Thursday, August 15, 2013

Faregate Fiasco

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how TransLink was ending some of their discount fare programs, including the Employer Pass program (which I thought was a poor decision.) TransLink also announced that it was phasing out the FareSaver discount ticket program. While I understood that the FareSavers were being replaced with a new discounting program as part of the Compass Card rollout, many transit riders and the media thought that TransLink was effectively killing all discount programs.

I remember being on the bus the next day and hearing pretty much everyone talking about how TransLink was ending all discount programs; people were really upset about the FareSaver tickets going away. Of course lost in the noise about the ending of some discount programs was the note that new discount fare programs would be rolled out with the Compass Card.

I've known for some time that if you pay a cash fare on the bus, you would not be able to transfer onto SkyTrain once the faregates are turned on. TransLink claims that this is because not many people (6000 riders) transfer between the bus and SkyTrain daily, and the $25 million dollar cost to add single-use smart cards to all bus fareboxes was not justified.

The interesting thing is that having a integrated transit system is what make our system more accessible than most. In 2009, New York Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan called out fare system the “golden ticket”, and was envious of our integrated transit system. I feel that this break in our transfer system is a small step backwards.

Yesterday, the media found out that cash-only bus fares won't work on SkyTrain and as they say, shit hit the fan. While the Compass Card system will actually give more people more convenient payment options (and will even allow you to pay for your bus fare with credit card in the future), people are now all excited about the lack of cash-only bus fare transfers which impacts an even smaller amount of people than the cancelled Employer Pass program. More bad PR for TransLink.

Interesting enough, this whole faregate fiasco could have been avoided. First, TransLink could have programmed their ticket vending machines to accept bus transfers and spit out a single-use Compass Card transfers with the same expiry time. Second and more practically, TransLink could have ordered some of the new faregates with the optional magnetic ticket reader which is noted on the vendor of TransLink's faregates website. This is what I've seen in pretty much all systems with faregates that I've been on in North America and in the UK.

Last week, I posted that TransLink has a bad brand. It is foot-in-mouth things like the transfer issue that further reenforce this bad brand. It is a shame because I've travelled on many transit systems throughout the world, and I have to say that we have one of the better systems. TransLink needs to really work on its PR and needs to evaluate how its decisions will look when it comes out in the media. There will be a referendum next year on transit funding, and I'd like people to vote for improved transit service.

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