Yesterday was the first weekday for TransLink‘s new “one zone fare, bus anywhere” fare structure. Why did TransLink have to create a flat fare structure for its bus network?
With the huge political pressure to get the Compass Card/fare gate system launched, especially after the failed referendum, I’m sure that an edict came from on high to launch the Compass Card/fares gate system now! What has been holding up the full launch of the system to this point was the requirement for people to tap-off when leaving buses.
Because some people do not wait for the readers to process their cards and/or the readers do not validate their cards properly on the first try, some people would be charged for a three-zone fare even if they only travelled one-zone. While it is easy to blame TransLink, it is actually Cubic Transportation Systems that committed to delivering a system with working “tap-off” bus functionality, and the provincial government that wanted the system in the first place.
TransLink never wanted the Compass Card/fare gate system. In “December 2007, Premier Gordon Campbell’s former deputy minister and former special adviser Ken Dobell visited TransLink on behalf of Cubic Transportation Systems. Dobell, a former TransLink CEO, registered to lobby Falcon on behalf of Cubic Transportation Systems Inc. Approximately two weeks after [the lobbying], Falcon announced he wanted to see TransLink bring in controlled-access gates to SkyTrain.”
The whole Compass Card/fate gate program was provincially mandated.
A City of Burnaby Staff report from 2011 presents a timeline on how the Compass Card/fare gate program came to be. Here are some excerpts from that report:
2002 June: TransLink rejected the use of faregates on the SkyTrain system. A report to the TransLink Board estimated SkyTrain fare evasion at 8.7%, amounting to $3.3 million per annum loss to the system. The capital cost for faregates (then on only two SkyTrain lines) was estimated at $83 million, with incremental operating costs of $22 million per year.
2005 December: The TransLink Board again rejected faregates. SkyTrain fare evasion was estimated at this time at 6.3% of passengers, or $4 million per annum… the annualized cost (capital and operating) for faregates was estimated at $25 million.
2007 November: In a surprise announcement, the then-Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Kevin Falcon, announced that the Province would pay the capital cost of installing faregates on the SkyTrain system.
2009 April: Senior governments committed $70 million ($40 million provincial and $30 million federal) for faregates, about 41 % of the estimated capital costs of faregates.
2009 December: The TransLink Board decided to implement smart cards and faregates, based on a Business Case that they received [which was co-authored by the provincial government.]
2010 December 8: The TransLink Board awarded a ten-year contract to Cubic Transportation Systems (with IBM Canada) to design, build, and operate the smart card and faregate system.
Even as TransLink is rolling out the Compass Card/fare gate system today with the one-zone bus policy, the endgame for TransLink is to move to a distance-based fare system. This is only possible if you can tap-on and tap-off of every form of public transportation that TransLink provides. The question is, will Cubic be able to delivery on their original commitment?
The whole Compass Card/fare gate program was driven by the whims of a former provincial Transportation Minister. It amazes me that time and time again, the provincial government can muck around with Metro Vancouver's transit system, yet somehow deflect the blame for their mess-ups onto local governments and agencies.