Stephen Rees's blog

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

Faregate: an event I won’t be attending

with 16 comments

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

16 Responses

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    According to Jarvis, Smartcards and smartgates will result in a net gain of cash over 15 years. I just wonder why smartcards MUST come alongside Faregates. Why is it not possible to just put tappable electronic sensors at stations rather than using tappable electronic gates. Would be at least 1/2 the cost.


    August 13, 2012 at 1:07 pm

  2. Fare gates don’t improve security and if their ongoing costs are too high, will actually lower security because money that could be spent on security people will instead go to machine maintenance people.

    Changes in the amount of money collected, based on the experience of other cities, will be negligible. The new system amounts to little more than a change in the rules of the game. Besides, the trains represent only a fraction of the transit system and there is zero enforcement on the buses. A harsh crackdown on the trains will only move certain passengers around.

    There is a certain level of evasion that’s actually healthy for society. I want people unfit to drive to have a safe ride home even if they can’t find their wallet. I want the poor welcomed aboard if it keeps them out of a life of crime.

    Does anyone really want a zero tolerance policy that sees a man pay a fare at the gate and then steal your wallet so he can pay the fare tomorrow?

    The public has been brainwashed into believing that all benefits and costs are those found in financial statements. We need to remember that public services need money for indirect and non-monetary benefits.

    David Walker

    August 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm

  3. Yeah, the sad part of the story is that the whole project is a political response to media-driven public outcry over fare cheats.

    Recall that TransLink had staff reports that said that faregates were not economically justifiable – at least not until the Province and Feds came up with the capital costs (removing that expense from the TransLink side of the ledger).

    Next up will be the [media-driven] public outcry over the dealys and line-ups to get through the faregates once they are in operation.


    August 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm

  4. I don’t really think that Fare gates will do anything but seeing how they will likely work alongside smart cards in the near future I can’t get too upset about them either. At least it looks like the changes to ticket enforcement will go through and that should help evasion….at least a little.


    August 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm

  5. Here is a quote from Frank Luba’s piece in the Province. I have a feeling that the tweets that he got yesterday must have prompted some extra research

    “The big concern is whether the extra revenue will pay for the cost of the gates’ upkeep.

    TransLink did audits in 2004 and 2008 that showed annual losses to fare evasion on the rapid transit system were between $5 million and $9 million. But another TransLink report from 2005 showed that yearly operations and installation costs for the system amortized over 20 years would be $30 million annually.

    And eventually, the entire system would have to be replaced.

    Kelsey was optimistic about the benefits of the system.

    “We anticipate we’ll save somewhere between $7 million and $10 million a year,” he said.

    “It’s really about public trust. We’re optimistic this will pay for itself.”

    Because of design issues, two of the busiest stations on the line — Metrotown in Burnaby and Main Street in Vancouver — will not have the fare gates when the system is completed next year. Those two stations will require extensive renovations first.”

    Stephen Rees

    August 13, 2012 at 5:26 pm

  6. Three gates for Brentwood Town Centre? That’s going to be…. (writer’s block looking for the right word)


    August 13, 2012 at 11:26 pm

  7. […] event more information is forthcoming about fare evasion – and most of the points I made in yesterday’s blog post are conceded. TransLink’s $171-million program to install faregates at SkyTrain stations and the […]

  8. I don’t know if you mentioned this already, but over the longer term, the biggest part of the revenue improvement potential in this is not the faregates themselves, but the introduction of the compass passes. I think that the faregates are just an excuse to introduce the passes.

    These electronic systems will enable the transit system to convert to a distance-based and time-of-day based fare system. Fares may go down for some trips, and up for others. It may look at first like a wash (remember the arguments put forward and the time the HST was introduced), but even if average fares increase only a bit (say 5%), that is $19 million per year in the first year; more than the projected revenues captured from fare evasion.

    Adam Fitch

    August 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm

  9. See today’s post. The issue of the smart card has been used more to confuse the faregate debate than get real discussion. It is also going to become an issue since “tap in – tap out” will be possible – allowing for fare by distance instead of fare zones. This will, of course, hit hardest those who have moved out to find cheaper housing but need to commute greater distances as a result. Smart cards could have been introduced years ago as the current electronic system was designed to be adaptable for them from the outset. But as your comment neatly illustrates it will be very useful for deflecting criticism of the gate program.

    Stephen Rees

    August 14, 2012 at 12:20 pm

  10. In San Diego, the home of Translink’s faregate and RFID Farecard contractor Cubic, there are no fargates or turnstiles. Just the RFID reader “stanchions” one will see at WCE stations. The marketing name in San Diego? “Compass”!
    Oh, and then there is this from Cubic’s San Francisco contract:

    (Can I also mention the word “Trapwire”?

    Erik Griswold

    August 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm

  11. Caution: my following comment is socially and politically unacceptable and my opinions should not be tolerated. Please execute me for being a terrible citizen.

    Can there be some intangible benefits to having the fare gates? People probably perceive an improvement in the quality of Skytrain when there is a noticeable reduction of people who appear dangerous. I know many of those fine folks of the city dealing with addictions or other problems and haven’t showered in days actually wouldn’t hurt a fly and are generally nice people, but the public at large may perceive not having to sit beside so many of these guys as an improvement. Personally, I perceive safety to be already acceptable on the Skytrain system, but then I’m an irresponsible fearless male between the age of 20 and 25. Other demographics may appreciate appreciate barring some groups of users from the system.

    And if that can cause increased overall ridership, that’s a benefit that should probably be considered, maybe.

    Perhaps over the long run, we would actually be able to reduce security staff per passenger because fare gates would make it easier to identify who is cheating. Perhaps it would even be possible to follow a fare evader by camera and have the transit police meet him/her where convenient.

    But I guess all this is speculation- we’ll might be able quantify the intangibles next year, although the data will be muddied with the concurrent smart-card implementation.

    Chris M

    August 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

  12. Has there not been any public outcry over the Orwellian Compass cards, and the fact that now exiting the bus means enduring a bottleneck?! I am outraged! Does anyone know if there is a forum somewhere to protest this?

    D. Zemira Bourienne

    September 11, 2012 at 9:56 am

  13. Zemira. I would not get too exercised about the “Orwellian” aspects of the Compass system. Every time you use a cel phone, a wifi connection, an internet connection, a credit or debit card, there is the potential for Big Brother to get involved.

    I believe that there are legal structures in place to safeguard this data. Obviously you don’t. I guess it is time to drop out of the modern world.

    Adam Fitch

    September 11, 2012 at 12:44 pm

  14. No matter what change is made, some people will be outraged, disgusted or appalled. As for “enduring a bottleneck”, it hasn’t been a noticeable problem other places I’ve been with smart card payment system. In fact, any delays in exiting have been outweighed by reductions in boarding times. I definitely welcome the smart card system, although it was politically packaged with the fare-gates, which I only moderately support.

    Chris M

    September 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm

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