they reintroduced conductors to their trams.

    London, of course, always has fare gates turnstiles, which was throw back to when the railways, tube and underground were separate companies and retained because of different fare structures inherited from private ownership.

    LRT doesn’t have turnstiles and TransLink must admit that SkyTrain and RAV are indeed metro systems, metro systems that do not have the ridership to sustain them.

    I think this will deter more people from taking transit as they are making it more complicated. We must remember, with all the hype and hoopla about road congestion, except for peak hours, getting around the lower mainland and Vancouver is quite easy by car.

    What I see is a $10.00 3-zone ticket coming in the near future.

    $100 million could buy about 150 new articulated buses or a Vancouver to Chilliwack demonstration Interurban, with a 2 hour service.

    D. M. Johnston

    April 9, 2009 at 2:55 pm

  5. Deluded, indeed. What a disappointment, but an entirely expected one that Translink continues its push for a command and control relationship with riders.

    Stephen, I think you put your finger on it that this is electioneering propaganda, designed to simultaneously make the public feel unsafe and yet protected by the ever-arriving, ever-around-the-corner designs of government. If they’re really sharp, they can capitalize on the tragedy in Pacific Spirit Park and with hundreds of millions for fencing, secure gates and CCTV coverage through city green spaces. It’ll be just as effective.


    April 9, 2009 at 5:09 pm

  6. Listening to the various news reports this evening, it seems TransLink loses about $6 million in fare evasion (probably less if we factor in ‘soft’ ridership), yet the annual cost to operate the fare/card system will be about $20 million annually.

    From what I can see we are spending $14 million more a year to catch fare cheats. The taxpayer is being robbed!

    D. M. Johnston

    April 9, 2009 at 9:31 pm

  7. It is interesting to note that in quite a few towns unemployed people, those on welfare, low income families with many kids etc. get transit smart cards at no cost or at a big discount (besides the usual students, seniors and handicapped). This doesn’t make sense financially but as a CARING society it most certainly does (let’s not forget that many proud owners of a condo and a car are but a few pay checks away from welfare). One could say that if pretty much everyone can get a smart card there will be no fare evasions. Berlin fare system has the most unusual features: one adult with a day pass, weekly pass etc. can take on the transit–free of charge–3 kids, a suitcase, a pram and a dog! this is after 8 pm and all day long on weekends. I can just visualize one frazzled looking person trying to cope with that menagerie! and there is more: “a reduced fare ticket is required for EACH additional dog”.

    Red frog

    April 10, 2009 at 12:00 pm

  8. I totally agree with you here stephen. Security is not a valid argument in favour of faregates. The main reasoning here is perception, some people think there are masses of fare evaders, but TransLink hasn’t shown any evidence that this will do anything but cost us taxpayer money. We’re slowing the queue and not even getting good value for money, which is really unfortunate.


    April 12, 2009 at 3:09 pm

  9. The newspaper stories said that the Federal and Provincial money is what tipped the scales – doubt you would have seen the project without that infusion of cash.

    I think it’s a case of damned if you do (by cost conscious taxpayers) and damned if you don’t (by the general fear-mongering public). At least it’ll get rid the age old “losing money on fare evasion” debate.

    Ron C.

    April 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm

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