Monday, February 13, 2012

Translink and Fare Gates

As you may know, Translink was ordered a few years ago (2007) to put in fare gates. Installation is now underway.

The order came from our then-Transportation-Minister Mr. Kevin "My Way - The Highway" Falcon, who claimed massive fare evasion, public safety, etc etc as major drivers for this "improvement".

No matter that every single study done by Translink up to that time indicated that fare gates would not pay for themselves; that in essence, fare evasion is not a problem on Skytrain.

Today's Buzzer blog illustrates this yet again. There is a large disconnect between the facts and what people perceive. Apparently, most people (even people who read the Buzzer, who mostly are transit die-hards) really do believe that fare evasion on SkyTrain is a big problem. But study after study shows it isn't - only about $7M per year is lost to this problem (about 5% of revenues, or about 5% of Skytrain users). And yes, this includes evasions such as riding past your time on the ticket, and not upgrading when required. These studies have been audited by bean-counters who specialize in this type of stuff, and even people who can't find any mistakes in these audits still do not believe them. They believe their own gut feelings instead and make major spending decisions based on that. Hm. Reminds me of the "growth in unreported crime" statement from the Conservative Gov't little while ago.

The fact is that these things will not pay for themselves. It will cost $175-$200M to install them. Which means that, at a rate of $7M per year, we'll break even in...what, 25 years? That is, if the gates themselves last that long (they won't), and assuming we're not hiring extra attendants to look after them. This money could be far better spent on real improvements to our cash-strapped system.

Other justifications for these have been trotted out:

- they'll improve public safety: Give me a break. This statement must come from people who never ride SkyTrain. As a regular rider, I can tell you that I won't feel any safer if I'm penned in; in fact, these things give me the willies...what happens if there's a fire and I have to get out in a hurry? Most of the stations haven't been designed for these things, and they'll do nothing but cause inconvienience and impede access.

- we need 'em for the Compass fare card: I disagree.We don't need gates in order to be able to use the new fare cards; a "tap 'n go post" will do - similar to the current validation system for tickets. On busses, the Compass may speed boarding and help with fare evasion (since the drivers usually don't check your fare very thoroughly). But this has nothing to do with fare gates at SkyTrain stations.

In fact, I think faregates and turnstyles send completely the wrong message. They add a layer of inconvienience, punishing transit users; they give people the idea that somehow transit is inherently dangerous and that riff raff is everywhere; they propagate the notion that your fellow citizens are generally dishonest and cannot be trusted to pay. They create a "big brother" atmosphere, thereby inviting bad behaviour.

Such a system does absolutely nothing for the public good.


  1. Agreed.

    Blame can be put on the developer friendly liberals. I see you have already done that. At least BC is a 'have' province (Because not all liberals are bad).

    Anyways, First RRT for the Evergreen, now the Faregates, and soon, the NDP will dissolve Translink 15 years after they formed it. It's not translink making decisions anymore, it's now the BC liberals control.

    But 171 million is not all for fare gates. Remember that Stadium and New West and almost all other Stations are getting new things for 171 million.

    At least the Government is spending $ on transit, and not on ... highways. Internal battles by transit geeks will do nothing to attack Cars.

  2. The governance model of Translink got broken when the Libs kicked out the Mayor's council and instituted an appointed board. The board is loaded with truckers and developers and is not accountable to voters.

    The New West station upgrades are part of the deGelder towers, a deal that was hashed out with the City. Translink gets a new (smaller) bus loop but that's about it. The escalators and stairs to the platforms aren't being upgraded. This isn't coming out of the $171M for faregates. Dunno about Stadium.

    As for the gov't not spending on Mann...Golden Ears Bridge...there's waaaay more money being showered on car-dependent development than on transit. Period.