Two words guaranteed to get a heated discussion underway.  Which is what is happening on The Buzzer, if you care to join in. 

Editor Robert Willis gives a good backgrounder, including the two surveys which indicated that fare evasion is relatively minor and actually dropping.  Doesn’t matter.  It’s all about perception, and how the media frame the issue (which they love).  According to one of the auditors:

“Periodically, the media releases articles indicating that evasion is widespread, although few of these provide specific rates of evasion supporting those assertions. These reports have the ability to affect public perception in this regard and … affect the ability of an individual to rationalize fare evasion. In contrast to the media, our findings show only moderate evasion levels.”

Many of the comments question why over $100 million is being spent to install faregates.  Three reasons: the arrival of Compass cards, the willingness of senior governments to pay most of the capital costs, and that media perception issue.

When I was on TransLink, it was clear there was no way to justify the expenditure of faregates and the rebuilding of stations just to decrease the amount lost to fare evasion.  That would, in my mind, have been a worse scandal than the ongoing stories of ‘government waste’ that the media are still doing, even with arrival of the gates. 

It’s just another indicator of how the relentless discrediting of government results in worse policy decisions when politicians have no choice but to respond to the individual stories that start with an assumption of incompetence – and don’t want facts or trade-offs to get in the way.

That’s my opinion, of course. You may have your own and wish to share them on The Buzzer Blog.


  1. The lack of enforcement of the provincial fine notices issued to fare evaders is actually a problem. But one that the province – and the media – choose to ignore. Because the courts are jammed, if the person caught fare evading decides to ignore the penalty issued by the police officer, nothing happens!

    In London, fare evasion – on a gated system – became problematic. Instead of issuing uncollectable notices, the focus shifted to people who regularly evaded the fare. They were prosecuted not for one evasion event but for fraud. And there was considerable publicity for the much stiffer penalties, and consequences for fraud (“get a ticket not a criminal record”). Of course, that required that the “frequent fliers” plead guilty – otherwise the methods they used would get equal publicity!

    1. Didn’t know this. I just thought that one wouldn’t be able to renew their drivers licence/BCID card if they didn’t pay.

  2. I have a hunch that the big source of this fare evasion perception are the occasional users of transit who see nearly everybody walking on and off without validating a faresaver card or otherwise using a ticket machine.

    Why are they seeing this? Because the vast majority of riders at peak hours hold monthly or school passes and have no need to purchase or validate a ticket!

    Maybe it’s too simple but for me it rings true. Conversations with friends and family about transit often boil down to this… they all think the people walking on and off are fare evaders, when in reality they are pass-holders.

  3. The fare gate ship has sailed – they’re coming whether we want them or not. Time to turn our attention to what kind of benefits we can wring out of them – such as solid ridership and trip data on which to base future expansion decisions, distance-based pricing that doesn’t demand a 2-zone fare to ride from Joyce to Metrotown, all-door loading for all buses, etc.

  4. Not being able to renew your drivers license/BCID if you have an outstanding fare evasion ticket on your record isn’t a big deterrent for many. This is because not having a vehicle is one of the leading reasons they are on transit in the first place and thus they don’t need a license!

    Fare gates aren’t just about saving costs, they are also about public safety. Many of the people causing problems on the Skytrain are the ones that have not paid the fare.

    Well, for better or worse after a quarter-century we’ll finally shortly find out if fare gates solve problems or not.

    1. They won’t.

      There is certainly crime and murder on the New York Subway system, and they’ve had turnstiles since opening day.

      Also, it is false to say that you need these fare gates to make the Cubic RFID card (which both Vancouver and San Diego have named “Compass”. Cubic offers and San Diego uses a “pylon” which you tap with the card to deduct fare.

      And all that $171 million is going to California. Thanks B.C.!

  5. I don’t think it was the media which have invented this non sense “public safety” issue,…but the government itself (As also pointed by Stephen, all the money poured on the gate will means less human presence, see also here).
    also,Translink has never been very clear, and Gordon is also confused on that point: Compass and turnstile are two different things: there is an endless list of system using smartcard without turnstile.

    At the end, the question is effectively one of perception and interference:
    Translink comes with a very solid business case for a Gondola…anti transit Korrigan doesn’t pay a dime to it and blindly opposes to any transit improvement measure.
    Watts has already decided what kind of transit is good for her city, not based on any relevant study a, but on a vague and unsubstantiated perception…
    and those people fell no guilt to call for a Translink audit..
    It is easy to accuse the newspapers, but our local politicians don’t need them when it is time to wreck our transit system.

    1. You are right on the mark voony. You are definately right that Corrigan hates translink. He won’t even allow some cost saving measures, like trolley wires on boundary to BTC, or extending the 9 to Gilmore station. This is even after Burnaby has received maybe the most skytrain killometres in the whole metro vancouver.
      Great analysis of the Mayors. According to Robert at the Buzzer, “It’s good to remember that gates account for $70 million of the $171 million dollar overall price tag. That $70 million includes all of the station upgrades on nearly all of the SkyTrain stations which is needed to implement Compass card and faregates.”

      That means that the $101 million is for the compass, the new cards readers on the buses, and what else?

  6. One of the sad things about going to a gated system is that Vancouver will now never be able to do what many European Cities offer:

    A) Give tourists a free pass to transit by having the Translink honor a hotel card (with dates the guest is staying) as a ticket for the period of stay.
    B) Accept convention badges as temporary transit passes for the dates of the convention
    C) Allow airline and intercity bus and rail passengers to use their bus/plane/train ticket to get to their final destination in the region on the day of travel by showing a dated boarding pass or ticket stub. This can also be made to work for the trip to the airport/train station/bus pick-up.

    1. Yankee, why do you only see pessimistic views of this side?

      To point out the flaws in your argument, I will list a few of my thoughts here.

      A) Tourists in Vancouver were never given such incentives to use the public transit. Why would TransLink change policies? Even during the Olympics (Hell, that’s what the Canada Line was built for,) if I presented my hockey ticket instead of a fare ticket, I would have still been fined the $175.

      B) Same argument; never been done. Why start now?

      C) Canada Line currently services a large number of people to and from the airport. What you’re suggesting has never been done before in Vancouver.

      The North American Culture is one that is vastly different from the European culture. I’ve only lived in two countries in Europe, but I have not seen what you suggested here in any of the cities I have visited.

      Now, think of the fare reductions and “more accurate” charging system this can potentially provide. Though I doubt TransLink will lower their fares with $170 M going down the drain, there doesn’t have to be a “zone” difference now where two stops from Metro to Joyce would be $3.25 for some people.

      $5 is the cost of a taxi ride for twice the distance in most Asian cities.
      There was also never an explicit mention of turnstiles, but rather the implementation of the Compass system. RFID cards are not new to transit; they have been around since 2004. This can actually speed up pedestrian traffic as people will need to just swipe their bags or wallets across a receiver. These RFIDs are topped up like debit cards.

      Culture between the East Coast and West Coast are also entirely different. New York Yankee culture VS Vancouverite culture is the difference between, well, two different sides of two different nations. NYC’s greater population will also mean that of course there will be a greater number of criminal activities going on at a given time. The lower the population, the lower the crime rate. Not to hate on Americans, but Canadians ARE generally less violent and more polite.

      I frankly don’t give a damn because I don’t use public transit all that often. What I do care about is someone, like you, Yankee, using pessimistic and unbased claims to try and convince that the introduction of the Compass and unmentioned turnstiles will result in nothing but problems.

  7. Stephen raises the issue of non-payment of Violation Tickets, which indeed are not tied to the renewal of drivers’ licenses or vehicle registration. Another aspect that needs to be considered is the deterrent impact of taking fare evaders to court. When one considers how jammed the courts are now and the kinds of penalties imposed on much more serious offences (believed by many to not be commensurate with the crime), one can only imagine how the failure to pay between $2.50 and $5.00 would be dealt with.

    I wonder what sentences are like for shoplifting?

  8. I believe the only reason that fare evasion occurs at all is due to a serious lack of enforcement. I ride the sky train to and from Surrey and New Westminster 5 days a week (Tue-Sat) and I rarely see the blue coats and very very rarely see transit Police. I did see the police during the recent fare blitz but I was not asked to show any proof of payment during both trips to and from Surrey and New Westminster. Both times I just walked past them on the train platform and the police never even looked at me let alone asked for a fare receipt. Not very good enforcement in my opinion.

    Another problem I regularly see is the ticket vending and validating machines are very regularly “Out of Order” and if they are not out of service they do not function properly.
    How is the honest person expected to pay to ride when the methods of payment are not in service? I usually pay cash or use my debit card to pay, I know it would be cheaper to have a pass or fare cards but that’s just me. Most of the time there is only one or two working machines out of six in New Westminster and only one out of two at Gateway in Surrey.
    When I do have fare cards, of the two validator machines in New Westminster only one is working and the single one in Surrey is not working. Several times I have been unable to pay due to “out of service” machines, one time I was asked for proof of fare at Scott road station and I told the officer why I did not pay and showed the hand full of change I had to pay and over $100 cash in my wallet. He escorted me down to the vending machines in order for me to try again at Scott Road. Guess what? All the machines were not working there either! The officer saw my delema and issued me a written pass so I could get back on the train and to arrive late to work again due to the antiquated ticket machines.

    The biggest problem with the lack of enforcement I see is people selling used tickets.
    At the Gateway station there is one guy who I see every day selling used tickets.
    He asks me every day if I need a ticket and every day I tell him to F off. This guy is obviously not homeless or down on his luck. He is well dressed, clean shaven and wears prescription glasses. He is making a pretty good business out of the lack of Sky-train supervision and that really pisses me off.
    The other day I had arrived at New Westminster station (after telling the guy in Surrey to F off) the blue coats were checking fares. So I waited till one of them was not busy and told him about the guy in Surrey. He said that they were aware of him and were on there way to deal with him (sure they were!) as I’m discussing this with the blue coat a young woman was asked for her fare and do you know what she said?

    What, you mean I have to pay?

    She appeared to be completely perplexed by the fact that she had to pay, I could not believe my eyes. How many free rides has she had?

    The total lack of enforcement is the only reason that there is a fare evasion problem at all.

  9. You could be interested to know that in Paris:

    * the fine is 35€ when paid on the spot directly to the fare checker (the relatively reasonable fine amount is designed toward greater enforcement of this).
    * if not paid, it becomes 70€ (that can be on the spot, if the fare checker refers to a police officer after a dispute…in the Parisian subway, especially in suburb, they more often than not go hand in hand, and operate in a blitzkrieg fashion).
    * “regular cheating” (someone caught several time in a fixed period of time), is another kind of offence, punishable of up to one year jail (and i guess like in London expose you to a criminal record…)

    also, In despite of turnstile, a ticket control in the Parisian subway system can look like it:×361/0/46/60/36/pol_gdn.jpg
    ..and fare evasion is still high.

    Yankee : And all that $171 million is going to California. Thanks B.C.!:
    I guess the BC tax payer says: “you are welcome”!

    1. At this point, I can’t give you a definite timeline for a move to distance-based fares, but that kind of fare structure is clearly what the Compass Card will support. TransLink will launch the cards matchingthe current fare structure, including zones, as closely as possible.

      I say ‘as closely as possible’ because, to use one example, the equivalent to FareSavers on the Compass Card will work a bit differently in that you will not have to specify whether you want one, two or three-zone rides. Monthly passes will work much the same way as they do now.

      We want to have a good look at the ridership data that the Compass Card system will generate before tackling a major re-jigging of the fare structure — a process that will involve the Transportation Commissioner and public discussions.

      1. So if you don’t have to specify how many zones you want, does that mean you tag on /and/ off or is there some other arrangement?

  10. To Brian Gould:

    You will tag-on and tag-off, including on buses, which will have readers at all doors. The readers will handle the transactions within 300 mililseconds. The tag-on / tag-off process is the best way to get accurate use data and ultimately have a distance-based fare system.

    1. As a data wonk, many thanks. Presumably the additional time spent disembarking will still be less than needed to board people with cash or whatever’s left mixed in, but any chance this will also lead to all-door boarding everywhere?

      And, since you’re being way too helpful, are we likely to see a soft push pricing strategy – and conversely, issues with equity for the unbanked, non-anglophone, etc?

      1. There are many, many issues still being worked out and it’s likely that some of them will not be resolved until after we get actual experience with the new system. Part of this experience will come this fall when we stress-test the technology with a two-month pilot program.

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