Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CBC’s Early Edition: Faregates

This morning I was on CBC’s Early Edition speaking about faregates and the new smart card system that TransLink is installing. TransLink is bundling the smart card system and faregate into the same package. I think there was some confusion because on the radio this morning, I got the distinct impression that many people think that the installation of faregates is needed for the new smartcards. This is not the case. Take a quick trip to Seattle and you will see that all they have are smartcard readers at station platforms which you tap when you board a train and tap when you get off the train. Our bus system will be getting smartcard readers as well. Smartcards are a great addition to our transit system and will make it easier to use as well as giving TransLink new and better ways to collect fares and track usage.

Smartcard tagging station on light rail platform in Seattle.

On the subject of faregates, I think that it is a total waste of money. In December 2005, TransLink’s board rejected fare gates after a report from its staff found it wouldn’t come anywhere close to paying for itself. In 2007, after a visit to the London Underground, then Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said that faregates will be added to SkyTrain and that the province will be picking up the tab. As it turns out the province will be paying $40 million, the federal government is paying $30 million, and TransLink $71 million for the faregate/smartcard system. What’s funny is that according to TransLink’s own document, it will cost $9 million per year for the system while fare evasion is pegged between $3 - $7 million a year. Also, faregates do nothing to solve fare evasion on the bus system and people will find their way around faregates like they do in every other city with them. I don’t see how installing faregates will help TransLink’s bottom line or us fare paying users. In the nine years I’ve been taking transit in Vancouver, only twice has a transit police officer checked my fare on the bus. I’m checked at least once a week on SkyTrain.

In Downtown Portland, the sidewalk also serves as a cost-effective light rail station.

Most rapid transit systems built after 1979 use an honour system because it’s a cheaper and more flexible system. Faregates require expensive stations and not even all of the Expo Line will have them. Main Street Station and Metrotown stations for example, will need to be rebuilt and right now TransLink does not have the money. At the end of the day we are getting faregates, but it’s too bad that we couldn’t have used the $100 million for much needed transit expansion in the South of Fraser.

1 comment:

Tim said...

The LRT stations for Surrey are supposed to cost $5 M each because of the fare gate system. I think that is pretty stupid and I was chatting with Marvin Hunt about it as well and he agreed.