Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for August 13th, 2012

Faregate: an event I won’t be attending

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I have just been sent an invitation by Translink to an event this afternoon

Date: Monday, August 13, 2012

Time: 2:30 p.m.

Place: Marine Drive SkyTrain Station (Canada Line), Westside inbound concourse level
Marine Drive at Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC

What: Wai Young, Member of Parliament for Vancouver South, together with the Honourable Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and Member of the Legislative Assembly for Peace River South, and Doug Kelsey, chief operating officer TransLink, will be attending an event to mark the installation of the first faregate at TransLink facilities around Metro Vancouver.

Please note: The faregate will be installed but it won’t be operational until 2013, when all the faregates are installed and ready.

Over the weekend Frank Luba was actually celebrating his (obviously) earlier invite on twitter

It’s the beginning of the end for transit cheats as first faregate is installed Monday at Marine Drive #SkyTrain station on #CanadaLine!

So of course I and others had to correct him. Faregates will not end fare evasion – they will just change the way its done. Every system – with or without gates – has fare evaders. The systems that have always had gates since day one also have dedicated teams trying to reduce fare evasion. I have watched their operations in London, Paris, New York – and indeed some of those systems are quite open about the cost benefit ratio of their operations against evaders. Unlike BC. First of all isn’t it a bit strange for the provincial and the federal politicians to be front and centre at an event like this? If transit were adequately funded in the the first place perhaps quite so much attention would not be focussed on the relatively small sums involved. And one thing that you can be sure of is that no-one is going to be talking about how much this system is going to cost to operate. Already we know that its capital cost cannot be recovered simply from everyone paying the correct fare – even if the system could actually deliver on that (it can’t, of course). But that also ignores how much it is going to cost to  shift operational personnel from their current duties to looking after the fare gates and ensuring that people who cannot get through them – legitimately – can be reasonably accommodated.

We need a lot of money invested in transit in this region – even if we are going to stand still at current mode share let alone the once much touted but now essentially forgotten imperative to increase it. Faregates do nothing to get more people onto transit. The assertion that they will make the system safer is simply baseless. There is, unfortunately, as much or more crime on gated systems. Just because there are crowds of people  and some criminals see that as a more efficient way to channel their own efforts.  Effective policing will continue to be important: just because the gates will check the tickets does not mean that security can be lowered.  If they do improve the perception of safety that will quickly change with the first high publicity incidents.

I see no reason to be manipulated by the PR system. This is simply two unpopular governments trying to get themselves in front of the cameras doing something that will be, briefly, popular. Unfortunately, what the majority want, in this case, is not going to be delivered. I wonder what the next magic bullet will look like.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 13, 2012 at 10:34 am