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Archive for the ‘fares’ Category

The Free Transit Illusion

with 2 comments

One of the reasons that I blog much less these days, is that I got bored with myself. Every time I sat down to write it seemed that what I was writing, I had written before. Even when I was writing that it was repetitive, I kept on. Yet the illusions that beset us continue to be repeated. As if those notions had not already been disproven, repeatedly.

It is a truism, but it takes more energy to refute a falsehood than to repeat. Conservatives rely on this. Almost everything they assert turns out to be untrue. Yet the policies they endorse continue to operate despite their obvious failures. Wealth has never trickled down. Holding down wages has not created more jobs. Making drugs illegal has not reduced their use at all. Increasing spending on the military has not made us safer. Prisons do nothing to reduce crime. Corporal punishment is not effective at improving children’s behaviour.

The left also endorses fatuous policies, ones shown time and again to be ineffective. Mostly deciding to adopt the policies of previous, conservative governments. The BC NDP is doing now exactly what the BC Liberals endorse: Site C, highway widening, cutting down old growth forests, expanding LNG.

Just as we know what we should be doing – reducing ghg emissions being the most important – what we actually do barely scratches the surface and mostly we continue with business as usual.

There is a problem of poverty. Just as providing homes turns out to be the only effective solution to homelessness, so providing money is the only way to relieve poverty. The first thing new Premier Ford did was cancel the Guaranteed Income pilot project – just in case it proved that point once again.

Here we have once again fallen into to happy illusion that in order to deal with poverty – and the fact that some people have a hard time paying their transit fares – we should make transit free. The latest developments here have been an endorsement by Victoria City Council – and now by Kai Nagata of Dogwood who uses Jason Kenney’s swearing in as a hook for a piece about what to do when Kenney “turns off the taps”. Kenney, now sworn in, says he won’t – yet.

It is not surprising that in support of this proposal a number of easily disprovable assertions are made

“Zero-fare public transport is the norm in many cities across Europe. ”

Actually very few cities – Dunkirk (France), Tallinn (Estonia) and apparently two dozen other French urban areas – though only Aubagne is named and analyzed. Luxembourg is going to try it nationally, though it is a very small country and has made its own economy successful by being a well known haven for tax evasion.

There is a list at https://freepublictransport.info/city/ but it is not reliable. Calgary, for example, is shown on that list, but its own webpage provides a list of fares – free only applies to a downtown section, not the whole system, and pets. Frankly, I am not about to spend any more time checking the veracity of ALL of the rest of the assertions but Winnipeg isn’t a free system either. Bizarrely England is listed as fare free – that may just be a formatting error or a reference to the Old Age concession of a free bus pass. This is of limited value since it does not apply to other modes – trains – and in the deregulated market where local government has been deliberately starved of funds there is little to no socially essential service outside of the dense urban area. The country bus is largely a fond memory. The lack of revenue for the operators (little to no subsidy from local government, no income from pass users) means there is no incentive to increase service.

By the way, Seattle used to have a free fare zone downtown, but dropped it. It is one of the few transit systems in the US that reported increased use last year.

There is a wikipedia article (see below) but it lacks references (though the bit I quote has a source).

The notion that appeals to Dogwood is the mistaken belief that free fares will get people out of their cars and onto transit, and that this will reduce congestion and thus fuel consumption. Nagata simply asserts this belief. The evidence does not support it. The inescapable rule is that traffic expands and contracts to fill the space available. Congestion exists because there is more demand that can be accomodated. Congestion tends to be worst at peak periods – journeys to and from work or education – and on some routes on public holidays – the road to the ferries from Tsawwassen on the Easter weekend being a most recent case. Generally people adapt to predictable congestion but just as a few will try car sharing, or leaving really early, others will drive when it seems “not so bad”. And there is a sort of equilibrium. Like most human compromises one which leaves everybody equally dissatisfied. We know that adding lanes to freeways just increases the amount of traffic, just as removing a freeway usually reduces congestion. The only thing that we know works is to price road use – when it is free it is over consumed – and provide more and better transit service that, as far as possible, uses its own right of way to avoid the congestion. You have to do both. Oddly, pricing roads, even though successful, is much less tried than free transit fares, which mostly isn’t.

From Wikipedia

Several large U.S. municipalities have attempted zero-fare systems, but many of these implementations have been judged unsuccessful by policy makers. A 2002 National Center for Transportation Research report suggests that, while transit ridership does tend to increase, there are also some disadvantages:[7]

  • An increase in vandalism, resulting in increased costs for security and vehicle-maintenance
  • In large transit systems, significant revenue shortfalls unless additional funding was provided
  • An increase in driver complaints and staff turnover, although farebox-related arguments were eliminated
  • Slower service overall (not collecting fares has the effect of speeding boarding, but increased crowding tends to swamp out this effect unless additional vehicles are added)
  • Declines in schedule adherence

This U.S. report suggests that, while ridership does increase overall, the goal of enticing drivers to take transit instead of driving is not necessarily met: because fare-free systems tend to attract a certain number of “problem riders”, zero-fare systems may have the unintended effect of convincing some ‘premium’ riders to go back to driving their cars. It should be kept in mind that this was a study that only looked at U.S. cities, and the author’s conclusions may be less applicable in other countries that have better social safety nets and less crime than the large U.S. cities studied.[7]

[7] Perone, Jennifer S. (October 2002). “Advantages and Disadvantages of Fare-Free Transit Policy” (PDF)NCTR Report Number: NCTR-473-133, BC137-38. Retrieved 1 November 2012.

So if free transit does not attract drivers, who does it attract? Here it will be the homeless – kicked out of shelters during the day and looking for somewhere warm and dry. And for people to panhandle. The transit police will not be able to cope as without the need for proof of payment, removal will be at best temporary – even if they do manage to persuade the most offensive to leave. It will be gangs of kids. It will be people with nothing better to do than go for a ride somewhere – anywhere. Yes free transit increases the number of people on transit – just not the ones that you wanted to leave their cars behind.

The other reason that people do not leave their cars for transit is simply the inconvenience and relative slowness of transit (all those bus stops) compared to driving. Even for relatively short trips in denser parts of the region, car is still the preferred mode. It is not until there is a clear transit advantage for some trips do people switch in significant numbers. Clearly the expansion of the SkyTrain has worked well. In the parts of the region where additional road space is next to impossible, car trips are being curtailed. Where there is a better alternative, it does get used. More people are also choosing to walk or ride a bicycle – and the option to not own a car, but use ones that are available (Modo, car2go et al) – reduces the need to own a car, and thus try to maximise the return on capital investment. (“It’s sitting in the driveway, I might as well get some use out of it.”) The recent record boost in transit use, and the growing mode share for bikes and walking in Vancouver has nothing to do with transit fares, but everything to do with comparative advantage. And protected bike lanes – not white lines or sharrows.

Nagata also makes the fundamental error of assuming that governments (federal and provincial) will fund free transit. So far, the only thing that they have been willing to do is fund capital projects – preferably expansions – and usually with ribbon cutting opportunities and naming rights (The Canada Line for instance). What has always been lacking is adequate funding for operations and maintenance. Canada, on the whole, has done a much better job than the US. The shameful condition of the New York subway being one of the most glaring examples. Government also likes to play at innovation – which has given rise to several expensive, and usually short lived, experiments like the Whistler hydrogen buses. Instead of doing the essential dull, repetitive non-newsworthy state of good repair and high reliability transit cannot do without. Much of the innovations have not actually been necessary, but one thing that did come out of the imposed electronic fare collection system was essential data on how the system is used. In earlier times, Greater Vancouver saw a complete neglect of data collection as a result of foolish cost cutting. At least some of the newer and improved services now being provided is from a better understanding of when and where people are travelling – despite the lack of tap off on buses.  Again, a free fare system loses all that information.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 30, 2019 at 11:01 am

Posted in fares, transit, Transportation

Tagged with

We’re number 59!

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UPDATE Feb 6
I usually put the updates at the end of the post. I am chagrined to admit that I missed a very important data point which Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight noticed 

Berlin-based Movinga has pegged the monthly cost in Vancouver at just US$66.26.

When converted from U.S to Canadian currency, that equals $88.68.

However, a monthly one-zone adult transit pass in Metro Vancouver costs $91.

That’s the cheapest way to travel, and it only works for those who live relatively close to work or school.
A two-zone pass sets an adult transit rider back $124.

And a three-zone adult pass costs a whopping $170.

Sorry


In a recent study that compares transit costs around the world our system ranks about half way in a list of 89 that puts Cairo as the cheapest and London as the most expensive. Toronto is in the top ten.

The rest of this post is going to be a simple cut and paste of the press release, but it seemed to me appropriate to report this given the amount of interest yesterday’s Fare Review report generated

Price Index of Public Transportation Around The World

2017 Study Reveals The Steep Price Differences For Commuters

  • Londoners pay the most for monthly transport ($153.58), 136.91% more than New Yorkers ($112.18)

  • Residents of Tokyo ($90.58), Berlin ($86.48), Paris ($74.74), and Madrid ($58.29) pay more reasonable commuter fares  

  • Prague ($21.73) and Bucharest ($14.27) are the most affordable European capital cities for public transport

Berlin, Germany, 18/01/2017 – Online moving platform Movinga know that after the cost of housing, food and transport are the two most relevant expenses to take into account when relocating. As part of the 2017 Relocation Price Index, a study detailing the costs associated with relocating to some of the world’s most in demand cities, Movinga also observed the cost of transportation around the world in 89 cities. The full Price Index of Public Transport cities can be found at the base of this press release.

The data was taken from all official transport offices within each city, using the cost of a monthly ticket within the major travel zones to standardise the results. The findings place London, UK as the most expensive city to use public transport at $153.58 and Cairo, Egypt as the most affordable city at $6.50 for a monthly ticket.

See here for the full methodology and results of the study.

The table below outlines the top 15 most expensive cities for public transport:

Eng-Int-USD.png

The study demonstrates the significant price difference for citizens of each city. This research will be useful for those considering their ideal city to relocate to, either temporarily for work or on a more permanent basis.

Transport costs were taken from all transportation companies in noted cities. Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) was not applied, in order to keep the data relevant from a local perspective. Data correct on 20th January 2017. Currency conversions calculated on 20th January 2017. Small differences in costs may exist due to recently fluctuating markets.

###

Publishers are allowed to publish this data and graphics but we kindly ask that you give credit and link to the source. For further enquiries do not hesitate to reply to this email.

About Movinga: Movinga (www.movinga.de/en) is Europe’s leading online provider of moving services. Utilising intelligent algorithms as well as a large network of local partner companies, the tech company is modernising the moving sector. Movinga customers value the simple booking process and high quality standards. Partner moving companies profit from efficient customer acquisition, disposition and invoicing. Movinga was founded in Berlin in January 2015 and is currently active in Germany and France. The management team consists of the experienced scale-up managers Finn Hänsel, Christoph Müller-Gruntrum and Jochen Cassel.

Monthly Transport Costs Around The World In £

#

City

MT

#

City

MT

#

City

MT

1

Cairo, Egypt

$6.50

31

Austin, USA

$39.74

61

San Francisco, USA

$67.40

2

Hanoi, Vietnam

$8.65

32

Lagos, Nigeria

$41.30

62

Munich, Germany

$68.33

3

Jakarta, Indonesia

$11.07

33

Santiago, Chile

$47.61

63

Essen, Germany

$69.40

4

Tunis, Tunisia

$13.01

34

Toulouse, France

$49.11

64

Singapore, Singapore

$69.81

5

Bucharest, Romania

$14.27

35

Seoul, South Korea

$49.26

65

Leipzig, Deutschland

$71.53

6

Mexico City, Mexico

$15.33

36

Vienna, Austria

$51.25

66

Mannheim, Deutschland

$72.07

7

Buenos Aires, Argentina

$17.07

37

Strasbourg, France

$51.78

67

Braunschweig, Deutschland

$74.74

8

Bangalore, India

$17.32

38

Brussels, Belgium

$52.32

68

Düsseldorf, Deutschland

$74.74

9

Medellin, Colombia

$19.89

39

Lille, France

$52.85

69

Paris, France

$74.74

10

Prague, Czech Republic

$21.73

40

Montpellier, France

$53.38

70

Oslo, Norway

$81.49

11

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

$23.05

41

Riga, Latvia

$53.38

71

Zurich, Switzerland

$83.90

12

Moscow, Russia

$23.97

42

Istanbul, Turkey

$54.66

72

Stuttgart, Germany

$85.41

13

Tallinn, Estonia

$24.56

43

Grenoble, France

$54.88

73

Berlin, Germany

$86.48

14

Sofia, Bulgaria

$27.32

44

Sao Paulo, Brazil

$55.24

74

Stockholm, Sweden

$86.75

15

Warsaw, Poland

$27.45

45

Barcelona, Spain

$55.52

75

Hamburg, Germany

$89.68

16

Bogota, Colombia

$27.60

46

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

$55.81

76

Tokyo, Japan

$90.58

17

Beijing, China

$27.97

47

Helsinki, Finland

$55.95

77

Frankfurt am Main, Germany

$91.82

18

Shanghai, China

$28.67

48

Rouen, France

$56.59

78

Amsterdam, Netherlands

$93.42

19

Johannesburg, South Africa

$30.74

49

Copenhagen, Denmark

$57.40

79

Auckland, New Zealand

$95.28

20

Athens, Greece

$32.03

50

Madrid, Spain

$58.29

80

Seattle, USA

$95.38

21

Bordeaux, France

$32.03

51

Manchester, UK

$59.07

81

Luanda, Angola

$95.89

22

Nice, France

$33.10

52

Karlsruhe, Deutschland

$60.86

82

Cologne, Germany

$96.09

23

Toulon, France

$33.10

53

Tel Aviv, Israel

$60.86

83

Los Angeles, USA

$96.29

24

Marseille, France

$33.20

54

Hannover, Germany

$62.35

84

Melbourne, Australia

$99.55

25

Budapest, Hungary

$33.28

55

Dubai, UAE

$62.94

85

Toronto, Canada

$103.07

26

Bangkok, Thailand

$34.00

56

Dresden, Deutschland

$62.99

86

New York, USA

$112.18

27

Dijon, France

$37.37

57

Bremen, Deutschland

$64.06

87

Sydney, Australia

$116.26

28

Milan, Italy

$37.37

58

Lyon, France

$64.06

88

Dublin, Ireland

$128.12

29

Lisbon, Portugal

$38.44

59

Vancouver, Canada

$66.26

89

London, UK

$153.58

30

Reims, France

$38.44

60

Nantes, France

$67.26

MT = Monthly Transport Costs

Original Table

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Transit Fare Review Stakeholder Forum

with 8 comments

I attended the second forum at the Translink headquarters on Monday. Somehow I seem to have missed the whole phase 1 of this project. However you can always go to the translink website and catch up.

Before the meeting we were sent the Phase 2 Discussion Guide which included the following

Learn more by reading the discussion guide or watching our online videos. Then let us know what you think by taking the survey and participating in our online discussion forum, which will be open between January 30 and February 17, 2017. You can find all of this at

translink.ca/farereview.

The guide sets out the different types of fares that were considered during Phase 1 but did not report what was heard in the first phase. It does summarise the winners and losers in each of the scenarios that were examined. There is also this diagram which shows what happened when the mid-day discount was ended

This example shows how a simple fare policy change can have a major impact on system costs, crowding and passenger comfort.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-12-39-10-pm

This is the first time I have ever seen anything as official as this which admits that the decision was wrong. Full disclosure, I was at the time a relatively new employee at BC Transit. I was not by any means unfamiliar with transit fares policy and how it can be evaluated, but what astonished me at the time was how few people with whom I was working seemed to understand some simple, basic principles. I had, however, got used to the response I heard about how I was new and therefore could not possibly expect to understand how this system worked.

I would ask you to take note that there is nothing at all on either axis of this graph to show what is being displayed. Time of day is not to hard to interpolate, but the ridership top and bottom does need some indication of value, I think.

Terms of Reference

Project Background

The Transit Fare Review is a comprehensive review of Metro Vancouver’s fare structure that aims to recommend fare policy changes that will increase transit ridership by delivering a better customer experience and improving system efficiency today and into the future. It is comprised of four phases: Phase 1 (Discover), Phase 2 (Define), Phase 3 (Develop), Phase 4 (Deliver) running through to 2018.

Responsibilities

TransLink will:

1. Consider the feedback received through the Stakeholder Forums as advice when making decisions, and

2. Will report back on how the feedback contributed to the decision-making process.

Stakeholder representatives will:

1. Provide TransLink with feedback that reflects the perspective of their organization or constituents to better inform the overall decision-making for the development of the plan, and

2. Participate in the Stakeholder Forum meetings or send a delegate.

Composition and Membership

Each organization is asked to send one to two participants to appear on their behalf as their representative. TransLink is seeking a commitment from organizations for consistent participant attendance at all future Stakeholder Forums during Phases 2, 3 and 4, in order to ensure continuity.

Governance and Authority

All stakeholder feedback will be shared with TransLink staff and considered as advice.

Meeting Logistics

One to two stakeholder forums will be held per Phase. All Forums will be held over the next 24 months. Advance notice of Forums will be provided. Forums will be held during the day time at TransLink’s head office in New Westminster.

Reporting

The outcome of the Stakeholder Forums will be publicly reported at the end of each phase in a Summary Report. The Summary Report will be available online at www.translink.ca/farereview

I am going to record what I heard, but I would encourage you to go online and take the survey if this material is of interest to you.

The meeting was opened by a facilitator from Modus who emphasised that we were “not deciding anything” but rather reporting what we were “thinking and feeling”. Many of the people present were representing groups – “stakeholders”. A show of hands demonstrated that most of them had not been present at the first meeting – though there might have been someone else from their organisation.

img_1770

Only three factors in the fare structure were going to be discussed – distance travelled, time of travel and service type. The findings of the meeting are reported on line – but the first two were actually available at the end of the meeting. The goal was to recommend changes that would increase ridership, be simple to understand, fair and affordable. The structure of the fare system is supposed to contribute to the quality of service. It was emphasized that “the most economically vulnerable should have access to transit”.

Phase 1 of the exercise had shown that there was not a lot of support for the current three zone system.

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-10-56-10-am

Taken from the Phase 1 Summary Report

The rest of the meeting was taken up by working in small groups to look at more detailed questions relating to these issues. At each subquestion we were presented with a large poster on which to affix sticky notes with our comments and “votes” using coloured sticky dots.

img_1771

After each exercise there was an opportunity for discussion

At my table were a couple of representatives – one from the Metro Vancouver Alliance and the other from a union. They said that they felt the zone system- and fares by distance – are “erecting walls” and intended to “keep people in the poor part of town”. There is an issue of social isolation due to both cast and lack of access to services. Professor Robert Lindsay of the UBC Sauder School said that fare by distance was a better representation of the cost of providing service than zone system and should be preferred for “economic efficiency”. There were also comments that the concentric rings of the current zones do not reflect  current trip making which is now much less oriented towards commuting between the suburbs to Downtown Vancouver than when the zone system was created. It was suggested that if there were to be a new zonal system it ought to reflect the multiple  centres of activity across the region. It was also necessary to reflect the difference between the journey to work and other types of trip purposes.

I pointed out that one of the major differences was between the grid system of routes in the centre of the region versus the hub and spoke of the suburbs. Great concern was voiced about how the route structure in the suburbs imposes longer distances through indirect routings (to increase ridership pick ups) and transfers. I also expressed my reservation about recommending any finer gradation of fares while the Compass system on the bus does not include a “tap out”. Translink representatives assured me that this was a temporary problem that was about to be fixed.

One of the major concerns about the time of travel section was the need to reduce overcrowding  and pass ups. There is currently no incentive for people making one zone trips to change their time of travel to avoid congested periods – and this was made worse by making the bus system one zone all the time.

When looking at travel by service type it was pointed out that the current service provision generally does not allow for service duplication: for instance, there is no bus service over the Patullo Bridge, so SkyTrain is the only transit option. I also pointed out that there is no direct express bus service between Surrey and Coquitlam centres – both major regional centres – but only an indirect, double transfer SkyTrain ride.

When the results of the analysis of the voting on the distance and time questions were presented it became clear that the group I was part of was not representative of the rest of the meeting.

One thing that did become clear was that there was an almost complete absence of hard data to inform the people present of the results of their choices. But one thing that the Compass system ought to have provided by now was a wealth of information about how people in real life make choices about their travel. For example, the decision to make bus a one zone ride means that there is now a choice by fare for journeys to the North Shore. It is now a one zone bus ride or a two zone SeaBus trip. While we were all busy doing stated preference, there is a whole bunch of much more reliable revealed preference data. I was not all surprised to be told that Compass data is proving difficult to analyze, and that none could be made available due to privacy concerns that is currently preventing data collection on mixed mode “linked” trips. Equally since there is no tapout on the bus, distance travelled can only be interpolated from other sources.

While I do encourage you to go online and take the survey, I feel it is only fair to point out that the reason Translink chose to buy Compass was that it would make fare by distance feasible. Gates at SkyTrain stations could have been operated by the previous “mag swipe” fare media – which is what they use in New York City. A single zone system to this day.

Also worth reading Anthony Perl’s thoughts on the effect of distance based fares when there is no equivalent road pricing

 

Written by Stephen Rees

January 31, 2017 at 11:44 am

Starting April 4, They’re Closing All Fare Gates

with 7 comments

compass_circle

So I have a Compass card, and used up my last FareSaver, so I cannot say I am directly impacted. And, since I can afford to not only buy a Compass card but also keep it loaded against possible future needs I will now enjoy a more convenient system. But that doesn’t mean that the decisions that have been taken up to this point are not acknowledgements of failure. When a transit system adopts new fare technologies there do have to be some adjustments – but mostly that ought to be adjustments of the technology to meet the system’s needs and not the other way around. When the transit agency invites bidders to tender for their system’s requirements one of the things that both sides have to look at is how well the proffered technology meets the specification. In the case of the Compass card, Cubic have not been able to meet that test, yet it is Translink that is taking both the criticism and adapting to suit the shortcomings of what it has bought.

They have already abandoned one of the pillars of the fare system: three zones during daytime on weekdays. Yes, in some distant future they may be able to switch to fare by distance, but not with the existing equipment on buses. Now three zones have often been challenged, as arbitrary and based on a region centered around Vancouver (Zone 1) where fares rise based on distance to that centre which is not exactly what this region is now like. A short ride across the harbour costs more than the ride from Langley to Ladner. And since the bus route network has been designed and adapted over the years to feed passengers into the SkyTrain there are not that many opportunities to get a cheaper ride by staying on the bus: though I do wonder if the #19 has seen an increase in use recently. But the reason that the bus is a one zone fare no matter how many zone boundaries it crosses is simply because the tap out reader on the bus doesn’t respond quickly enough. A very basic system requirement, and an equipment failure. In other word’s Cubic’s fault, not Translink’s.

But that one ticket ride – which is so admired in places where multiple transit agencies serve the functional economic region – will no longer be available to the casual – cash paying – user. Who could be a visitor, or someone who either doesn’t need or cannot afford to use transit frequently. If you use the bus to get to SeaBus or the SkyTrain and pay on board you will have to pay again – as there will no longer be a usable transfer between bus and “rapid transit”. And will impact people travelling within one zone quite significantly: their fare has been doubled, just because Translink decided NOT to install a magnetic swipe reader on some gates. Or buy machines that could issue Compass tickets on board buses. I am sure that Translink has talking points about how that is not financially worthwhile, but then the whole Compass system is a financial disaster. It is supposed to improve revenue collection and deter fare evasion, but will never be able to pay for itself that way and the province has had to accept some responsibility for that.

For the “choice” rider – those who decide to stop driving for every trip and try transit – this is going to look like a deterrent. If Translink was able to stick to the idea of increasing transit mode share, that might be an issue. But the reality now is that Translink cannot cope with current demand – let alone increases even if they only come from a growth in population and transit share stays static – or even falls!

When the current generation of electronic fare boxes was bought for buses, adaptation to future needs was one of Cubic’s selling points. The decision to only go to magnetic swipe cards and not  smart cards reflected what was then available – but with the knowledge that the technology would change and the electronic farebox was specified to be adaptable to meet that possibility. In other systems, magnetic stripe cards are still in use alongside newer card readers. I have seen that for myself in a number of cities in North America and Europe, including ones using Cubic equipment and many more than three fare zones. Indeed the choice of Cubic as supplier for the new Compass system was influenced by compatibility of the new and old systems.

The issue over the accessibility of the system to people with disabilities ought to have been settled much earlier, and is a profound failure of a transit system which at one time was trying very hard indeed to improve accessibility. There seems to have been a significant unwillingness to listen to what was being said – or a willingness to ignore a small number of users over the need to install and get working a fare system bedevilled by delays and other failures. That is a failure of Translink, not Cubic.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 18, 2016 at 2:27 pm

Pushing the button

with 14 comments

Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers is making a big fuss about the number of times CMBC bus drivers push the button which records “fare not paid”. He thinks that the loss of fare revenue is such a big issue that it justifies voting NO in the upcoming referendum. You can’t trust Translink, he says.

I thought it might be helpful to actually work out what the size of the problem might be – something that Travis Lupick has a shot at in the article I linked to above but fails to make clear. The Average Fare on Translink was $1.86 in 2012 (Source: Translink) and the size of the business (according to Lupick’s article) $1.41 billion. 2,762,363 button pushes multiplied by $1.86 is a revenue loss of $5,137,995.10. It looks like a big number but it is 0.36% of the amount needed to cover Translink’s expenses.

So according to Jordan Bateman we should not try to increase transit spending in this region because Translink records a 0.36% revenue loss from fare evasion on its bus operations. Actually a lot of button pushing does not happen, especially on the 99 B Line which has all door loading. So maybe the revenue loss is closer to 0.5%. Big deal.

By the way, this is the same Jordan Bateman who was once a Langley Councillor and an advocate of transit expansion.

UPDATE

 

I just had a phone call from Jeff Nagel to talk about this post. This allowed me to discuss my “moment d’escalier” – the thoughts I had after I posted. What I ought to have written in the first place.

The amount of money that Translink loses to fare evasion is NOT the biggest issue facing us. If fare evasion could be entirely eliminated the problem of transit in this region would remain. There is not enough transit service to meet existing needs, let alone what we will need over the next twenty years to meet the increase in population – and the increasing preference for people here and coming here to have a more and better choices than driving everywhere for everything. Concentrating on fare evasion was what lead to the Compass/Faregates fiasco. Far more is being spent than than will be recovered once the system is actually implemented. And that is not Translink’s choice – it was one imposed by the province.

The scale of fare evasion needs to be viewed in terms of what is needed to cover the cost of operating the entire system. So that is why my shorthand expression of percentage of revenue loss is expressed that way – and not as how much gets collected by bus fareboxes. Because we have an integrated transit system – people use buses to get to SkyTrain – or ride SkyTrain and then transfer to a bus to get to their destination if you prefer. All door loading was introduced on the 99 B-Line as a way to improve service. Most people on that bus have U Passes or other tickets: they are regular commuters, so they are not about to use cash to pay a fare. And the fare media were not even designed to go through the farebox. And even those who do use Compass cards may not be getting counted. But that does not matter very much. There is no realistic, economical way to check the fare media validity of every rider for  every part of their trip and it does not look like a completely functional Compass system will be able to do that either.

In exactly the same way, the insistence on audits, or the fuss about executive pay, does nothing to address the critical lack of adequate funding for transit expansion. And a half per cent on sales tax in the region is at best a stop gap – and not a real substitute for an adequate funding system. The value of Greater Vancouver to the BC economy means that the people who live outside the region ought to be part of the solution. Just as people in Greater Vancouver help pay for transit in Prince George – and bridges in Kelowna. I do not like the regional sales tax idea and I think the current referendum is wrong headed. But that does not mean I support voting No. That is just shooting ourselves in the foot.

We have to stop giving Jordan Bateman, The CTF and the Fraser Institute so such attention. They are like climate change deniers, howling at the moon. We have serious problems and we need serious people to deal with them. Jordan Bateman has no interest at all in those problems or how to solve them.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 7, 2015 at 8:24 am

Posted in Fare evasion, fares

Tagged with ,

More Delays for Compass

with 8 comments

Compass reader

I got a call today from a producer at CBC TV news who wanted my opinions on the latest delay to the roll out of the Compass card. It seems that the Union has been drawing attention to the poor performance of the card reader on the buses, especially for those who remember to tap out when they leave the bus. This has been getting quite a bit of media attention today. The CBC coverage has been developing – as they say – and I said I was reluctant to appear, given earlier experiences when I gave a thorough analysis of a problem and all that was broadcast was a ten second sound bite. I was told that their methodology had changed. So I went to the studio and was interviewed by Miyoung Lee – and most of what I said made it to the 5 o’clock segment as the second item. Here is a link to video which is also underneath the story cited below.

Then at 6 o’clock the same story was handled by Eric Rankin, and quite a different picture emerged. This time there was extensive commentary by Todd Stone. He remarked that in the private sector delays and inadequate performance would result in “heads rolling”. No one seemed to remind him that it is the private sector company Cubic that has been missing its targets. Later in the segment, Rankin stated that Cubic had warned Translink that the reader on the buses might not work as required for the tap out system to be sufficiently reliable. That was certainly news to me. Cubic seems to have been reticent to put in any appearance in any of the local mainstream media coverage I have seen up to now.

The other surprize for me was the suggestion – raised by TransLink vice president Colleen Brennan  – that the three zone system might have to be replaced by a single zone system if the tap out on the bus issue cannot be resolved. If that had been raised in my interview, I would have had quite a lot to say about that. My Florence bus ticket validator story did not make it to air either – and their system was not supplied by Cubic.

I was relieved that although a CBC trailer had Jordan Bateman spouting about “boondoggles” he did not get quoted in this context, but something completely different. I did my best to avoid Translink bashing by pointing to the “fit for purpose” test that has to be applied to any contract. I think Cubic needs to be held accountable, unless it can be shown that Translink was told that fare by distance would not be feasible on buses before they signed the contract but went ahead anyway.  This is not the sort of story that needs to be leading the 6 o’clock news at this stage of the referendum process. Translink is already in deep trouble for the ongoing series of failures on SkyTrain – another one of those yesterday.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 29, 2014 at 7:28 pm