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Choosing the happy city

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There is a storify based on the #happycity hashtag,which now features many more pictures thanks to the recent Twitter upgrade

At SFU Woodward’s on Wednesday March 26, 2014 the third in the Translink series.

Choosing the Happy City
Charles Montgomery

There were many empty seats even though SFU had “oversold”. If you reserve a seat at one of these events and then find you cannot attend, please remove your reservation as soon as you can. There were people who would have liked to be there. But at least there was also a live stream and the event will be added to the Youtube site in due course.

The introduction was made by one of Fraser Health’s public health officers. Happiness is fundamental to health. We need a system that promotes physical activity. Urban form and transportation determine how people choose to move around, and also affordability of housing and access to green space. People who live in the suburbs of Vancouver walk more than other places. We must improve and maintain choices especially for non urban places. She made the point that some policies which seek to deter car use can adversely affect the mobility of people who live in places where there is no other choice but to drive for many trip purposes. There is an inequity in adopting such deterrents before there are adequate choices fro everyone.

Charles Montgomery started his presentation with two “exercises” – the first to identify  Translink staff “the institution we love to hate”. He invited audience members to hug a member of Translink staff if they were near them. The second related to two images of dorms at Harvard University. One was a traditional building, the other a somewhat forbidding modern block. Most people indicated they preferred the traditional building, as did newly arrived students. But a study showed that there was no difference in the happiness of the students after three years. Many factors determine happiness not just the design of the buildings but social environment within them is important.

The idea of idea of increasing happiness is not new. Early economists called it maximizing utility. However often  “we get it wrong.I think pursuit of happiness is a good thing. We can measure it. … More pleasure than pain, healthy, in control, meaning, security but strong social connection underlies all of these. Both the GDP and creativity in a city depends on opportunities for social interaction. He showed a three dimensional graph of space time prisms, which showed the people who are more dispersed find it harder to connect. They spend much less time in the spaces and times when they can meet others. The edge of the urban agglomerations are the least likely to be socially active. If you live in the exurbs you do not have the time, energy or willingness to join things or even vote.

The shortness of the the commute time is the best indicator of satisfaction. “How we move is how we feel”, and even only five minutes of walking or cycling improves mood and regularly moving under our own power also  improves health. Equally driving a nice car on an open road also improves our mood. The trouble is that open roads are rare – and impossible to find at commute times. Driving even a nice car in a congested city is like piloting a fighter jet in terms of the stress experienced. People rate the experience of using transit lowest of all mostly due to the loss of control and that the trips on transit tend to be the longest.

In Greater Vancouver 40% of all trips could be done in 20 minute bike ride. In cities the design of the built environment determines both our behaviour and our bodies. If we build infrastructure for cycling – making it safer – more people will cycle. People will walk 800m to shop in a good urban environment but less than 200m in the typical suburban big box centre. The huge parking lots are a deterrent to walking even short distances.

He cited Larry Frank’s work in Atlanta showing maps of destinations available within a 10 minute walk of home. While there are many in the traditional city centre in the suburbs there are none. It is not surprising then that people who live in the suburbs on average have 10 pounds more in weight

Status interventions

– Equity
Having  low social status is bad for health. When transit viewed as a “hand out for the undeserving” – he used the notorious ads in the Georgia Strait some years ago for a GM car dealer which had a bus with the words “creeps & weirdos” as the destination sign – it is unsurprising that it is difficult to persuade people to change modes. Enrique Penalosa redesigned the city of Bogota and it was all about equity. He cancelled a new freeway but built the Transmilenio BRT based on the Curitiba example.

 – Freedom
This is represented by our having mastery of our movement. In one experiment they used skin conductance cuffs on people  in a mockup of a subway car. Even though this was staged at a party, as the space available to the group in the car became more restricted so their stress levels rose. He showed a picture of the Navigo card in Paris which is much more than a transit ticket. It also gives access to Velib bike sharing – and (he claimed) car sharing (which if so is a change since I was in Paris). “It also gets you cookies” But mostly it gives people the freedom to live with less stuff. they do not need to own a car or a bike [and can get around without worrying about either being stolen]

He then showed picture of the land the province has recently put up for sale in Coquitlam. This “swathe of Burke Mountain will not be well connected”. But families can save $10k a year by not owning a car. He cited Daniel Kahneman’s Book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” We are rightly fearful of house fires and build new suburbs to allow access to big fire trucks, with wide roads and sweeping curves – like a race track.  Streets aren’t safe enough for kids to play on – but we somehow think that we have made them “safer” and the areas they serve. There was a notorious experiment on children with Oreos. They could take one immediately or wait awhile and then get two. He says that the problems we require that we slow down and consider their complexity.

The challenge is the cost of congestion, but we attempt to solve it by designing disconnection. He illustrated this with a picture of the new Port Mann Bridge construction and remarked that we only realized that the new bridge was not needed until after it opened. All the traffic and people that now use it could have been accommodated if the old bridge had been tolled and a rapid bus service along Highway #1 introduced. [This was actually something that the Livable Region Coalition pointed out at the time, by the way. No-one believed us.]

“We did it before” He showed a slide of the Livable Region plan from the 1970s. And he also showed the “Leap Ahead” transit plan which its authors (Nathan Pachel and Paul Hillsdon) estimated would cost $6.5 bn but could be paid for with a $0.05 sales tax.

Referendum = fast brain disaster

“The best thing to do is cancel the referendum.” However since that is unlikely  we can save ourselves by adopting the recommendations that Roger Sherman used to win the second Denver referendum. Their program was called “Fast tracks” It was a clear plan and fully costed designed to appeal to the core values of the voters. Most of them drive so it has to show how improving transit improves life for drivers

It is not enough to present a clear picture – it has to have a champion, preferably a celebrity and since Brad Pitt is unlikely to be available he suggested Diane Watts

Bring it back to happiness

Working together is good for us build more resilient community


The first question pointed out that the Leap Ahead plan did not seem to have much for the North Shore

“Now is not the time” to determine the details – though it does have a fast bus, and I suggested adding another SeaBus

The second noted that he used an illustration of Disneyland. Expectation of good time in built form

Tests in Disneyland show that architecture that speaks to us is good for well being

Technology in design of transportation

Vehicle sharing systems, driverless cars, use of Car2Go in East Vancouver shows that is a bedroom community. there are plenty of cars there overnight but none during the day. We have to have more activity in our residential areas – this is not a technology problem.

Eric Doherty pointed out that he had not mentioned climate change

“While it feels good to do the right thing but not everybody agrees on what that is. Trying to convince people to think like us does not work”. Gateway sucks did not work – it did nothing to convince people who had to drive that there was any concern over their needs.

How do we overcome this mindset of entitlement?

Golden (referring to the first presentation in this series) got all the players in the room and respecting others point of view. sophisticated comm??

Q from twitter on codes

Self reports on happiness higher in small towns

Rural areas

Everybody can benefit from a village

Codes for rural community Gordon Price commented  “The City is not shaped by market forces”

Nathan Woods (Unifor)  said: We need $3m and Brad Pitt. How do we get that?

Developers stand to benefit – they have the resources. The Surrey BoT strongly supports transit

Can you supply examples of success of postwar planning

Lewis Mumford
False Creek
New Urbanists
Seaside FL

Lean urbanism

Forest Hills Gardens NY (GP again)

Is a dense urban environment enough?

Towers are as bad for lack of trust as exurbs
Just pushing us together is not enough
“Lazy tower style in Vancouver”
Town houses, courtyards, green space

Example of Copenhagen – can we transfer that here?

The answer would be Long and complex. But in one word-  Experiment – just line Janette Sadik Kahn did with bike lanes in New York

Gordon Price pointed out how really emotional the fight over bike lanes here had become

Change is very difficult. Regarded as intrusive

One action for individuals?

Started out as a journalist feeling I had no right. We can all change a bit of the city. Those of us who live here have the right to change where we live

What has surprised you in the reactions since the book came out

Jarret Walker told me that on these examples its not the planners who are the problem. “We know that.  You have to convince the politicians … and the people.”
Try not to scare people

Someone from modo talked about Share Vancouver and its implication for resilience, during disasters for instance

Life changed in New York with Sandy. How can we create that sense of urgency?

Experiment Granville St what are we learning?

The questioner felt that all the changes we have seen have been controlled by the business community

Times Sq occurred with support from the BIA – who have benefitted as rents are now going up. The police closure of Granville St at weekends was a response to violence. It gave more space for people to move around and thus reduced conflicts

Councillor Susan Chappelle from Squamish said that they were trying to get  a regional transportation dialogue going – they are outside the Translink area with a small transit system provide by BC Transit.  They remain “disengaged”. The immense changes he talked about are not translated into budget of small town. In the current situation “Words are used, with no change happening.” Squamish is left disconnected

The measures are the same for reducing GHG and increasing happiness. Should we encourage commuting [between Squmish and Vancouver]? The industrial zoning is out of date.

Can design offset crime?  Social justice?

Some people assert “None of this is going to work until we overthrow the 1%” But his work shows that the way we design cities has an immediate impact. It’s an equity issue. Many people complain that they can’t afford to live here but then they oppose the density increase essential [to get reduced housing/transportation combination cost reduced]

Some who was arranging a summit of cultural planners pointed out how hard it was to get a large meeting to places which did not have good connections. Change the way transit works to support the summit

BC Transit should take cue from TransLink interagency approach We can crowd source all kinds of stuff

btw People actually talk on the #20 bus

Big issue is transit funding. A city has found solution?

Richmond is the only place where car ownership has fallen – obviously a response to the Canada Line
See the example of the Los Angeles referendum which was not just about transit – it paid for everything with something for everyone


This was by far the best presentation in the series so far, in large part because it was not read from a script. He was speaking to the slides he was showing but clearly enjoyed interacting with the audience. It was indeed a performance – and a good one at that. On the other hand there did not seem to be a great deal that was new or remarkable in the content. Working in this field for forty years means that I have actually witnessed exactly the same set of prescriptions proffered for a what at the time seemed like different problems – congestion, growth, inequity, sustainability, bad air quality, global warming. And now happiness – or its absence.

I have got into a lot of trouble for stating unequivocally “transit sucks” to transit management. They of course would rather boast of their accomplishments, how well they do under difficult circumstances, and how resistant politicians are to pleas for more money. But the fact remains that despite increasing expenditures, the overall transit mode share is very difficult to change. We know what the solutions are – we always have done – but we seem reluctant to embrace the changes necessary. And he is probably right that we have an elite stuck in fast brain mode whenever they deal with these situations. He actually cited Kevin Falcon – more than once – and it seems to me he is right. The Jordon Batemans of course simply play to that preference. It is a lot easier than actually thinking clearly (slowly) and then acting.



City Bus Drivers Say That Fare Beaters Have the Upper Hand in Confrontations

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New York Times

It is with some reluctance that I open up, once again, the can of worms that is fare evasion and transit safety. I would not have done so had not the CBC once sandbagged me on air with an unexpected clip of a New York cop talking about fare evaders as criminals.

Before you comment on this post you are required to click on the the link at the top and read the whole story in the New York times. There are also related links (the NYT understands how to use a web site now: it will take the Aspers years to catch up). It is desperately sad and my deepest sympathy is extended to the family, friends and coworkers of Edwin Thomas, who died trying to do his job.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, acknowledged that while the department’s Transit Bureau has more than 2,000 officers dedicated to the subway system, there are none dedicated to buses except during operations like fare-evasion crackdowns. One such crackdown, which began on Oct. 22, has resulted in 86 arrests and 349 summonses, he said.

That is because there are city police on the streets who can be summoned and get to the scene more quickly.

The point I want to make is that the NY subway system still needs to be subject to “fare evasion crackdowns” even though there are turnstiles at every station. A significant police force is required because the existence of those barriers has not made the NY subway “safe”. There was a lot all over the media yesterday about SkyTrain safety and the gap between public perceptions and reality. And a clip on CBC news of the SkyTrain CEO Doug Kelsey repeating the mantra “perception IS reality”.  Most of media decided that the proposed use of dogs made the story newsworthy. (If you want the full meal deal go to the Buzzer blog – and be sure to read the comments)

All kinds of people evade fares for all sorts of reasons. They are not all hardened criminals, and their reasons for evasion range from indigence to an attitude that fare collection is a “game” they can win at. The right wing here likes to cite New York as an example for us to follow. The examples of zero tolerance and the “broken window” strategy are cited approvingly. Yet there are on average 89 assaults on New York bus drivers a year. Edwin Thomas did not seem to get much benefit from these policies. I am far from convinced that they would change much here.

I also remain skeptical that introducing dogs will do much good either. There are plenty of people here who are extremely uncomfortable around dogs, both for cultural reasons and, even more sadly, bitter experience. There are far too many regimes that use police dogs to intimidate the populace in general. Not that I think Translink wants to do that – but (as Kelsey seems to be aware) some people may perceive it that way.

But as always my theme is that barriers on SkyTrain will not do what their proponents claim. They will be an immense waste of money and a continuing drain on the system. Money that could be spent on better transit service, which gets more people on the system. Which is what makes people feel safe. But is also what we need to make this region more livable.


Written by Stephen Rees

December 3, 2008 at 11:48 am

People inclined to steal if others breaking rules

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If you saw $10 in an envelope sticking out of a mailbox, would you steal the money, or pop the envelope in the mail?

If there is graffiti all over the mailbox or lots of litter on the ground, you’d be twice as likely to take the cash, according to a provocative study that taps into a shady side of human behaviour. It also lends support to the controversial “broken windows” theory behind crime and anti-graffiti prevention programs from Vancouver to Rome.

The study, published online Thursday by the journal Science, found people are more inclined to litter and steal when it seems other people have been breaking the rules. “The mere presence of graffiti more than doubled the number of people littering and stealing,” it says.

This study actually adds very little to what is already known about human behaviour and honesty, but it will be (and has been) jumped on by those who promote the mindless “zero tolerance” approach to crime. What happens then is that resources are diverted to the prosecution of petty crimes, and much greater injustices can be allowed to slide away unnoticed. It should not need repeating, but I will have to, is that crime has been falling steadily for years. It is also the case that the United States locks up a greater percentage of its citizens than most other countries (with the exception of a few of the worst tyrannies it supposedly condemns) but has on the whole much higher crime rates.

Very few people are absolutely honest. Just as very few people are completely without any moral standards at all (though we do seem to be adept at allowing them to hold some of the top jobs in our society). Most people when faced with the opportunity to take something that is not theirs, or enjoy a service without paying for it will do so if they think there are no consequences. So the “if others breaking the rules” also applies to a general perception that not only can you get soemthing for nothing, but so is everyone else, and they do not seem to suffer for it.

This is as true of speeding, not paying for a transit ride or parking in a place designated for those with disabilities. And the more we talk about the impunity of law breakers, the worse the problem gets. The best that any policy can do is hold down the amount of “non compliance” to a tolerable level. Most people will not shop lift if the store has visible deterrents. But if they see people walking through the doors, with the alarms ringing and nothing happening, they will begin to speculate on how easy it would be to get away with something. Most Canadians making day trips to the US bring back stuff they do not declare. The border agents are probably well aware of that, but also well aware of the time and trouble searching every vehicle would take, and the consequences of delaying everyone for the sake of a few pairs of sneakers.

For a long time in this region we have been subject to a vociferous campaign about fare evasion. It is my sincere belief – though I have no data to support it – that as a result of that constant harping on about “nobody pays the fare” that the general perception of the risks and penalties of getting caught has changed and that in itself has increased the level of evasion. The now famous unpaid ticket of Vancouver’s new Mayor has added to that. For what most people now know is that very few of these fines ever gets paid.

In London in the 1970s the enforcement of parking fines collapsed. The courts simply did not have time to deal with unpaid penalty notices. Once this was widely known, the percentage of people overstaying a meter or parking on yellow lines increased rapidly. Some of the worst offenders were the journalists who were reporting on the issue. Wheel clamping was a vast over reaction to a minor offence – but necessary to restore some semblance of order on the streets. It would have been much more efficient to have concentrated efforts on those vehicles that had more than ten tickets outstanding, but that would have involved a computer database. And it was that that was seen as the “assault on civil liberties” not the gross overreaction to someone not getting back to their meter in time of having to wait for hours to get unclamped.

Zero tolerance simply means that law enforcement suddenly becomes mindless. And minor offences occupy all the time and major crimes go uninvestigated. The biggest crime wave that has been running counter to the general improvement in compliance has been fraud. But the investigation of fraud is usually very time consuming and requiring considerable expertise and knowledge. Not only that but accountant are paid  much more to keep people out of jail rather than get them their just desserts. It is even hard to get convictions because fraud cases are so long and complicated and juries are easily bamboozled by good defense lawyers. Dealing with this issue puts prominent people at risk – people who have friends in high places. Conrad Black, for example, is probably confident that his friend George will now come to his aid – all other avenues having been exhausted. It is not coincidental that the media conglomerate owners like to keep attention focussed on issues like fare evasion. And not the much more damaging activities of the wealthy who like to ensure they pay as little tax as possible.

Do you know anyone who thinks it is wrong to find a way to declare less income to the tax authorities? Yet the uproar over people of welfare who get caught up in that systems complexities is out of all proportion to the size of the offences, when much bigger and more succesful cheats get away with it all the time and are praised for their business acumen.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 21, 2008 at 10:53 am

Posted in criminality

Three downtown streets identified as hot spots

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Downtown Ambassadors

Photo by Mordechai Dangerfield on flickr


The three streets in the city’s downtown business improvement area were identified recently as crime hot spots in city assessments to determine the need for expansion of the Downtown Ambassadors Program.

Vancouver city hall is recommending that council adopt a one-year $237,000 contract with the Downtown Business Improvement Association to extend the program.

The three streets are Granville, Georgia and Robson. They are “hot spots” because of people identified as “druggies, panhandlers and rough sleepers”. In fact the same people fit all three “categories”. And the Ambassadors do nothing more than move them along to another street somewhere else. They do nothing to solve the problem.

This is the same approach that failed with street prostitution.

And it is promoted by the same mindset that sees the needle exchange and the safe injection site as causes of more “problems”. And is not going to work this time any more than it has worked in the past.

Of course the customers of downtown businesses do not like seeing reminders of how useless our social policies are. The failures are societal, not just of the individuals who find they can only cope with adversity though self medication.

The problem has been growing steadily. The Tyee recently showed how inadequate even an apparently simple count of those affected was recently. And the response has been – from all levels of government – totally inadequate. But shows no sign of change. $237,000 might provide a few beds for a few nights. Or some dry socks. But the City and the BIA would rather chivvy people than help them.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 15, 2008 at 7:00 am

Posted in criminality, poverty

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CCTV coming to a bus in your neighbourhood

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Straight Talk By Carlito Pablo

TransLink has approved a budget of almost $4 million to install “security cameras and video recording equipment” on the region’s bus fleet.

Andrew Pask , coordinator of the Vancouver Public Space Network , to1l0d the Straight that he’s concerned about the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras on buses. “People should be able to use public spaces without having to be recorded, without having their movement tracked, their conversations taped, their actions videoed,” he said. “People should have that right. When you start infringing on it, you start inching ever closer to a police state.”

People should also have the right to be able to travel in safety at any time of day in any part of the city by public transport without the fear of being assaulted, or the victim of “steaming”, or witnessing an attack on a driver. Far too many dangerous incidents still occur despite the use of radio to summon assistance, and the presence of additional staff on key routes in bad areas late at night. Bus drivers should not be in fear of their personal safety while at work.

No one is going to be tracked or have their conversations recorded. There is going to be an immense amount of truly dull uneventful video, but hopefully when it is needed for evidence later it will be availble and of reasonable quality. Currently CCTV is in use on SkyTrain. The tape is rewound every hour, automatically, because of the limitations of old fashioned storage methods, so often key evidence is inadvertently wiped.

I think Mr Pask is being paranoid. But I also think that enough incidents have happened that it is overdue that the system take note and respond. Taxi drivers were being assaulted at work until the taxi companies installed cameras. The assaults stopped. Just as bait cars have cut auto theft.

If you don’t want to be recorded, then you don’t have to use the system. The people who do use the system, and who work on it, will be safer once the cameras are installed. You have no expectation of privacy on public transport, and the only people who benefit from not being recorded are those with something to hide. On the bus or the SkyTrain you are in a public place and being observed by other passengers. And many of them these days are carrying cell phones, cameras and other equipment capable of surveillance use. You may already be being followed and recorded and you have no idea who is doing it. And I am not talking about spy satellites either.

The way to prevent a police state is to have adequate oversight of the police by our elected representatives, and an investigation system whereby the police are subject to investigation by an independent, non-police authority.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 28, 2007 at 8:12 pm

Posted in criminality, transit

Fare evasion

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Photo by Richard Eriksson

There was a piece last night on the CBC six o’clock tv news on the extension of the fare paid zone to buses on Monday. It does not seem to be on their web page so I am going to have to rely on memory.

(But, usefully, there are a few facts and figures from CKNW who ran a similar story)

The reporter, of course, started off with the usual line that SkyTrain loses millions of dollars every year to fare evasion. There was no attempt to put this into context. If you talk about fare evasion in terms of percentage loss (the way all retailers look at “shrinkage”) and compare that with the cost of increased enforcement, then you have to think about it as a business decision, not a simple “right or wrong” story. Or rather “we wuz robbed” – because of course it is the people who pay the fares and the taxes who pick up the tab for the free riders.

The library has the same magnetic tag alarm system that many shops use. And in both cases, the alarm goes off all the time and nothing happens. I have even had to take back a DVD that had been rendered completely unplayable by the library gluing metal tapes to the playing surface (it was a 2 sided DVD so you could still watch the “special features” just not the movie). Most people in the retail business recognize that they need to keep shrinkage down if they can but they do not want to upset their customers needlessly. And that is what happens when security overrides common sense. As it currently does in airline travel.

The new system on the buses is supposed to reduce the risk of drivers being assaulted. Disputes over the fare being one of the commonest triggers for an assault. And the drivers did not like the idea of reducing assaults by the use of cameras, even though that technology has eliminated assaults on taxi drivers who ran much higher risks.

At this point they trotted out spokesperson Ken Hardie, who did his best, but succeeded in explaining how not only to avoid paying the fare but also how to avoid paying the penalty as well. (Since he used to work for the Vancouver Police you would have thought he would know better.) The problem is that there is no way for the Translink Police to determine if the name and address they are being given when they hand out a ticket is genuine. So when the fine is unpaid it gets handed to a collection agency which usually gives up pretty quickly. Even when the fine is paid (which is very rare), Translink doesn’t get the money, the province does. So there really is not much incentive for them to push harder. And there are a growing number of people (Ken termed them “frequent flyers”) who have worked that out and never pay a fare or a fine.

This is not a new problem. It has been experienced elsewhere, and it is pointless looking at transit systems in Europe that use proof of payment since their legal system is quite different. Code Napoleon reverses the burden of proof and requires all citizens to carry an official identification document.

So let’s look at what happens at systems that use the British legal structure like we do. In London, no one ever paid parking tickets, because the court system was overburdened. Parking rule enforcement collapsed. Wheel clamping was introduced to make the penalty of delay bite hard and immediately on the offender. And it worked. Fare evasion on the London Underground ballooned as the automatic barriers which read the tickets were only installed in the Central Area as an economy measure. Introducing lower fares and zone fares helped a bit, but until barriers could be installed at all stations, there was a gaping hole. And even then, people worked out that all they needed was a ticket that opened the gates they would pass through, not one that necessarily allowed them to travel the entire route. We called it “dumbell fraud”. But it was the use of that second word that inspired the most effective response to the “frequent flyers”. Instead of issuing a penalty ticket, the regulars would be asked to accompany the officer to the police station. An investigation would then start to establish a pattern of activity. At which point the offender would not be issued a ticket but would be charged with a very serious offence – fraud. Because there would now be evidence that this individual rode free or at reduced fares on regular basis. And over the time of these repeated offences, a large sum had been diverted away from the transport system.

Many of the people caught in London turned out to be respectable citizens, with good jobs, often in financial institutions. One of them was even one of my bosses, who when he learned how easy it was to defraud the system, could not resist trying it himself. And the slogan that we came up with for this new enforcement program was “get a ticket, not a criminal record”. Because people who work in positions of trust have a lot more to lose than a few pounds – or dollars.

I would like to say that the program was as effective as wheel clamping, but that is not the case. It still requires regular enforcement and reminders: a few high profile cases every so often, which are given publicity, something that we had formerly been reluctant to do, since the people in the public gallery love to find out new ways to beat the system. Therefore deals for guilty pleas were quite common as it reduced the amount of evidence that had to be given out in public.

The parking problem and fare evasion problem have one feature in common. They extended the range of criminal activity from a smallish minority to a larger segment of the population. The extent to which we are honest is not absolute. Most people comply with the rules and regulations, most of the time, because we see the necessity of them. When these rules are openly flouted, and we see no penalty attaching to the offenders, our assessment of the risk of getting caught changes. And when there is a risk of getting caught but paying no penalty at all, then the percentage of people willing to try to get away with something starts to rise. The job of law enforcement is to keep that line where it is or push it back a bit. What has happened is that instead of a small percentage of generally criminal individuals ripping off the system, more people are now seeing that they can get away with not paying. And they spread that message.

As has the CBC, with this story. Thanks a lot.

Translink of course knows all about what I have written. And they will say that London is different and that wouldn’t work here. But the idea of continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome is a useful working definition of madness.

Oh, one other thing I meant to mention. The CBC also dug out Rom Stromberg. He used to work for Transit, and told them what would happen if they went for proof payment on SkyTrain. But of course, as usual, they were trying to save money on the stations, and if they had had barriers, they would have had to have much bigger entrances and exits to allow for emergency evacuations. While the barriers are not cheap, it was the cost of these additional exits that killed the idea of barriers. Plus the fact that they would need to be manned all the time at every station in case they stopped working or someone with a pram or a wheelchair needed to be let through. Like I said, fare enforcement is not about morality, it is about economics. And the people who do not pay their fares are behaving with perfect economic rationality.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 23, 2007 at 3:28 pm